MACON, Ga. – First thing’s first. We hope those of you in the midsouth and midwest are staying safe in the midst of all the cold weather and send all the best wishes, especially to those of you in SPHL markets such as Peoria, Quad City, and Evansville. We hope to see you as well as fans from Fayetteville and Roanoke along for the ride in the league next fall.
As the season powers through its second full month, here is a look around the SPHL.
Thursday, Feb. 11
Birmingham 2, Macon 1
Friday, Feb. 12
Knoxville 5, Huntsville 2
Macon 5, Pensacola 0
Friday, Feb. 13
Knoxville 2, Birmingham 1
Pensacola 4, Huntsville 3
Sunday, Feb. 14
Macon 3, Pensacola 2
Tuesday, Feb. 16
Knoxville at Huntsville, postponed due to weather
Three Stars of the Week
⭐ Johnny Curran, Knoxville. The Ice Bears took a pair of wins last weekend, and he was a large reason why. In his first two games with Knoxville, Curran had a goal and three assists.
⭐⭐ Jake Wahlin, Pensacola. Helped the Ice Flyers pick up two points in three games. He scored three goals, one being shorthanded and another being a game-winner.
⭐⭐⭐ Jake Theut, Macon. In the process of going 2-0-1, he posted a 1.35 GAA, which included his first professional shutout on Friday.
Around the league…
Ice Bears win in a thrilling finish
Depending on what side of the ice you were watching from, the end of Saturday’s game was either a thrilling victory for Knoxville or a ‘what if’ for Birmingham.
In overtime, a collision involving Bulls goalie Hayden Stewart near the Birmingham goal enabled the Ice Bears Dalton Skelly to score the game-winner in a 2-1 Ice Bears victory. If you’re wondering how divisive the ending was, consider the fact that video of it has been shared on both team’s social media channels.
Knoxville, which bested Huntsville 5-2 the night before, has now won two in a row and now heads to Macon for a pair of games on Saturday and Sunday. Look for the Ice Bears to be eager to prove a point. Their last game against the Mayhem was a 7-2 Macon win on Feb. 5.
Stewart standing strong
By all accounts, Hayden Stewart is settling himself in within the Bulls net. Taking over since Austin Lotz’s suspension began, he has now given up five goals in his past three games, three being within regulation. More importantly, he has kept his team in a position to win as of late, too. Birmingham has earned a point in its last three contests, winning two of them and losing another in overtime.
Barnaby giving Havoc consistency
Matthew Barnaby is turning out to be a model of consistency for the Huntsville Havoc. He has at least one point in six of his past seven contests, having two points in four of them. At this current pace, he is on target to be at or near totals, 34 points in 44 games while playing for Evansville.
A case of Jekyll and Hyde?
One of the bigger mysteries as of late in the SPHL? Which Pensacola team will show up.
The Ice Flyers salvaged three points last weekend, beating Huntsville 4-3 and losing 3-2 to Macon on Sunday afternoon in heartbreaking fashion. That was all preceded by a forgetful performance on Friday when the Mayhem came to Pensacola and took a 5-0 win. After a first period marked by a pair of on-ice fights and a 1-0 Macon lead through two periods, everything came undone as Macon dominated the final period.
The Ice Flyers responded a night later with some strong measures of resilience, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Huntsville with goals two goals each by Darren McCormick and Jake Wahlin.
No quit in the Mayhem
Despite playing the fewest games of any team in the SPHL so far this season, Macon is three points shy of first place.
A never say die mentality, as shown last Sunday at Pensacola, is a big reason why.
Down 2-1 in the final minutes, Macon went on the power play as Pensacola’s Brennan Blaszczak was called for tripping at 19:48. The Ice Flyers paid for it dearly. Nine seconds later, Gabe Guertler’s unassisted goal tied it before Max Cook needed just 35 seconds to win it for the Mayhem.
Macon and Pensacola go at it again on Friday at the Pensacola Bay Center, but the Mayhem will be without forward Dean Balsamo, who begins a two-game suspension on Friday.
“It’s always easier and more enjoyable when you are playing with a lead. The guys are a lot looser and playing loose and sometimes, that can work in our benefit.” – Birmingham head coach Craig Simchuk.
Stat of the Week
5- Combined shorthanded goals by Pensacola’s Eddie Matsushima and Jake Wahlin with three and two apiece. No other player in the league has more than one.
Friday, Feb. 19
Knoxville at Birmingham, 7:30 p.m. CST
Macon at Pensacola, 7:35 p.m. CST
Saturday, Feb. 20
Knoxville at Macon, 6:30 p.m. EST
Birmingham at Pensacola, 7:35 CST
Sunday, Feb. 21
Knoxville at Macon, 4 p.m. EST
Huntsville at Pensacola, 4:05 p.m. CST