Twice as Nice: Havoc Sweep Bulls, Repeat as SPHL Champions
HUNTSVILLE - The Huntsville Havoc capped one of the most successful seasons in franchise history with their second consecutive President's Cup championship, defeating the Birmingham Bulls 4-2 Saturday night in front of an electric sold-out crowd at the Von Braun Center.
It finishes a season where the team not only won back to back titles, but also set a new club record for wins and, for the fourth straight year, broke the league record for fan attendance.
"What an incredible night," said Havoc Head Coach Glenn Detulleo. "As great as it feels to win a second championship, it's even better to win it at home in front of the friends and family who supported us all year."
After an overtime win the previous night, the visiting Bulls knew they were up against the wall in the best of three series and started the game strong. Midway through the first period, the reigning SPHL MVP Josh Harris scored on a powerplay to give Birmingham the early lead.
Five minutes later, Sy Nutkevitch fired a quick pass from behind the net to John Schiavo in the slot who one-timed the puck past the SPHL's Goalie of the Year Mavric Parks to knot up the game at one heading in to the first intermission. At the break, Huntsville had outshot Birmingham 18 to 8.
The pack took the lead 8:16 in to the middle frame when Nolan Kaiser threaded a backhand between two defenders from the left circle to the right, where a waiting Kyle Sharkey shot thru the keeper's mitt to put the Havoc up 2-1.
Strong play from both sides continued into the third with the Havoc once again keeping possession of the puck for most of the period. With seven minutes left in regulation, Nutkevitch threw the puck at the net as he approached the end line on a powerplay. Birmingham's netminder made the initial stop, but Sharkey was on the doorstep to elevate the rebound over the keeper's pad to score his second on the night.
The Bulls would not go away quietly, as Shane Topf scored three minutes later to bring Birmingham within one. The visitors pulled their goalie with 98 ticks left on the clock to put an extra attacker on the ice and the Havoc eventually made them pay.
Rob Darrar got in to a passing lane, bumped the puck to team captain Christian Powers who skated to center ice and sent the final tally into the unguarded net. The 6,100 fans in attendance (minus a few dozen Bulls fans who made the trip) counted down the final seconds on Huntsville's third league championship as the Havoc accomplished their mission of defending the President's Cup, defeating the Birmingham Bulls 4-2.
"Birmingham played the series extremely hard and brought out the best in us," said Detulleo. "I can't say enough how proud I am of our players. From the first day of training camp, they were all in with the sole mission to repeat as champs. They had a tremendous regular season followed by an amazing playoff run and I'm so happy to see their hard work and commitment rewarded with a championship!"
After the game, Havoc rookie goalie Max Milosek was named the playoffs Most Valuable Player. The Lapeer, Michigan, native was 6-1 in the post-season. The record included a trio of overtime wins - including three of the last four games - with the only loss coming in overtime in the first round. Milosek had a 2.14 goals against average, saving 267 shots over the seven playoff games and recording a save percentage of .943, which would have been tops in the SPHL in the regular season.
"This was a team effort," said Milosek. "Whenever I felt low this season, the team and fans were always there to pick me up. Without the awesome fan support, we don't bring that trophy back. It's been a great year and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Sharkey and Darrar finished the post-season with matching 3 goal, 5 assist efforts, followed closely by Nutkevitch and Trevor Gerling (each with 2g, 4a) and Ryan Salkeld (1g, 5a).
For the record: the Havoc won their deciding game in the championship series last year by the same score, with the final goal coming on an empty net by Nutkevitch.
Continue to follow the Havoc on the major social media platforms for developments during the off-season including news on returning players and rookie signings, our annual yard sale and the home schedule for the 2019-20 campaign as we prepare to, once again, defend the cup!
• Discuss this story on the Southern Professional Hockey League message board...
Southern Professional Hockey League Stories from May 2, 2019
- Twice as Nice: Havoc Sweep Bulls, Repeat as SPHL Champions - Huntsville Havoc
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.