Finals Preview: Havoc Face Top-Ranked Peoria in Championship Battle
HUNTSVILLE, AL - With their backs against the wall, the Havoc once again won consecutive games to survive a best-of-three series and advance to the next round of the SPHL playoffs.
This next round will decide the SPHL champion as the Havoc will face the Peoria Rivermen who finished atop the league this season.
To advance to the President's Cup finals, the Havoc first had to get through the defending champs in the Macon Mayhem.
Semifinal Round Recap
Due to scheduling constraints, the series against Macon was played on three consecutive days.
Game one was Wednesday, April 18, at the Huntsville IcePlex instead of at the usual venue in the VBC arena. The Havoc scored first, but Macon got the next four and held off Huntsville to win 6-4.
The next game in the series was played at the Macon Centreplex the very next night - Thursday, April 19. Huntsville's Shawn Bates scored a hat-trick and led the team to the largest margin of victory on the season as the Havoc took game two by a score of 8-2.
The third and deciding game of the series was easily one of the most exciting of the season. Macon scored early and kept Huntsville out of the net until deep in the third period. Macon re-took the lead with three minutes left and, with a do-or-die mentality, the Havoc pulled the keeper to add another attacker. The gamble paid off as Huntsville scored with a minute to go to tie the game at two and send it to overtime. Peter Sikalis scored his fifth goal of the season to take the 3-2 win and send the Havoc to the SPHL Championship series.
The Havoc played six games in eight nights, winning the four that mattered to qualify for the finals for the first time in five years.
Peoria's Road to the Finals
While Huntsville lost the first game of the Challenge Round and semifinals, the team won the next two to take each series. Peoria, on the other hand, swept both of their series, taking out the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs and the Knoxville Ice Bears. This is Peoria's third consecutive season to advance to the SPHL finals.
During the pair of games against Knoxville, Peoria outscored the Ice Bears 10-1. In the second game, Tyler Parks stopped all 33 shots he faced, recording his first career playoff shutout. Parks is allowing an average of a single goal per game in the playoffs.
Riverman Mike Gurtler is leading the team with six points (4g, 2a) in the post-season. Brandon Rumble has five assists, four of them coming in a single game against Knoxville.
Late in the season, Peoria raked in quite a few regular season awards, including the SPHL Equipment Manager of the Year (Mark Riepe), the SPHL Coach of the Year (Jean-Guy Trudel) and SPHL Defenseman of the Year (Dave Pszenyczny). The team even has the reigning STX Player of the Month (Mason Pulde) and had two players (Pszenyczny and Alec Hagaman) voted to the First Team All-SPHL.
Huntsville and Peoria played a close regular season series. The Havoc were 3-4-1 against the Rivermen, including an overtime loss and shootout win. The three wins were consecutive games in Huntsville.
Tyler Piacentini and Christian Powers each scored five goals on the Rivermen during the series. Sy Nutkevitch had one goal and six assists against Peoria.
Peoria's Alec Hagaman (3g, 8a) and Dave Pszenycsny (1g, 10a) each put up 11 points on the Havoc in eight starts.
Huntsville's goal keepers split time against Peoria. Keegan Asmundson was 1-4-0 with a 3.58 goal against average and .890 save percentage. Mike DeLaVergne was 2-0-1 with a 3.31 gaa and .902 save percentage.
Peoria started four different keepers against the Havoc this year. The only one still with them is Tyler Parks, who was 1-1-1 against Huntsville.
The Rivermen have the slight edge when it comes to goals scored during the season (211-203) and have allowed fewer goals than the Havoc (154-180).
As the higher seed, the Peoria Rivermen will host game one of a best-of-three in the Peoria Civic Center on Wednesday, April 25, at 7:15 p.m. Huntsville will host game two on Pharmacy First Ice at the Von Braun Center on Friday, April 27, at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at the VBC Box Office, the Havoc front office and on ticketmaster.com.
If necessary, game three will be played back in Peoria on Sunday, April 29, at 4:15 p.m.
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Southern Professional Hockey League Stories from April 23, 2018
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