The Macon Mayhem have plenty of reasons to be confident.
Thirteen players are back from last year’s team that won the SPHL President’s Cup title after winning the regular-season points title.
Now, that core group, which includes four of last season’s top five scorers, has even loftier goals than it did a year ago. Macon will be looking to become just the second team in SPHL history to win both the regular-season and postseason titles for the second year in a row, joining Knoxville in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons.
“There’s nothing better than defending a title. You have to work a little harder, but I think we’ve built a team that I think is ready to do that, I’m excited,” Mayhem forward Dennis Sicard said. “It’s tougher. Other teams are working harder against you every night, trying to say that they beat the champions. I think we’re ready for that.”
Macon hosts Pensacola on Friday, and the festivities will include the raising of championship banners and players being presented with championship rings. The Mayhem also host Huntsville on Saturday.
“We know people are gunning for us. Last year, we held down the No. 1 spot for most of the season and kind of got a taste of that,” Mayhem defenseman Jeff Sanders said. “With all the veterans we have coming back, we feel confident.”
The two biggest names to replace for the Mayhem are in goal and on the scoring line. Jordan Ruby, last year’s postseason MVP, is gone. His expected replacement, Troy Passingham, who backed up Ruby last year, was loaned this week to the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL. Macon will have Tomas Sholl and Charlie Finn in net to start the season.
Collin MacDonald’s scoring punch (15 goals, 42 points) will have to be replaced. But Macon has a mixture of proven returners and a handful of newcomers to lean on. That group of familiar faces includes Jake Trask, last year’s leader in points and goals (48 and 21), and John Siemer, whose plus-17 plus-minus rating tied for tops on the team. Throw in other top returning scorers Daniel Gentzler and Stephen Pierog, and the Mayhem will have multiple proven scorers in the lineup.
Darren McCormick and Dylan Denomme are among the new faces to look for on the Mayhem scoring lines as the season begins.
And the Mayhem will return some elements of toughness, as well. Sicard, a fan-favorite, will be back in the fold, as will Chris Joseph on defense that also includes Sanders and newcomer Vinny Muto.
“It’s been a long offseason; everyone’s been champing at the bit to get back into it,” Sanders said. “Coming back to Macon, seeing the guys coaches have brought it, we’re ready to get the ball rolling.”
Three Things To Watch This Year In The SPHL
New postseason format: The SPHL made waves across the hockey world this week with the announcement of its new playoff format. Eight teams again will qualify for the postseason, but the first round, named the Challenge Round, will permit the top three teams in the standings prior to the playoffs to select their first-round opponent from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place teams in the standings.
One in, one out: The Mayhem will be without an in-state rival with the Columbus Cottonmouths suspending operations. The league also will have an expansion team for the third year in a row with the addition of the Birmingham Bulls. Birmingham picked up one Mayhem player from last year’s team, forward Mark Rivera in the expansion draft.
Big moves for Pensacola: Perhaps no team made bigger postseason shock waves than the Ice Flyers. Jeff Bes, who parted ways with Fayetteville, has come aboard as the head coach in Pensacola, and the offseason moves included a blockbuster trade for last year’s SPHL MVP Sean Bonar, who played for Bes at Fayetteville.
Macon Mayhem opening-night roster
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