BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In the 2018-19 season for the Birmingham Bulls, their mantra could easily be “less is more” or “quality over quantity.” Meaning, the fewer the shots Birmingham takes in a game, the more likely they are to win. The Bulls are currently 26-10-2 on the season. They have been outshot in 26 games; their record in those games is 18-8-2.
Being outshot is one thing, not putting up a lot of shots is another. Currently, the SPHL average regarding shots for is 31.92. Birmingham is just below the league average at 30.39 shots for per game. Here is where less is more again: in games where the Bulls have had 30 shots on goal or less, they are 18-4-2. To break that down even further, Birmingham is 9-3-1 when shooting 25 or fewer shots in a game. So, how is it that a team sitting solidly in second place in the league standings is winning despite being outshot game after game?
I asked coach Jamey Hicks that question last night after the 4-1 win over Huntsville, a rare game in which Birmingham outshot their opponent (32-29).
“We take quality shots; we don’t worry about what the shots on net are. We just have to play within our system. Sometimes our system gives up a lot of shots, but we have two really good goaltenders, so that helps us play the way we wanna play.”
The idea behind this article started with Birmingham’s weekend split with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. In Friday night’s game, the Bulls peppered Dawgs goaltender Brad Barone to the tune of 42 shots. Of those 42 shots, only Mike Davis could get one in the net as Birmingham lost 3-1. Saturday night, the Bulls had 20 fewer shots (being outshot 28-22) but picked up the win by a score of 3-2. Whereas Birmingham couldn’t get anything past Barone on Friday, Saturday saw the Bulls score twice on their first 10 shots, chasing Barone from the game six minutes into the second period.
Goals from Sam Williams, Austin Daae and Caleb Apperson were enough as Mavric Parks picked up his league-leading 20th win on the season.
Only in the SPHL is Tuesday night considered part of the previous week, so the weekend ended for Birmingham with a much-needed win over their in-state foe, the Huntsville Havoc. Sebastian Andersson started in net for Birmingham and played outstanding, allowing just one goal. Davis had a pair of goals on the evening, Apperson picked up his second game-winning goal in as many games, and Josh Harris sealed the deal with an empty net goal.
Coming up this weekend is a battle of 1 vs 2 again for the Bulls. Currently, Birmingham is 1-1 in games between teams ranked first and second in the league. On November 23 and 24, the Bulls and Macon Mayhem were ranked in the top two spots in the standings. They split the two games. Now, Birmingham gets a shot at top-ranked Peoria. The Rivermen have treated the teams on their schedule like a cat does with a mouse: toying with them at times, but eventually pouncing on them for the kill. With six players voted on the league All-Star team this season, Peoria definitely isn’t a house cat that you can take lightly. The Bulls play at Peoria on Friday evening before a pair of games against the Quad City Storm over the weekend.
Three Stars of the Weekend
★★★ – Josh Harris, who picked up three points for Birmingham on the weekend. He had a goal and two assists to snap a season-long four-game scoreless streak.
★★ – Caleb Apperson, who also had three points on the weekend, but a pair of game-winning goals is hard to beat in three games.
★ – Mike Davis, who finished with three goals on the weekend, including a pair against rival Huntsville.