MACON, Ga. – Another stretch of games is in the books in the SPHL; it’s time for another edition of the SPHL rundown, taking a look at what’s behind and also what’s ahead.
First and foremost, our most sincere hope is that everyone is staying safe, whether you’re in the arena watching hockey or not. It’s hardly what many of us are used to in having to space out, wear masks, and watching games with smaller capacities if you are near one of the teams playing this season. But it’s what everyone will have to do to not only to continue having a season but, resume a full league of play in the fall, as well.
Saturday, Jan. 2
Birmingham 3, Macon 2 (OT)
Pensacola 5, Huntsville 1
Sunday, Jan. 3
Knoxville 3, Macon o
Huntsville 4, Pensacola 1
Three Stars of the Week
⭐ Nick Master, Knoxville. The Ice Bears got their first win thanks in large part to the play of Master. He was credited with both of the Ice Bears goals on Sunday against Macon and assisted on an empty-net goal.
⭐⭐ Alec Hagaman, Pensacola. Scored a pair of goals in Saturday’s win for the Ice Flyers. In four games of the very young season, he has scored five goals, making the decision by the Pensacola to bring him aboard pay off.
⭐⭐⭐ Hayden Lavigne, Birmingham. Stopped 40 shots to give Birmingham its first win of the season in a 3-2 victory against Macon and got his first SPHL win.
Around the League…
Who’s timid? It’s not the Mayhem in the attack zone
With just a handful of players back from last year’s squad, there may be a degree of mystery as to what kind of team the Mayhem have this year. One thing is clear – it is not a group that’s tentative on the offensive end. In each of the Mayhem’s three games this season, Macon has held the shots on goals advantage. On Sunday, Macon held a 31-27 shots advantage, 42-21 on Saturday against Birmingham, and 32-29 last Monday at Huntsville.
Huntsville cracks Pensacola’s early dominance
Even in a shortened season, it’s implausible that a team can go unbeaten. So it came as no shock that on Sunday afternoon, Pensacola’s 3-0 start to the season was halted by Huntsville, 4-1, one night after the Ice Flyers took a 5-1 win with Max Milosek in net for Huntsville and Jake Kupsky for Pensacola. A day later, with different netminders rotating in – Chase Perry for Pensacola and Jason Pawloski for the Havoc, the boys from Rocket City prevailed. Pawloski stopped all but one of the 26 shots that he faced. Up 2-1 entering the third, Huntsville blew it open with gusto, netting a pair of goals within the first 3:15 of the final stanza by John Schiavo and Mathieu Newcomb.
Key for the Havoc in gaining the upper hand? Slowing down the Ice Flyers from an offensive standpoint. Currently, the top five scorers points-wise in the SPHL play for Pensacola, and other than Darren McCormick’s goal, the Ice Flyers were kept off the board on Sunday.
No rust for Knoxville
The quirk of the SPHL having an odd number of teams means that it’ll be common in this abbreviated season for one team to rest while others play. That, combined with Knoxville’s season opener originally set for Dec. 31 being postponed, meant that when the Ice Bears rolled down Interstate 75 on Sunday, they only had one game under their belt that was eight days earlier. But if there was any rust existing for Knoxville, it didn’t show against Macon as Jeremy Brodeur was near-perfect in goal, and Nick Master notched a pair of goals. Navigating an unbalanced schedule is a test all teams in the league will face this year, and Knoxville has passed it so far.
Kupsky tops among goalies so far
The season’s early, but Pensacola’s Jake Kupsky is making an early case for the top netminder in the SPHL. Of the eight goalies to see time league-wide this year so far, he’s one of just two to appear in those games. In those contests, his 1.65 goals-against average and .943 save percentage leads all goalies that have played in more than one game. Since giving up three first-period in the season-opener against Birmingham, he has allowed one goal in his previous two outings.
Bulls have some of the good old mo’
Birmingham has some momentum on its side as Pensacola comes into town on Thursday night. The Bulls got their first win of the season last Saturday, 3-2 in overtime against Macon, to improve to 1-1-1. Birmingham has now gotten a good look at both goaltenders on its roster. After Austin Lotz got the start between the pipes the first two games, it was Hayden Lavigne’s turn. He stood tall, facing a barrage of 42 shots from Macon, stopping all but two of them.
Thursday, Jan. 7
Pensacola at Birmingham, 7:30 p.m. CST
Friday, January 8
Macon at Knoxville, 7:35 p.m. EST
Saturday, Jan. 9
Huntsville at Macon, 6:30 p.m. EST
Knoxville at Birmingham, 7 p.m. EST
Brad Harrison is the SPHL editor and covers the Macon Mayhem for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinMayhem!