At this point of the season, the race for the top of the SPHL might as well be be divided into two parts.
There’s a cluster of teams, led by the Macon Mayhem, battling for the second place in the standings. But each team has one current thing in common: trying to keep Huntsville from pulling away from the rest of the league’s leaders.
Macon (19-6-5) can cut into the six-point lead of Huntsville (24-7-1) in a big way this weekend, with the Mayhem hosting the Havoc on both Friday and Saturday night at the Macon Coliseum in a battle of the league’s top two teams in the standings. The pair of games will attract the lion’s share of the SPHL’s attention, as Macon tries its hand at slowing down the league’s top-scoring team.
Both games will start at 7:35 p.m.
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The Mayhem are fresh off of snapping a season-long five game winless streak Saturday at Pensacola, a 3-1 win in which Daniel Sobotka registered his second point in as many games for Macon’s first power-play goal in 27 chances.
“To pick up the win against Pensacola was huge not just confidence-wise, but for the mental side of the game, as well,” Mayhem head coach Kevin Kerr said. “It was big for the guys to break out and get a win, that’s for sure.”
Moving back toward where it was a month ago, in first place in the SPHL, won’t be the only thing on Macon’s mind this weekend. It’ll also be looking to atone for a 4-0 loss suffered Jan. 20 in its only previous game against Huntsville this season.
“It’s definitely a huge weekend with us trying to chase them. The bigger thing as a coaching staff is just to get the guys where they’re playing better and getting back to where they were earlier in the year. That to me is the most important thing,” Kerr said. “Being hard on pucks and using our speed, if we do that, that’s probably first and foremost for us and building to later in the season and playing playoff hockey.”
In the Jan. 20 game, Macon fell behind 2-0 in the first period and was unable to rally back.
A strong start will be critical for the Mayhem, especially given a very recent template on how to beat the Havoc, a team that has scored the game’s first goal in seven of its past 10 contests. Saturday’s loss by Huntsville to Mississippi came after the Havoc fell behind 4-0 through two periods, a hole that was too deep to dig out of and ended Huntsville’s three-game winning streak.
“(On Jan. 20) they got off to a quick start, and we battled back the whole game,” Kerr said. “We’re a team that when we get down, it’s tough to come back at times because you’re fighting the tempo and flow of the game. We have to make sure we get to a quick start, get on them early and see how it evolves. If we can do that and gain confidence, we’ll see how things shake out.”
The Havoc continue to have one of the SPHL’s top scoring units across the board, a threat that will clash with Macon’s solid goalie tandem of Jordan Ruby and Troy Passingham. Sy Nutkevich (34 points) and Johnny Daniels (32) lead the SPHL in scoring, in addition to the Havoc having three more of the league’s top 15 scorers, as well.
In goal, Huntsville will also welcome back goalie Tyler Steele back for the weekend. His backup, Adam Courchaine, shut Macon out Jan. 20.