MACON, Ga. – As the SPHL season goes on, weathering the storm of injuries and ECHL callups is a factor that becomes magnified. How a team responds to adversity can make a world of difference, especially as nip and tuck as the league standings have ended up being to this point.
Here’s the latest updates, observations, and more in the SPHL Rundown.
Friday, Feb. 19
Knoxville 5, Birmingham, 1
Macon 2, Pensacola 0
Saturday, Feb. 20
Macon 2, Knoxville 1 (OT)
Birmingham 4, Pensacola 3
Sunday, Feb. 21
Macon 2, Knoxville 1
Huntsville 6, Pensacola 3
Stars of the Week
⭐ Matthew Barnaby, Huntsville. The Havoc forward played just once last weekend. To say that he made his ice time count is a massive understatement. He didn’t just register a hat trick against Pensacola. He did so within a six-minute stretch to help his team to a 6-3 win.
⭐⭐ Ray Brice, Macon. He was a special teams nightmare for the Mayhem against Knoxville. In back-to-back wins against the Ice Bears, he scored a short-handed goal in both games, one being the game-winning tally.
⭐⭐⭐ Peter Di Salvo. The veteran netminder further implanted himself as the Ice Bears clear No. 1. Playing in three back-to-back games, he helped Knoxville to earn three points, giving up four regulation goals.
Around the league…
Positive signs for the Marksmen?
Of the teams in the SPHL to have opted out this season, what are the odds that any of them will resume play for the 2021-22 season? For Fayetteville, things are looking up as a result of two pieces of news. While not ironclad pieces of news, there is room for optimism. First, the team released info on reserving season tickets on Wednesday.
Secondly, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. That news was followed by the Carolina Hurricanes releasing info that included allowing 15 percent capacity at home games as of March 4.
The SPHL will be a better league with more teams taking part. With the vaccine being more widely available and news of at least one team having a better chance of returning to play, the news is definitely encouraging.
Goalie depth? Macon appears to have it
In the SPHL, a lack of goalie depth can place a team on a tightrope, putting it on the verge of its play in net taking a step back. The Macon Mayhem do not appear to have that problem. Macon’s Jake Theut is arguably the league’s top goalie with a record of 8-1-1-1 and a 1.34 GAA. But in the SPHL, there’s always the chance of goalie playing well either getting called up or getting injured. It never hurts to have another goalie to turn to, and Ryan Ruck showed he is capable of being that player last Sunday against Knoxville. Playing for the first time in 16 days, he stopped 36-of-37 shots, the most he has faced in a game in three appearances with the Mayhem this season.
Banged-Up Ice Flyers Fighting Through Injuries
If the Pensacola Ice Flyers needed any ideas for a last-minute promotional night, a M*A*S*H night would be an appropriate fit. That’s because, with the Ice Flyers rash of injuries, Pensacola may as well be a MASH unit these days.
A week after forward Patrick Megannety was placed on the 21-day IR, he got some company. Forward Alec Hagaman and defenseman Kyle Froese were added to the 21-day list last weekend and forward Alec Marsh was designated for the 60-day IR.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Pensacola endured a tough time last weekend, losing all three games, 2-0 to Macon, 4-3 to Birmingham, and 6-3 to Huntsville.
The other side of having to ride out these injuries in Pensacola is the open door for others to lead. Garrett Milan and the recently acquired Taylor Pryce were among the ones in that group, Price logging two goals over the weekend and Milan having two points.
Ups and Downs in Rocket City
The roller-coaster ride continues for the Huntsville Havoc.
They opened the month up with a pair of weekend wins against Birmingham and Pensacola only to drop a pair to Pensacola and Knoxville the following weekend. Last weekend in their only game? A six-goal second period to propel them past the Ice Flyers.
One point of comfort in Huntsville is the apparent trust in both of its goaltenders. Both Max Milosek and Jason Pawloski have each played in nine games, so if one gets hurt or is loaned to the ECHL, lack of game experience won’t be an issue.
Bulls hope to harness the momentum
Held to two goals or fewer in their past five games, forgive the Birmingham Bulls for hoping that last Saturday’s output can somehow carry over.
In Saturday’s 4-3 triumph over Pensacola, the Bulls came alive offensively, needing less than four minutes to strike twice. The play of Logan Nelson continues to be critical for Birmingham’s in the attack zone. His 16 points rank fifth in the league. Nelson’s three points against Pensacola also matched a season-best for the Minnesota native.
Di Salvo bringing stability
This marks the tenth season of which Peter Di Salvo has been on an SPHL roster, and that experience is paying dividends for the Knoxville Ice Bears.
Knoxville head coach Jeff Carr appears to have found someone that he and the Ice Bears feel strong comfort with in goal. Look no further than last weekend. Despite three games in a row, Knoxville kept Di Salvo, whose play warranted staying in net, between the pipes, and he wrapped up the weekend with a combined four goals being allowed on Saturday and Sunday in Macon.
If Knoxville is seeking a steadying presence in net to set the tone, Di Salvo may very well fit the bill.
“I had signed with Atlanta, and when they opted out, it kind of put my world in shambles a little bit and I didn’t know where I was going to play and if I was going to get a chance to play. I think it just comes down to getting to come to the rink every day and tying my skates up again because there are obviously guys right now that don’t get to do that, they don’t get to hang out with the boys and come to the rink every day. That’s why I keep playing.” – Birmingham Forward Logan Nelson on the latest episode of the Bulls’ KCK Has Questions
Stat Of The Week
The number of times that Macon and Pensacola have played at the Macon Coliseum this season. The Ice Flyers play the Mayhem on the road for the first time on March 2, and Macon has won three of the four meetings so far this season.
Thursday, Feb. 25
Huntsville at Macon, 7:30 p.m. EST
Pensacola at Birmingham, 7:30 p.m. CST
Friday, Feb. 26
Pensacola at Knoxville, 7:35 p.m. EST
Macon at Huntsville, 7:00 p.m. CST
Saturday, Feb. 27
Pensacola at Knoxville, 7:35 p.m. EST
Birmingham at Huntsville, 7:00 p.m. CST
Brad Harrison covers the Macon Mayhem for The Sin Bin and is also the SPHL editor. Follow or interact with him at @SinBinMayhem.