In the Regular Season
Mayhem: 33-16-7 — 73 points (T-2nd in SPHL)
Thunderbolts: 27-20-9 — 63 points (6th in SPHL)
Game 1 — 4/12/18 at Evansville – 7:00 CT
Game 2 — 4/14/18 at Macon – 7:35 ET
Game 3 — 4/15/18 at Macon – 4:30 ET (if necessary)
The Season According to Macon
The defending Presidents Cup champions had a bit of a hangover at the beginning of the season, losing convincingly to Pensacola and Huntsville. The arrival of Greg Dodds from Pensacola marked a change in fortunes for the Mayhem, winning seven of eight during December and early January. The Mayhem were especially hit hard by call-ups but managed to keep winning despite what seemed to be daily personnel changes.
After Dodds’ departure, the tandem of Charlie Finn and Troy Passingham played well until Passingham was waived for well-traveled veteran netminder Peter Di Salvo. Winger Jake Trask scored 69 points this season, within a point of becoming the first Mayhem player to win a scoring title. Daniel Gentzler‘s 43 points were second among defensemen. Trask, Gentzler, and John Siemer powered the high-scoring Mayhem to a league-high 214 goals this season and look to keep up the pace in the playoffs.
The Season According to Evansville
The November 1st trade which brought Tomas Sholl to Evansville from Macon was the true start to the Thunderbolts’ second SPHL campaign. The Bolts struck early and often with Sholl on the roster, going 18-5-4 until Sholl’s inevitable promotion to the ECHL on January 24th.
With Sholl gone, the Thunderbolts entered the darkest stretch in their short existence, going on a 0-11-2 winless skid which dropped the team from second to seventh in the league standings. The addition of Ryan de Melo in net eventually paid off for Evansville as the team rebounded with a 6-0-1 stretch in March and securing their first-ever postseason appearance.
When these teams played in the regular season
The Mayhem and Thunderbolts faced off seven times this season, with Macon winning four to Evansville’s three. The last four games in the season series all took more than 60 minutes to decide, with the teams splitting them evenly.
Macon’s Keys to Winning
- Score early, score often. The Mayhem don’t have Jordan Ruby to lean on this postseason. Trask and Siemer will have to keep up their regular season production to apply pressure in this series.
- The role players need to step up. Stathis Soumelidis was a huge part of the Mayhem’s title run last year. He, along with rookie Dylan Vander Esch, will have noticeable roles.
- Weather the storm. Evansville should have a big home crowd in the Ford Center for the city’s first playoff hockey game in six years. The Mayhem will have to get through the early emotional high from the Bolts.
Evansville’s Keys to Winning
- Don’t get wrapped up in game one. Yes, it’s the first playoff game the city has seen in six seasons. Yes, the crowd should be large since the team is making tickets free to the game. It should be a wild playoff opener at the Ford Center, but the Bolts need to stay grounded.
- The defense will be tested in this series. Cory Melkert, Frank Schumacher, and Brandon Lubin need to keep the high-scoring Macon forwards off the scoresheet.
- Keep up the offensive pressure. The Thunderbolts outshot the Mayhem, 274-217, in their season series. Evansville will have to continue to outshoot Macon in the postseason and get positioned to put home rebounds.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
My compadres may not agree with me and perhaps there are contractual obligations in play, but this series is a potential trap for the defending champs. I’ll take the Thunderbolts in three.