Game Day Preview 12/28/2020 @ Huntsville Havoc

MACON CHANGES: Macon’s opening night roster of 23 players consists of only five who skated with the Mayhem last season. Defensemen Oscar Arfelt and Nick Minerva and forwards Stephen Pierog, Jimmy Soper, and Stathis Soumelidis are the quintet of players who wore a Mayhem sweater last season.

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Of those 23 on the roster, 15 will be skating in their first professional season this year. However, the collegiate hockey where some of them played last season features a skill level almost as high as that found in the SPHL. Seven players come from NCAA Division I programs (think FBS vs. FCS in college football), while two others – forwards Jared Bethune and Gabe Guertler – played for schools in USports, Canada’s highest level of college hockey.

ODD TEAM OUT: Macon will be the last team to start their season tonight as the four other SPHL clubs played each other in a pair of games on Saturday night. The state of Alabama hosted both games with Huntsville narrowly defeating Knoxville 3-2 and Pensacola coming back from a 3-0 first period deficit to spoil the Birmingham Bulls’ home opener with a 4-3 overtime win.

NO ROCKY TOP NYE: The Mayhem were originally scheduled to play four games in seven nights to kick off the season, with a New Year’s Eve trip to Knoxville to face the Ice Bears. However, due to an abundance of caution as a result of COVID-19, the Ice Bears have postponed that game to a later date. That gives Macon a four-day break before their opening weekend at home, with the Mayhem playing host to Birmingham on Saturday and Knoxville on Sunday.

INSIDE THE HAVOC: Technically, tonight’s game is a battle between the last two championship teams in the SPHL. Huntsville comes in as the defending back-to-back SPHL champions, having won the last President’s Cup championship series played 20 months ago and also taking the title in 2018. In a testament to how the team has stuck together, the current Havoc roster has ten players who skated in Huntsville last season, with all ten of those also playing for the team in the 2019 playoffs. Three of those players – forwards Rob Darrar, Sy Nutkevitch, and John Schiavo – will be ones to watch as they finished last year among the top 20 in the SPHL in scoring. Between the pipes, the Havoc return a proven commodity in Max Milosek. As a rookie, he earned playoff MVP honors in 2019 as he backstopped the Havoc to the SPHL title. He followed that up with an impressive sophomore campaign, finishing tied for the league lead in wins (22) and second in goals-against average.