Preview: Mayhem @ Evansville Thunderbolts (Game 15)

The Super Soper Returns
Mayhem left wing Jimmy Soper was sorely missed by the team during his three-game absence due to family matters, but he returned with aplomb on Saturday night against the Ice Flyers. In his first game back, the Waterloo, ON native netted two goals and registered a team-high seven shots on goal in Macon’s 4-2 defeat.

Soper’s brilliance in his return to action was not enough to propel the Mayhem to victory, as another third period turned south for them quickly. Eddie Matsushima slipped the puck by Kevin Entmaa less than three minutes into the start of the closing stanza, which put the Mayhem behind for the first time of the game. They could not overcome the deficit, and conceded an empty-net strike to fall 4-2. Third periods have been, by far, Macon’s weakest this season. They have now been outscored 19-10 in the final frame (-9), while periods one and two have seen a goal differential of just -3 and -2, respectively. Fortunately, crucial reinforcements are on the way, which may help the team’s longevity during games.

The Matchup
Two weeks ago, Ryan Michel made his head coaching debut against the Evansville Thunderbolts and defeated them by a final score of 4-2 at the Macon Centreplex. Four different players scored, which included the first goal of the season for Shawn Lynch, Stephen Pierog and Josh Koepplinger. Jeff Bes and company did have a response the following night, handing the Mayhem a 4-2 defeat.

Six Evansville power plays kept the Mayhem from extended offensive zone time two Saturdays ago, and the Bolts remain the most disciplined team in the SPHL heading into tonight’s tilt. They are the only team in the league which averages fewer than ten penalty minutes per game. Through just two matchups this season, they have had 13 power plays to Macon’s 7, which has certainly hampered Macon’s ability to create chances. As always, discipline will be critical in tonight’s outing. The Mayhem lead the league with 18.43 penalty minutes per game.

Reinforcements Arrive
The Mayhem are receiving some help defensively this weekend with the signing of Alex D’Oliveira and the return of Zach Urban from the ECHL. D’Oliveira tallied three assists in his last three games with the Quad City Storm before his release, and had led the team with a +3 rating. Urban, meanwhile, scored a goal in his first game with the Kalamazoo Wings, making the most of his five-game stint. Urban is the most tenured defenseman on the Mayhem, and his return has substantial implications for the team in several departments.

Mayhem forward Anton Lindström will also make his debut tonight. He adds further depth and size to the team’s forward corps, and could prove to be a key component on special teams. As for Evansville’s transactions, they have signed veteran goaltender Brian Billett in the wake of Parker Gahagen’s call-up to the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. Billett played extremely well against the Mayhem last season while with Pensacola, boasting a head-to-head record of 5-2-0, a 1.41 goals against average and a .948 save percentage.

Teacher Appreciation Night
The Mayhem will have three consecutive Saturday home games, along with a pair of Friday games in the month of December. Tomorrow evening, the team hosts the Fayetteville Marksmen for the first time since the home opener. It will be Teacher Appreciation Night; admission is only $10 for school faculty with the presentation of a valid ID at the box office. For tickets to any of December’s five home games, click here.