HUNTSVILLE, AL – With the first playoff game in a number of seasons for Macon, the Mayhem didn’t waste their return opportunity to the post-season, taking on the defending-champion Huntsville Havoc on the road in the Rocket City. The last time the Macon Mayhem held the #1 seed in the playoffs, the Mayhem won the entire post-season with the President’s Cup to cap-off the 2017 season – Macon would look to repeat history on a Thursday Night.
The Von Braun Center is never a welcoming place-to-play in the Southern Professional Hockey League, and especially during a playoff game, the home of the Havoc becomes an even less-welcoming venue. Penalties would come in flurries during the first period, with Huntsville responsible for three, and two for the Mayhem. 9:30 into the contest at home, Huntsville’s Justin MacDonald would strike from Tommy Besinger and Rob Darrar. 3:14 later in the frame, rookie-phenom Gabe Guertler would find twine from rookie-compadre Ryan Smith to knot things up for the Mayhem. It wouldn’t take long – 1:15 later – before SPHL scoring-threat Brian Bowen would beat Max Milosek for a second-straight goal of the frame for the Mayhem, and give them a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission. The high-shooting period would see a 17-13 shots advantage for Macon, on top of their lead.
Second period action would come and go without much to report for either side. In the frame, the Mayhem would be responsible for three called-penalties, killing off all three enroute to a perfect 5/5 on the penalty kill on the day. After 40 minutes of play, Macon maintained a 2-1 lead and outshot the Havoc 8-7.
In the final frame, the Mayhem would buck up and finish off the Huntsville Havoc to start off their lone road contest of the first round. Just 2:12 into the third period, defending SPHL Player of the Month Jason Tackett would put the game out of reach with his first professional playoff goal, on the powerplay. With nine total penalties in the third period, plenty of time on the penalty kill would come to light, but the Mayhem would find their way through the murk. With the net-empty and 1:56 left, Mason Baptista would put the final nail in the coffin for the Havoc with an empty-net goal for his first SPHL post-season goal. A 4-1 win would show on the scoreboard as the Mayhem would take game one behind 37 shots on net.
With tremendous expectations against the defending President’s Cup Champions, and starting the playoffs on the road, the Macon Mayhem did not disappoint. With two chances on home ice – Saturday and Sunday – to sweep or win the series, Mayhem fans have nothing but excitement coming back to Middle Georgia – especially with 100 percent capacity reinstated by the Macon Coliseum. By the time the Mayhem hit the ice on Saturday Night, they could know who could possibly be waiting for them in the SPHL Finals. Time will tell in the opposing series, and for the Mayhem’s hopes to return to the President’s Cup Finals for the first time since 2017.