After two days of intense practices, the Macon Mayhem played their first exhibition game Friday in North Carolina -- a 3-1 win over the Fayetteville Fire Antz.
Next up is a Saturday exhibition matchup with the Columbus Cottonmouths in the first professional hockey game to be played in Macon in 10 years.
"I just can't wait to see this building with a large crowd supporting its home team," said Macon's head coach Kevin Kerr, who currently has 27 players in camp battling for 19 jobs. "Columbus is a natural rival game because the two cities are so close, and even though we haven't been together for too long, the fans will see some great hockey. The coach at Columbus, Jerome Bechard is a great coach, and we are also great friends, so we know each other on the ice fairly well. We used to play together, and our styles were similar, so it will make for a great game.
"I love putting a team together, and I love the practices, but I am very anxious to see what these guys can do in a game in front of a crowd."
The Mayhem started practice Wednesday. Their season opens Oct. 23.
"We were good on the first day and much better the second day, and we have had a lot of good play with guys knowing they are competing for a job," said Kerr, who singled out the effort and talent of John Schiavo, Alex Labonte and Sweden native Anton Lennartsson. "We have so many great players here, and we are still getting phone calls every day from players that have recently been cut by a team that want a chance to play here. We are committed to putting a championship team together in Macon."
Schiavo, who was in the New York Islanders' mini-camp earlier this year and is entering his first professional season, liked Macon from the very start.
"Everyone has been great to all the players and we are excited to be a part of bringing hockey back to Macon," said Schiavo, who is just 21 years old. "I came in here not knowing anyone on the team, but it has been a fairly smooth transition and everyone is working hard. We are very lucky to have a wonderful vintage place to play in and we know it's been sitting here for 10 years without any hockey, so we are hoping it will be packed and loud on Saturday. "
When asked what Macon fans could expect to see on Saturday night, Kerr had a simple answer.
"It's a rivalry game with two teams wanting to beat each other," Kerr said. It will be a great game and a great atmosphere for the fans also."