LAST GAME’S ACTION: The Mayhem picked up right where they left off 20 days prior with a hard-fought victory in Knoxville on Thursday night. Unlike the game on January 8, however, offense was at a premium as Macon eked out a 2-1 victory over the Ice Bears. Knoxville scored the opening marker in the final minute of the first period before Macon responded with two goals within 2:32 of each other in the latter stages of the middle frame. Dean Balsamo opened the scoring with a lacrosse-style goal he whipped into the net behind Knoxville goaltender Peter di Salvo, while he assisted on Gabe Guertler’s game-winning goal later in the period for the victory. Macon’s two goals came during a second period where they outshot Knoxville by a whopping 15-1 margin. Di Salvo made 28 saves on 30 shots despite taking the loss in net for the Ice Bears, while Jake Theut turned aside all but one of the 19 Knoxville shots on goal he faced for the win between the pipes for the Mayhem. Macon held Knoxville scoreless in their four power play chances while the Mayhem failed to convert their lone power play chance during the game.
BEST IN THE LEAGUE: By traditional standings, Macon currently sits fourth in the five-team SPHL, one point in front of last-place Knoxville and five points behind first-place Huntsville. But from a winning percentage standpoint, Macon’s .700 percentage is tops in the league. The Mayhem enter tonight’s game with at least four games in hand on each of the other SPHL clubs due to the five postponed games over the past three weeks.
THEUT TOPS AMONG GOALTENDERS: Throw out the one game Jeremy Brodeur played in net for Knoxville before heading to the American Hockey League, which happened to be a shutout in Macon, and Jake Theut is first in the SPHL in both goals-against average and save percentage. After allowing only one goal Thursday in Knoxville, his GAA dipped below 2 to a very tidy 1.98. Theut’s .915 save percentage is also the best in the league among all goaltenders not related to NHL Hall of Famers, while his three wins on the season so far is tied for second in the league and one behind Huntsville’s Jason Pawloski.
E IS FOR EXTRA HOCKEY: Several players during the down time have kept on the ice by being loaned to teams in the ECHL. Since the Mayhem’s last game, four players – forwards Dean Balsamo and Ryan Smith and defensemen Paul Meyer and Nick Minerva – have seen action in the ECHL, with Balsamo, Minerva, and Smith in Tulsa and Meyer in South Carolina. The trio in Tulsa joined forward Alex Kromm, who played in the Mayhem’s first game of the season on December 28 but was loaned to the Oilers two days later. Meyer remains with the Stingrays currently, while Minerva is still in Tulsa.
INSIDE THE ICE FLYERS: Pensacola is coming off a very eventful game last night, a 4-1 home win over Birmingham. The two teams combined for 49 penalty minutes, with 29 coming in just one stoppage in play in the first period after Bulls netminder Austin Lotz was issued a major penalty and game misconduct for slashing the Ice Flyers’ Alec Hagaman after a late hit on an icing call and a fight ensued. Eddie Matsushima had a goal and an assist to pad his lead in the SPHL scoring race. He has 13 points in only seven games played with the Ice Flyers this season. It’s a return trip to Pensacola for Matsushima, who played 33 games there as a rookie in 2018-19 and last season before seeing action in the ECHL with Orlando, Maine, and Worcester. Ice Flyer forwards Alec Hagaman and Darren McCormick are also tied for fifth in scoring in the SPHL with nine points each. Hagaman, McCormick, and defenseman Nick Neville have all come to spend this season on the Florida Panhandle after playing last year in Peoria with the Rivermen, one of the five SPHL teams that elected to suspend playing this season due to COVID-19 protocols.