MACON, Ga. – Welcome to the races within the race.
Even with a smaller pool of teams, there are no shortage of battles to watch in the standings as we’re just a few short weeks from the President’s Cup Playoffs being set.
Even if a team’s chances of winning a William B. Coffey Cup, given to the team with the best regular-season record, are between slim and none, there is plenty at stake. That’s what makes this part of the year fun, that every team, no matter what kind of season it is having, has something at stake.
Chasing The Coffey Cup
Here’s a glance at the race to get into the postseason…
- Record: 25-5-4, 54 points, first in standings
- Playoff status: Clinched home ice for the first round
- Magic number needed to clinch the regular-season title: 5
- Recent results: Beat Pensacola 5-0 and 9-3, Huntsville 3-1, and Knoxville 2-1 in overtime.
- Coming up: Host Pensacola on Thursday and Friday and Huntsville on Saturday
- Record: 21-11-4. 46 points, second in standings
- Playoff status: Clinched playoff berth, trails first place by eight points and is nine points ahead of third place.
- Recent results: Lost to Huntsville 6-5 in overtime, lost to Birmingham 4-2, and lost 2-1 to Macon in overtime.
- Coming up: Host Birmingham on Saturday and Knoxville on Tuesday
- Record: 17-16-1, 35 points, third in standings
- Playoff status: Eight points ahead of fifth place
- Recent results: Beat Birmingham 3-2, Knoxville 6-5, and lost 3-1 to Macon
- Coming up: Hosts Birmingham on Friday and at Macon on Saturday.
- Record: 14-15-5, 33 points, fourth in standings
- Playoff status: Currently hold final playoff spot by six points
- Recent results: Lost 5-0 and 9-3 to Macon, beat Birmingham 5-2
- Coming up: at Macon on Thursday and Friday and at Huntsville on Tuesday
- Record: 10-19.7. 27 points, fifth in standings
- Playoff status: Six points out of final playoff spot
- Recent results: Lost to Huntsville 3-2, beat Knoxville 4-2, and lost to Pensacola 5-2.
- Coming up: at Huntsville on Friday, at Knoxville on Saturday
Stars of the Week
⭐ Logan Nelson, Birmingham. During a weekend in which the Bulls got themselves back in the playoff race in earning three of four possible points, Nelson had five points, four via assists. He also had a goal and assist on Wednesday against Pensacola.
⭐⭐ Gabe Guertler, Macon. He had five points in three games, including a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” in the first quarter of Friday’s 9-3 win against Pensacola.
⭐⭐⭐ Nolan Kaiser, Huntsville. In all, he averaged a point per game in the Havoc’s four games, scoring two goals and having two assists. Of those goals, one was a game-winner and the other on a power-play.
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Around The SPHL…
Mayhem picking up scent of Coffey Cup
When it comes to races for postseason position, the head-to-head matchups are make-or-break affairs. Score one for the Macon Mayhem. With Ryan Smith’s overtime goal on Tuesday night, Macon extended its first-place lead to eight points over the Ice Bears. Most importantly, it moves Macon’s magic number to clinch home ice for the President’s Cup Playoffs to five. That means that as early as this weekend, the Mayhem can clinch the William B. Coffey Cup. The last time Macon did that, by the way, it won the President’s Cup.
No reason for panic in Knoxville
There’s obviously no good time for a losing streak. Late in the season, however, is hardly ideal. But that’s where Knoxville finds itself, having lost five in a row. Is it panic time on Rocky Top? Not exactly. In that span, the Ice Bears have picked up three points, so things are not totally off the rails. The fact is that Knoxville continues to play well, its puck luck just has not been too kind. If there’s a teachable moment to be taken from the past week from Knoxville, one should look no further than a 4-2 loss to Birmingham in which the importance of finishing strong was magnified. A Bulls goal with four seconds left in the second tied it before Birmingham scored twice in the final four minutes to win.
Here come the Havoc…
Next to Macon, Huntsville is playing the best hockey in the SPHL right now. The Havoc have won seven of their last ten and predictably, two of those three losses have come to the Mayhem.
What’s more is that Huntsville has proven that its recent run is no fluke as it includes two wins against second-place Knoxville and a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Macon. Even if the Havoc shake out to finish third in the standings to end the regular season (they are 11 points shy of second place), they are once again shaping up to be a team that nobody wants a part of in the postseason.
“Thanks, I needed that…”
Reeling from 9-3 and 5-0 losses at Macon, and it’s lead for the final playoff spot trimmed, the Ice Flyers came into Wednesday in a precarious position. Lose on Wednesday, and its lead would be down to two games ahead of Birmingham. Pensacola showed up playing as if its season was at stake, racing to a 4-0 lead through one period of hockey. It’d be more than enough to win 5-2 and lead Birmingham by six points for fourth. If Pensacola makes the playoffs, Wednesday night could be pointed to as a reason why.
Pesky Bulls very much in it
Even with Wednesday’s loss, Birmingham is very much in the race for a playoff spot, just six points back. Bulls fans would be well advised to cheer for Macon this week, and Pensacola plays the Mayhem twice. If Macon were to beat the Ice Flyers twice, the opportunity is golden for the Bulls to make up more ground. Pensacola and Birmingham play just once more this year, May 1 in Pelham, Ala.
Stat of the Week….
17: Power-play points by Birmingham’s Logan Nelson. That’s by far the most in the league, nearly twice that Huntsville’s John Schiavo, who is second with nine.