MACON, GA – For the first time this season, the Macon Mayhem would go into puck drop with nobody ahead of them in the standings; with last night’s 2-1 OT victory over Knoxville, the Mayhem would be in sole possession of first place in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Macon, winners of four-straight and four-straight versus Knoxville, would once more welcome the Ice Bears in for a Sunday Matinee at the Macon Centreplex.
No scoreless start in the first period for the Mayhem, as they picked up right where they left off in last night’s affair. Off a juicy rebound in front of the net, Andrew Romano would beat Peter Di Salvo for his fourth goal of the season just 5:02 into the period. An early 1-0 lead for the Mayhem would have a chance to be extended on the lone penalty of the period – a tripping against Andrew McLean of Knoxville – but the Ice Bear penalty kill would prevail. Both sides would get their opportunities in an even-keel first frame, but Macon would take the 1-0 lead and a 12-9 shots advantage to the locker room.
In a gritty rivalry like that of Knoxville and Macon, you expect the gloves to drop. They did just that not even three minutes into the second period, as Josh Victor and Colton Heffley would throw their gloves off at center and engage in a fantastic bout of fisticuffs. Both sides would share a great deal of punches and hooks, and after nearly a minute, the officials would finally break up to the two sparrers. With the added motivation, Knoxville would smell blood in the water, and strike for the tying goal with 17:17 left in the period. Jacob Benson, with a fancy backhand from the low right wing, would twist one upstairs past Ryan Ruck, and knot things up. Great back and forth action would follow through the period, but Macon would hit a snag on back-to-back penalties resulting in an eight-second five-on-three powerplay for Knoxville. The top penalty kill unit in the SPHL wouldn’t break a sweat, killing off the four minutes undermanned and coming out on the other side. When the dust cleared for the second, the scoreboard would show a 24-22 shots advantage for the Ice Bears, but a game tied at 1.
What better way to end a three-in-three for two teams than with a high-intensity third period? Not looking to take any risks, the two teams would play conservative hockey in the first half of the final frame, mostly going back and forth across the ice. Opportunities were present, but ready to skate the opposite direction on the defensive if needed was a running theme. With a penalty with 8:20 to go, the Knoxville powerplay would have the chance to make up for their shorthanded goal against from the previous night. Instead, lightning would strike twice. Mason Baptista would recover the puck in his defensive end, and lead a rush up with Nick Minerva and Ray Brice. Minerva would receive a feed through the slot from Baptista, deal it over to the left side of the net, and Ray Brice would will it through. Brice’s shorthanded goal was his second in as many nights, and his fifth point in five games. The goal would give Macon a 2-1 lead with just over seven minutes to go in the game. Knoxville would have little response in the final minutes, and an untimely penalty would further the ability for the Mayhem to kill the clock. In the final minute, with goaltender Peter Di Salvo pulled, Macon’s defense would flex its muscles and finish this game out with a 2-1 win.
Macon is winners of five straight games, and has won five straight games against rival Knoxville. With their win, they will finish the weekend in first place in the SPHL standings regardless of the outcome of the Pensacola-Huntsville game. Macon will have a few days off before welcoming in Huntsville on Thursday Night at the Macon Coliseum.