The changing lineups may have been a constant through the season. Not to mention a late-season injury to one of the team’s biggest names.
But through it all, here the Macon Mayhem are, in the semifinal round of the SPHL President’s Cup playoffs for the second year in a row.
The Mayhem backed themselves into a corner in the Challenge Round to open the SPHL postseason, trailing Evansville in the best-of-three series after a 2-1 loss. All Macon did was punch its way out in a big way. The team put up scores of 6-1 and 8-0 on Saturday and Sunday for a convincing series win in its quests to repeat as champions.
“On Thursday, we didn’t play very well and got out of sorts. We got back to playing the way we like to play, we obviously in our last two games played well and scored a lot of goals,” Mayhem head coach Kevin Kerr said. “Sometimes you score a lot of goals, and Peoria did that last year and then they met up with us. I like our chances, but we still have a long way to go.”
Up next in the semifinals is Huntsville. The first game of the series is on the road Wednesday with the second game set for Thursday in Macon as well as a third game Friday if necessary. The Mayhem are 2-3-0 this season against the Havoc, and the record isn’t the only thing near-even between the two teams. In their five meetings, Huntsville has outshot Macon by just 11 and outscored the Mayhem by just two combined goals, 20-18.
Knoxville and Peoria play in the other semifinal round. Macon and Peoria met in last year’s finals.
Scoring goals has not been much of a problem this season for Macon — the Mayhem led the league in scoring in the regular season. In recent weeks, more so in the postseason, there has been goalie play to match the level of play on the other end of the ice.
In the three games against Evansville, Macon goalie Charlie Finn gave up a combined three goals. It was all topped off on Sunday afternoon in his first career shutout as Finn turned away 40 shots to keep the Thunderbolts off of the scoreboard. All told, he stopped 73 shots combined on Saturday and Sunday.
As for injuries, while fan-favorite Dennis Sicard, whose play on the ice helps set a physical tone, is out for the rest of the season with an arm injury, Jeff Sanders is back from an injury and Daniel Echeverri has returned from a loan to Greenville of the ECHL now that Greenville’s season is over.
“Obviously, it’s devastating losing a guy like Sicard with all his determination and grit,” Sanders said. “We have lot of guys who we feel who can get the job done.”
Emerging faces on the scoring line haven’t hurt either. In Sunday’s win, Macon’s eight goals were scored by eight different players.
Kevin Irwin, who was in the lineup for 11 games for Macon heading into the playoffs, was red-hot in the first round of the postseason, scoring a combined four goals, including his first career hat trick Saturday night.
Irwin is one of four Mayhem players with a plus-minus rating of at least plus-five. The others are Jake Trask, Stathis Soumelidis and Dylan Vander Esch.
With scoring like that to go with improved play on the defensive end, Macon is looking like a well-oiled machine.
“Everybody is committed to doing the little things, it’s things like chipping a puck out to make plays, but they won’t make a highlight reel,” Finn said. “When you have a lot of guys committed to that, you’ll do well.”