LAFAYETTE, LA — Two weekends remaining in the regular season, and I did the math…
If the SPHL played an 82-game regular season, Fayetteville FireAntz goaltender Sean Bonar (31-13-1) would be on pace for a 50-win season. Here’s a little perspective about how outrageous Bonar’s numbers are: The NHL record for wins by a goaltender in a season is 48, held by both Martin Brodeur and Braden Holtby. The ECHL mark (the league plays 72 games per season) is 38 wins – 43 if you extend to an 82-game season. Bonar, now the SPHL’s single season record holder for wins, has been in net for 2715:21 minutes. The record for minutes played is 2834:48 – just shy of two complete games. The FireAntz have five games remaining… do the math – this record is going down.
Here’s some more math… The Columbus Cottonmouths – yes, those Columbus Cottonmouths – magic number is at four points. Any combination of Snakes wins or regulation losses by the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs numbering two… and the Cottonmouths achieve triumph in the face of tragedy. It’s entirely possible the Snakes clinch tonight with a win against the Mississippi RiverKings and if the Dawgs fall to the Macon Mayhem.
Still… Believe it or not, the Evansville Thunderbolts are still mathematically in the running for the postseason. All that needs to happen is for the Bolts to win the rest of their games and the Snakes & Dawgs to lose all of theirs – with Roanoke winning the upcoming game between Roanoke and Columbus on April 4th.
The SPHL laid down their ruling in the aftermath of the post-game melee between the Huntsville Havoc and Macon Mayhem last Saturday night. View the game video (thanks to Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star) here:
Both teams were fined an undisclosed amount, and the suspensions were relatively even on both sides. The longest suspensions were handed out to Huntsville’s Nolan Kaiser (four games) for a spearing gesture at Macon coach Kevin Kerr and Macon’s Dennis Sicard at five games. Both coaches were also given suspensions, with Kerr getting four games and Havoc coach Glenn Detulleo with a three-game break. Personally, I find it only fitting the Havoc and Mayhem would eventually be involved in a little post-game anarchy.
This Week’s Playoff Outlook
As we mentioned earlier, the Cottonmouths’ magic number stands at four points and can clinch as early as tonight. After a disappointing two-game set at home against the Snakes where they gained only one point out of four, the Dawgs find themselves on the brink of playoff elimination.
Three other playoff seedings are being contested closely. Fayetteville (now the league’s top team after last weekend) and Macon are deadlocked for the William B. Coffey Cup – the award which goes to the SPHL’s regular season champion. Macon’s remaining games consist of three games against Roanoke and tilts with Huntsville and Pensacola. On the other hand, the FireAntz play a three-game set at Peoria before wrapping up the season against Huntsville. The FireAntz are easily the league’s hottest team, but the scheduling edge favors Macon. In the case of a deadlock in the standings, the first tiebreaker is regular season wins – favoring Fayetteville.
The third and fourth seeds look like a two-way contest between the aforementioned Havoc and Rivermen. Huntsville has the current edge in points, 69 to 67 and the regular season victory tiebreaker, but the Rivermen have a game in hand. Finally, Knoxville and Mississippi are deadlocked in their race for the fifth playoff position. Both teams have four games remaining, with the RiverKings holding the regular season wins tiebreaker.
The Pensacola Ice Flyers are virtually locked into the seventh seed and the Cottonmouths are highly likely to wrap up this postseason’s dance card with the eighth seed. One wild card, however… The Ice Flyers and Ice Bears face off four times before the end of the season. An Ice Flyers sweep could propel them into sixth.
Title Belt Game: Knoxville Ice Bears at Pensacola Ice Flyers
- The Ice Flyers go for their third Title Belt defense tonight.
- Unbelievably, tonight is the first time this season the last two President’s Cup champions meet. In 2015-16, the Ice Bears took the season series, three games to one.
- The Ice Flyers are the only team in the SPHL whose leading scorer is a defenseman. Louis Belisle now has 43 points on the season (15G/28A).
- In three of the last four Knoxville wins, the game winning goal was scored by Berkley Scott. Scott leads the league with ten game winners.
