Game Preview 1/2/2021: Birmingham Bulls @ Macon Mayhem (Game #2)

OPENING WIN: The Mayhem took care of business in their season opener Monday night in Huntsville. After facing a barrage of shots from the Havoc, including being outshot 7-1 in the game’s first 10 minutes, Macon settled down and defeated Huntsville 2-1. While the Mayhem roster is laden with first-year players, it was two familiar faces – Jimmy Soper, then Stephen Pierog – who netted the goals for Macon. Jake Theut stopped 28 of 29 between the pipes in his Mayhem debut.

KROMM ON TULSA TIME: In the first of what is sure to be many transactions between the Mayhem and ECHL clubs, forward Alex Kromm was loaned to the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers earlier this week. Kromm had spent much of the season last year in the ECHL with Toledo and Jacksonville but was also no stranger to the SPHL, playing 34 games for the now-defunct Columbus Cottonmouths in 2016-17.

SPHL LEADING SNIPER HEADING TO MACON: While Kromm’s loss was certainly a blow to the Macon roster, the team received a huge shot in the arm with the acquisition of forward Brian Bowen yesterday. Prior to last season’s shutdown due to COVID-19, Bowen led the SPHL with 30 goals on the season, the first player to top the 30-goal plateau in three years. He has a combined 102 points in 92 career SPHL games over the past two seasons: 11 games and four points in Pensacola, 98 points over 81 games in Fayetteville.

INSIDE THE BULLS: Birmingham will be glad to face an opponent besides Pensacola tonight. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in their home opener last Saturday, the Bulls were outscored 10-1 by the Ice Flyers: losing 4-3 in overtime last Saturday, then dropping a 6-1 decision on the road in Pensacola on Wednesday night. Three of the Ice Flyers’ six goals on Wednesday came shorthanded as they were killing off Birmingham power plays. The Bulls will right the ship with a pair of familiar faces behind the bench. Craig Simchuk has assumed the role of head coach after Jamey Hicks’s departure in the offseason. Simchuk was the captain of the Bulls their first two seasons and stepped into the role of assistant coach last season. Assisting Simchuk behind the bench is Birmingham hockey legend Jerome Bechard. Longtime Macon fans remember Bechard more prominently, however, as the captain of the Columbus Cottonmouths in the CHL and ECHL, then the team’s only head coach in the SPHL. Bechard is head coach of the Columbus River Dragons of the FPHL, whose league still has not formalized plans to play this year due to COVID-19 restrictions for many of its teams in the northern part of the country. Bechard and Simchuk are also familiar with each other as Simchuk played for Bechard his first three professional seasons in Columbus.