Preview: Mayhem @ Knoxville Ice Bears (Game 45)

Stewart Earns First Pro Shutout
Former Knoxville Ice Bears goaltender Hayden Stewart earned his first professional shutout this Tuesday against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, stopping all 34 shots he faced. He gave the Mayhem the goaltending performance they needed, as the team had been coming off a frustrating matchup with the Birmingham Bulls in which Artt Brey had shut them down.

Tuesday marked the team’s second shutout in its last three games, with Michael Stiliadis stopping 14/14 in an abbreviated contest with the Fayetteville Marksmen last Friday. Another ex-Ice Bear, Danny Cesarz, played a considerable part in Macon’s 2-0 victory, as well. In his first game back from a two-month absence due to injury, Cesarz set up the game-winning goal with a terrific pass from behind the opposing net, giving Stephen Pierog a tap-in goal.

For Stewart, Cesarz, Eric Ylitalo and Cooper Jones, tonight will be their first time returning to Knoxville this season since joining the Mayhem. All of them have close ties to the city and the organization, and will be looking to help the Mayhem pull off a sentimental road win.

The Matchup
Macon’s last tilt with the Ice Bears was on Pack the Plex Night, when the Mayhem skated to their largest margin of victory of the season (6-2) in front of their biggest crowd in franchise history (5,619). It was an historic night for the Mayhem, who snapped a four-game winless skid at the time and altered the momentum of their season. Since Pack the Plex, Macon has gone 5-3-1 and has won three of five games on the road, where it has struggled greatly this season.

Knoxville has taken two of three games against the Mayhem on the campaign, winning its first two matchups 4-3 and 2-0, respectively. The Ice Bears have also played extremely well since their last meeting with Macon on February 1st, boasting a 6-0-2 record since that date. Jeff Carr’s squad has gone to overtime in five of its last six games and has accumulated enough points to propel itself into third place in the SPHL. The Ice Bears are now just a handful of points away from clinching a playoff berth, and will be playing accordingly with a hungry opponent entering their building.

Contributions from the New Additions
Cooper Jones and Eric Ylitalo, both of whom have played over 35 games with Knoxville in their careers, were traded to the Mayhem by the Evansville Thunderbolts nine days ago for future considerations. They have each added unique contributions to Macon within just three games played. Jones has quickly become a dependable, puck-moving defenseman who has served as a natural complement to Larry Smith. The two of them have formed a sound pairing in a very short period of time, seemingly offsetting one another’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly. As for Ylitalo, the 6’3, 195 pound forward has lined up on Macon’s top line alongside Pierog in back-to-back games now, playing Tuesday with Pierog and Cesarz. He has added size and strength to a unit primarily comprised of skill, and earned his first point with the team this Tuesday with a secondary assist.

Fan Appreciation Night
Macon’s next home game will be on Tuesday, March 10th against the Ice Bears. The promotion will be Fan Appreciation Night; all tickets will be just $10/person and will be available on Ticketmaster shortly. To purchase them, click here.