There was a noticeable degree of celebration Friday when the Macon Mayhem clinched the best regular season record and top seed for the SPHL playoffs.
And while there were a lot of celebratory slaps on the back and hugs among the Mayhem players as they exited the ice for the locker room, there was no massive dogpile at center ice.
The way that Macon’s players and coaches see things, the prize of the William B. Coffey Trophy is nice, but an even bigger piece of hardware is there for the taking in the playoffs.
“We were happy to win first, but the real season starts now. I’ve seen it before, teams will lose out in the first round,” Mayhem left winger Jake Trask said. “We’re just trying to stick to us, not look too far ahead and just stay in the moment.”
Trask has indeed seen first-hand how regular-season success can be undone in the postseason. He was on a Peoria team two years ago that entered the playoffs as the top seed only to be upset by eighth-seeded Louisiana. Macon will enter the playoffs looking to be the first team since Pensacola three years ago win the regular season title in addition to the Presidents’ Cup in the playoffs.
The good news for the Mayhem (37-13-6, 80 points) is that they are not limping into the playoffs. In the past two weeks, they have gone from being neck-and-neck in a four-team race for first place to gaining the upper hand, winning four of their past five games in the process.
The stretch has also been marked by the return of goalie Jordan Ruby after he took a leave of absence for the birth of his son. Since returning, he has gone 3-1-0, including a key win against Huntsville in addition to holding opponents scoreless in two overtime shootouts. Ruby’s .925 save percentage and 21 wins rank him second in the SPHL to only Sean Bonar of Fayetteville.
With 48 points and 21 goals, Trask ranks eighth in the SPHL in both categories and is appearing to be heating up at the right time with goals in four of Macon’s past five games. Center Stephen Pierog is on a similar roll, with points in each of his past four games for a total of six with left winger Collin MacDonald having five goals in that same span.
Macon now looks to carry that momentum into the postseason, where it’ll play all three games of its first-round series against Columbus on the road due the Macon Coliseum’s home ice not being available due to a Disney On Ice event being scheduled before the Mayhem became tenants of the Coliseum.
“There’s a way bigger prize” Mayhem head coach Kevin Kerr said. “We have to continue to play better and better.”