The hockey postseason tends to run the gamut of exhilarating joy and soul-crushing defeat. A season after experiencing the greatest thrill in hockey by the winning of the SPHL title, the Macon Mayhem’s hopes of repeating came to a sudden and heartbreaking halt late on Friday night at the Macon Coliseum.
After Huntsville forced overtime with 63 seconds to go in regulation, the Havoc completed its upset bid 10:55 into the extra period when Peter Sikalis punched a loose puck into the net to send the Havoc to the President’s Cup finals against Peoria.
While Huntsville celebrated its 3-2 win, Macon’s players and coaches, teary eyed and emotional, filed off the ice, exchanging embraces with friends and staff members.
“We battled through a lot of adversity this year. We had 20 players that wanted to be here the most and battle for each year, I can’ say how proud I am of our players,” Mayhem head coach Kevin Kerr said. “This one kind of stings because I didn’t think it was going to happen, I don’t think they thought it was going to happen.”
For two periods and beyond, Macon’s first-period goal, a power play score by Caleb Cameron 2:15 into the game, looked like it would be enough for a Mayhem win as goalie Charlie Finn was having an absolute gem of a night in goal for Macon, stopping each and every scoring chance that Huntsville threw at him one night after the Mayhem were lit up for eight goals.
The Havoc, however, broke through 8:04 into the third period when Sy Nutkevich tied things up.
Macon, however, stood tall. The Mayhem showed the grit that had allowed them to weather the ups and downs of the season through injuries and player call-ups to the ECHL to be one of the top contenders for the championship by the time that the postseason arrived.
“I can’t say enough about that team that’s in that locker room. They are professionals off and on the ice, they are great role models for our community,” Kerr said. “Everybody in this community should be proud of this hockey team for what they have accomplished in such a short time. ”
That effort came to fruition with a bit more than three minutes to go in the game. Off a Daniel Gentzler shot, Jake Trask corralled the puck on the left side, and his slap shot beat Havoc goalie Keegan Asmundson as Macon retook the lead.
But Huntsville, which pulled its goalie for an extra attacker with less than two minutes to play, made the gamble work when Nolan Kaiser scored past Finn with 1:03 to go in regulation.
The break ended up being enough the send the Havoc to its first finals in five years.
Macon ends its third season having advanced to the postseason each year with one championship to go with this year’s semifinal appearance.
“We want to win championships and have success, we’re not satisfied with mediocrity and going through the motions,” Kerr said. “You saw that (Friday), 70-plus minutes, it could have gone either way. That’s the types of players and people that we recruit.”