Snakes Slither Back into Playoff Race

A month ago, the Columbus Cottonmouths were left for dead. Jerome Bechard’s team started 2016 going 2-11-2 and were certain to miss the postseason for the first time in the SPHL charter franchise’s history. Since a 3-1 home loss to the Louisiana IceGators on February 7th, Columbus has a 5-1-1 record and stands three points behind the Macon Mayhem for the SPHL’s last playoff spot. Last weekend, the Snakes picked up three valuable points in their quest to overtake Macon, and they would have had a perfect weekend had it not been for the sensational play of Mayhem goaltender Garrett Bartus. Columbus forced overtime against the Mayhem before a Shawn Skelly breakaway gave Macon the win – and an extra point of cushion between the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths. The following day at the Cajundome, the Snakes caught the IceGators napping, and came away with a crucial 5-3 victory. Columbus will travel to Knoxville on Friday, then host the Ice Flyers on Sunday.

Ice Flyers Crash and Burn in Peoria

With the Mississippi RiverKings faltering lately, the Pensacola Ice Flyers had a prime opportunity to close the gap in the standings with their rivals. Playing a three-game weekend set against the first-place Peoria Rivermen also gave the Pensacola an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the SPHL the Flyers are ready to make a run at a third President’s Cup. The two teams split the first two games, then the Ice Flyers ran into a brick wall named David Jacobson. The Peoria netminder put up one of the most brilliant performances this season with a 53-save shutout in Sunday’s series finale. Jacobson’s 53 saves was the most in a game so far this year, and the fourth-most saves in a shutout in SPHL history. The Ice Flyers visit Louisiana tomorrow and attempt to pick up their eighth win against their coastal rival.

FireAntz Swept by Ice Bears

The Fayetteville FireAntz started their 2015-16 campaign red-hot, winning eight of their first ten games. Currently, the team is a polar opposite of their former selves, going 2-8-0 over their last ten games. Once atop the league standings in November, the Antz now sit in seventh place at the bottom of a five team pack including the Knoxville Ice Bears, Pensacola Ice Flyers, Huntsville Havoc, and Louisiana IceGators. Their last three losses came at the hands of the Ice Bears – now the league’s hottest team. The Antz dropped 4-2, 5-3, and 4-1 decisions to the Bears last weekend and Knoxville is now the third place team in the SPHL after their perfect six-point week.

As a result of the poor weekend, Monday, FireAntz coach Jeff Bes sent a message to the team and cleaned house, waiving forwards James Gabrione, Benjamin Rubin, and Moke Montagna. The FireAntz get to host the IceGators for a two-game weekend set, crucial for both teams’ postseason prospects.

Playoff Outlook

This week we’re going to use a graph to illustrate the playoff races in the SPHL, and just how the Peoria Rivermen are the league’s version of the NHL’s Washington Capitals or ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks.

The Rivs are really far ahead, folks. Currently at 67 points (32-9-3), the Rivermen are already tied with the Mississippi RiverKings’ projected finish.

We see a battle for the third seed developing between the Ice Flyers and Ice Bears. The two teams won’t meet again in the regular season, and the Ice Bears will hold the tiebreaker should head-to-head records be a factor.

Huntsville, Louisiana, and Fayetteville will battle for the fourth seed – and home ice advantage in the first round (which didn’t work out very well last year). The IceGators have three of their remaining eleven games against these teams.

Finally, we see Macon and Columbus battling for the last playoff spot. The statistics say Macon has the edge, but the Snakes will have three games in hand at the end of the season. Unfortunately, Columbus’ final three games will be in Peoria. The clock is ticking on Jerome Bechard’s postseason streak.

Team Sin Bin’s Power Poll

  1. Peoria Rivermen (32-9-3, LW: 1) – David Jacobson should get more starts.
  2. Knoxville Ice Bears (23-19-4, LW: 4) – If there’s a fifth banner raising ceremony at the KCAC in October, I will not be surprised. The Ice Bears are for real – again.
  3. Mississippi RiverKings (23-14-7, LW: 2) – Peter Di Salvo just got released by the ECHL Adirondack Thunder. In unrelated news, Mississippi waived backup goalie Spencer McLay.
  4. Pensacola Ice Flyers (23-17-3, LW: 3) – When John McLean’s in net, the Flyers Die Hard. Yippie-ki-yay.
  5. Vacated. The IceGators (21-20-4, LW: 6) were supposed to have this spot. However, they failed to show up and claim it…
  6. Huntsville Havoc (22-20-3, LW: 7) – A light week, and a shutout win against the RiverKings.
  7. Fayetteville FireAntz (21-19-3, LW: 6) – Since Sean Bonar’s departure, the Antz are 5-10-1. Bonar’s promotion to the ECHL and injuries have decimated this team.
  8. Macon Mayhem (19-23-4, LW: 8) – The Mayhem have a tough road trip this weekend to Mississippi and Knoxville.
  9. Columbus Cottonmouths (16-21-7, LW: 9) – Nine games, and four points, to overtake Macon. Three of the Snakes’ last four games are at Peoria.

This Week’s Three Stars

★ – David Jacobson, Goalie, Peoria Rivermen – Any shutout of the Ice Flyers is newsworthy, but a 53-save shutout is Star-worthy.
★★ Zack LaRue, Forward, Knoxville Ice Bears – Three goals, two assists in the Bears’ sweep of the FireAntz last week.
★★★ – Zac Frischmon, Forward, Louisiana IceGators – Three goals, including Wednesday’s game winner against Mississippi. Frischmon extended his goal scoring streak to four games.

This Week’s Games

Wednesday, March 9

Pensacola at Louisiana – 7:05 CT

Friday, March 11

Louisiana at Fayetteville – 7:05 ET
Columbus at Knoxville – 7:35 ET
Macon at Mississippi – 7:05 CT
Peoria at Huntsville – 7:30 CT

Saturday, March 12

Louisiana at Fayetteville – 7:05 ET
Macon at Knoxville – 7:35 ET
Mississippi at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
Peoria at Huntsville – 7:30 CT

Sunday, March 13

Pensacola at Columbus – 4:00 ET

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