Strength in goal has been a trademark for the Macon Mayhem the past two seasons, and they’ll look for that to continue as the season approaches with a familiar face between the pipes.
The defending SPHL President’s Cup champion Mayhem open the season Friday at home against Pensacola with last year’s backup to Jordan Ruby, Troy Passingham, as their expected starter. Passingham will look to take the baton for Macon in goal following MVP and MVP-caliber seasons by Mayhem’s starting goalies from the past two seasons — Ruby and Garrett Bartus.
Despite the heavy expectations, Passingham enters the season with confidence, which is helped by the recent experience of being in the Atlanta Gladiators’ ECHL training camp and seeing a high level of play.
“Obviously, those guys are two really good goalies,” Passingham said. “I believe in myself, and I think the team believes in me, too. I think that’s why I was able to come back here.”
Ruby is now playing in France with Bartus still being on the roster of Fort Wayne in the ECHL. Bartus was called up briefly last season to Manitoba of the AHL — one short step shy of the NHL.
As Ruby’s backup last season, Passingham was at the ready to give Ruby a break or step in when Ruby was unable to play. That was certainly the case late in the season with Ruby away for seven games for the birth of his first child. Passingham played in three of those contests, going 1-1-1 in helping keep Macon in position for an eventual top seed for the playoffs.
“It was a good opportunity to see if I could be the guy and was able to show it,” Passingham said.
Passingham is one of three goalies in camp for Macon competing for two roster spots, and he is joined by Charlie Finn and Tomas Sholl. Sholl stopped 25-of-26 shots in Friday’s overtime exhibition loss to Knoxville. Finn relieved Passingham midway through Saturday’s contest against Fayetteville, stopping six of the seven shots that he faced.
Passingham started last season strong, winning the first four times in net and giving up one goal in three of those wins. Overall, he was 8-3-1 with a 2.68 GAA a year ago and a .917 save percentage.
Another element Passingham brings to the table is continuity. For the first time in three seasons, Macon will have at least one goalie on its roster that has experience with the team.
“It’s tough losing a guy like Ruby. But having (Troy) back there, he filled in for him a little bi,t and we’ve worked with him. We’re really confident in Troy’s game,” defenseman Jeff Sanders said. “As a defenseman, he’s great at communicating and handling the puck. I think it’ll be easy to get back into it.”