- Pensacola winger Corey Banfield returns to the lineup tonight after a stint in IR. However, big defenseman Sean Gammage heads to IR for the rest of the regular season.
- The return of head coach Rod Aldoff gave credence to some speculation if some of his players will return to Pensacola. Today, the team announced the return of defenseman Jeremy Gates to the Ice Flyers.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Both teams haven’t been stopping lots of pucks lately. This game is a coin flip. I got heads. Bears have heads, airplanes only have noses. Knoxville 5, Pensacola 4
Mississippi RiverKings at Columbus Cottonmouths
- Fifth and final game this season between the Kings and Snakes. Mississippi is going for the series sweep tonight at the Snake Pit. The RiverKings won the last game, 7-4, on Tuesday night in Southaven.
- Both teams have won five of their last seven games.
- Brantley Sherwood has had the hot hand against Columbus in this series. Sherwood has four goals and three assists to go along with his +8 rating.
- Ryan Marcuz has the league’s longest current goal scoring streak with five goals over his last for games. Columbus’ Craig Simchuk has found twine in his last three matches.
- Special teams have favored the Kings in this series. The Snakes have only one power play goal in 15 attempts against Mississippi, while the RiverKings have two goals in 12 opportunities – and a shorthanded tally.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Look for the Snakes to bite hard with a playoff berth within reach. Columbus is due, but it’s going to be interesting. Columbus 3, Mississippi 2 – OT
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at Macon Mayhem
- Fourth game between the Mayhem and Dawgs. Roanoke holds a 2-1 edge against Macon with the season series to be wrapped up this weekend.
- Macon goaltender Jordan Ruby‘s recent stats: eight pounds, eight ounces. Ruby and his wife, Jillian, announced the birth of their first child on March 19th. Congratulations! Ruby is set to return to the Macon pipes as early as tonight.
- Roanoke netminder Ryan de Melo has been strong against the Mayhem. De Melo has won both of his games against the Dawgs, including one by shutout.
- Both teams like to score early and often. Roanoke has the edge against Macon in the opening frame, but only by a 4-3 margin. Could be a lively start.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Roanoke plays Macon tough, and the Mayhem are shorthanded due to suspensions. Why not the Dawgs? Roanoke 3, Macon 2
Evansville Thunderbolts at Huntsville Havoc
- Tonight is the series finale between the Bolts and Havoc. Huntsville has the advantage in the series’ inaugural year, four games to two.
- Over the last six games, the Bolts are 2-0-4, Huntsville, on the other hand, is 2-4-0. That’s right, folks… the Bolts haven’t lost in regulation since March 4th.
- The Havoc have been deadly on the power play against Evansville this season. Huntsville has gone 6-for-25 with the extra man this season, with a shorthanded goal.
- Evansville’s John Scorcia has been scorching hot lately. The center has an active five game point scoring streak, with ten points (4G/6A) during that span.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Too much on the line for the Havoc tonight, they have to keep up with the league’s frontrunners. Huntsville 4, Evansville 1
Fayetteville FireAntz at Peoria Rivermen
- Third of five meetings in this highly anticipated matchup. The FireAntz took both previous games, played three weeks ago in Fayetteville.
- Fayetteville has a nine-game winning streak. The Antz can tie the season mark of ten games, set by the Macon Mayhem in October/November.
- The loss of big winger Cody Dion will be a factor in this series. Dion was placed on the 14-day IR, and may return in time for the postseason. Dion is the Rivermen’s leading scorer with 24 goals with 15 assists.
- Over the last ten games, Tayler Thompson, Bobby Chaumont, and Jake Hauswirth have combined for 16 goals and 23 assists… just shy of four points per game.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: It seems every game in Carver Arena goes to overtime. Fayetteville 2, Peoria 1 – OT
- Evansville at Columbus – 7:30 ET
- Macon at Huntsville – 7:00 CT
- Knoxville at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
- Fayetteville at Peoria – 7:05 CT
- Evansville at Mississippi – 3:00 CT
- Fayetteville at Peoria – 3:05 CT
- Pensacola at Macon – 4:05 ET
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