Preview: Mayhem vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (Game 14)
Flyers Seize Control in Third Period
Wednesday night's clash at The Hangar was a hard-fought game from both sides. The Mayhem erased two deficits and tied the game twice before the second intermission. However, a couple of crisp plays made by the Pensacola Ice Flyers in the offensive zone put the Mayhem in another third period hole. An empty-net tally from Eddie Matsushima would put the score out of reach for Macon.
Once again, the Mayhem penalty kill completely shut down its opponent. Pensacola has struggled on the power play this season, and the Mayhem took advantage and fought off all five shorthanded opportunities. Since Ryan Michel has taken over as Head Coach, Macon's penalty kill has succeeded in 17 of 18 situations (94.4%). It has jumped six percentage points in that span and has climbed two spots in the SPHL leaderboards. While the Mayhem have struggled at staying out of the penalty box this season, the penalty killers have done an outstanding job lately of keeping the team in games.
As mentioned in the preview of Wednesday night's game, there was a substantial discrepancy in Macon's home vs. away record against the Ice Flyers last year. On home ice, the Mayhem took points in all six matchups, achieving a record of 4-0-2. In Pensacola, however, Macon dropped all four outings and scored just two total goals throughout.
The good news for the Mayhem is that they managed to score more goals in a single game at The Hangar this week than they managed to in four games combined last season. The greater issue on Wednesday night was keeping the puck out of their net. This struggle is not surprising, considering how many defensemen the team has lost in recent weeks. Nick Minerva and Zach Urban were called up to the ECHL, Rene Hunter returned home to Manitoba, and Ryan Devine has faced injury and suspensions. The pressure on players like Jarret Kup and Larry Smith has truly reached a new level in recent games.
A Hot Kup of Tea
Second-year defenseman Jarret Kup has relished the opportunity to log top-pair minutes, and as such has delivered on the score sheet at an unprecedented rate. He has quickly risen to the top ten in the SPHL in scoring among defensemen and now ranks third on the Mayhem in points with 7 (2G, 5A). The Rosseau, ON native has now reached the longest scoring streak of his pro career, tallying at least a point in five consecutive games. Regardless of the situation in which he is utilized, be it on the power play, penalty kill, or even strength, the 26-year-old blue-liner has made the most of his increased role as much as anyone.
Tonight is W.W.E. Night at the Macon Centreplex. It will be Macon's first of five times hosting the Ice Flyers this season and last of seven home games throughout the month of November. The Mayhem will continue to have Saturday home tilts for three consecutive weeks following tonight, along with a pair of Friday games in the month of December.
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Southern Professional Hockey League Stories from November 30, 2019
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