MACON, Ga. – It’s time for another edition of the SPHL rundown, taking a look at what’s behind and also what’s ahead.
For the SPHL, the hope is for as much of a return to normalcy this weekend. That’s because last weekend was anything but.
Due to game postponements due to the SPHL’s safety protocols, just two games took place last week – Macon’s 6-3 win on Friday in Knoxville as well as Birmingham’s 5-2 win against Pensacola on Thursday. Other than that, all on-ice action was put on hold with Macon’s Saturday night game with Huntsville and Birmingham’s matchups with Pensacola and Knoxville also being postponed.
With postponements being due to “SPHL safety protocols,” it is not known whether or not COVID-19 cases themselves have postponed games. But with cases on the rise nationwide and the capacity of medical facilities being stressed, it continues to be beyond critical for fans and those within organizations to take steps, in and out of the arenas, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by taking the basic steps of wearing a mask in public, social distancing, washing hands frequently and staying home if ill.
Friday, January 8
Macon 6, Knoxville 3
Thursday, January 7
Birmingham 5, Pensacola 2
Three Stars of the Week:
⭐ Brian Bowen, Macon – He appeared to be in the form of a season ago when he was with Fayetteville on Friday at Knoxville. He netted a hat trick for the Mayhem which included an early answer against the Ice Bears after they took a 1-0 lead.
⭐⭐ Austin Lotz, Birmingham – Stopped 29 out of 31 shots in last Thursday’s win against Pensacola, keeping the Ice Flyers off the board in the final two periods.
⭐⭐⭐ Dean Balsamo, Macon – He was the epitome of making things happen offensively for Macon against Knoxville, racking up four assists.
Around The League…
Goalies On the Move
Despite fewer teams playing this season on other levels of minor league hockey, the SPHL is not immune from players being loaned to other organizations. Pensacola goalie Jake Kupsky, after starting the season at 3-1 and having a 2.61 goals-against average, has been loaned to the South Carolina Stingrays. The Ice Flyers will now turn to Chase Perry and Taran Kozun in net. Perry has two appearances with Kozun having signed with the team on January 8.
In Knoxville, Jeremy Brodeur has departed for Binghamton in the AHL after only one start with the Ice Bears, a shutout win on January 3. It marks his second brief stint to start the season in as many years. He played in six games Peoria to start last year prior playing overseas. The Ice Bears have started a different goalie in all three games – Brodeur, Hayden Stewart, and Joseph Murdaca. Knoxville also brought SPHL veteran Peter Di Salvo aboard this week, as well.
Mayhem Unrattled by Circumstances
Last Friday was less than ideal for the Macon Mayhem before its contest against Knoxville, the team arriving and rushing off the bus to play in a game starting roughly two hours behind. But if there was any fatigue from the travel, it was not evident on the ice. After falling behind 1-0 early and 2-1 after one period, the Mayhem blew it wide open in the second period, cashing miscues on the Knoxville into goals with three goals by three different players to lead 4-2 as Gabe Guertler, Jared Bethune and Bowen got on the board. Ryan Smith added a third-period score and Bowen notched an empty netter for the Mayhem’s best scoring output in a young season.
You can find out a lot of things about a team as it goes through the unexpected. For Macon, last Friday showed that it has a local room of players that are resilient.
Turnover in Knoxville
If there’s a team that could use some of those, “hello, my name is” tags, it’d be Knoxville. And the Ice Bears scoring lines are most impacted. On January 7, four forwards were placed on team suspension – Scott Cuthrell, Lincoln Griffin, Mike Gornall, and Noah Corson. Additions since then have been Connor Fries, Josh Pietrantonio, and Brendan van Riemsdyk. Fries got off to a good start last Friday against Macon, scoring a goal. Knoxville has also lost a defenseman to injury, Alex Carlson. His season-ending injury means the loss of experience as well, with him having played in 44 games last year.
Pryce is Right for Birmingham
Snapping up Taylor Pryce as a result of Quad City opting out this season is paying off so far for the Birmingham Bulls. He has a point in three of his past four games and a goal in two of his previous three. His two goals last Thursday put the Bulls in front of Pensacola in a come from behind win. His four points places him seventh in the league, tied for the team lead with Mike Davis.
Stat of the Week
100 – the percentage of power plays killed off so far this year by Huntsville and Knoxville.
Friday, January 15
Knoxville at Huntsville, 7 p.m. CST
Macon at Pensacola, 7:35 p.m. CST
Saturday, January 16
Birmingham at Macon, 6:30 p.m. EST
Huntsville at Knoxville, 7:35 p.m. EST
Sunday, January 17
Pensacola at Macon, 4 p.m. EST
Monday, January 18
Huntsville at Birmingham, 1 p.m. CST
Brad Harrison is the SPHL editor and covers the Macon Mayhem for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinMayhem!