By James Hayes | Field Pass
Birmingham looked to seek revenge for last Saturday’s loss to the Macon Mayhem on Thursday night and did exactly that in a thrilling 2-1 victory. The Bulls for the second straight game suited up against the Macon Mayhem, last Saturday night the Bulls just fell short when the Mayhem scored with only 45 seconds remaining in overtime. This night though the Bulls were looking for redemption after dropping all 3 games last weekend. Hayden Stewart would get the start in net once again and would see a familiar mask across the ice in Macon goaltender Jake Theut who would come into the night without a regulation loss on the season.
The first period started off with both teams finding their legs and a lot of back and forth play. 3:35 into the first period we would see the first penalty of the night when the Macon goalie would get called for tripping. The penalty would be served by winger Dean Balsamo. Birmingham’s powerplay that has struggled as of late was not able to get much going and the penalty would end with only one shot on goal. With around nine minutes remaining in the first the Bulls penalty kill unit would get there first chance of the night when Kasey Kulczycki would get called for closing his hand on the puck. Although Macon would get their fair share of chances and maintain control of the puck throughout most of the powerplay, Stewart and the rest of the penalty killers would keep the puck out of the net and the score would stay 0-0. Finally, at the 14:28 mark in the first period Birmingham would break the scoreless tie on a goal from Logan Nelson. Nelson would get the goal as he skates by the net and tosses the puck towards goaltender Theut’s right pad and somehow the puck would find its way into the back of the net. Taylor Pryce and Theodore Calvas would both get assists on the goal. Birmingham would come on strong with two minutes remaining in the period but Theut wasn’t going to let the Mayhem go into the locker room down 2 goals after one period. Macon would get a great chance with 14 seconds left in the period when Ray Brice would fire off a one timer only to see Hayden Stewart make a great glove save. The period would end with Birmingham up 1-0 on the Mayhem despite being outshot 11-6.
The second period would get going and one minute in the Bulls would get another powerplay opportunity when Mason Baptista would trip up Legien. The Bulls would once again fail to score on the powerplay, and we would go back to 5 on 5 hockey. Shortly there after the Bulls would get a beauty of a goal when the two speedsters on the team CJ Hayes and Cameron Strong would come flying down the ice on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Hayes would send the puck over to Strong and he would skate right up on Theut and beat the goaltender stick side putting Birmingham up 2-0. The Bulls would go back on the power play at the 7:28 mark on a slashing call. This powerplay would almost look like it was a Macon powerplay as they would control the puck and the play throughout the majority of the two minutes. Throughout the rest of the period Hayden Stewart would come up big with save after save. The Bulls would even be on a 5 on 3 penalty kill at one point and nothing Macon was doing could find its way past the Bulls defense and a determined goalie in Hayden Stewart. The second period would end with the Bulls up 2-0 and looking forward to closing out the Mayhem in the 3rd.
When the third period started Macon came out fast and determined to find there way back into this game. The first ten minutes of the period Stewart would stop shot after shot as the Bulls would be outshot 8-1 in the period at this point, and that’s not even counting the shots that didn’t make it through the defense. With 8:12 remaining in the game the Mayhem would finally find a way to get one past Stewart. The goal would come when Macon’s Jimmy Soper would send a pass from behind the net across the ice to Ryan Smith in the face off circle. Smith would send the puck sailing into traffic and right past goaltender Hayden Stewart. Shortly after the Mayhem goal the Bulls would kill off another penalty and remain perfect on the night on the penalty kill. With 2:43 left to go in the game The Bulls thought they got the goal that would ice the game only to have it called back by the referee for incidental contact with the goaltender. Macon would pull the goalie with 1:37 remaining and Bulls fans would remain on the edge of there seats the remainder of the game. Macon would go out swinging in this one as they would send the puck to the net with 3 seconds remaining and once again Hayden Stewart would rob them of a goal. The Game would end with a score of Birmingham 2 Macon 1.
The Bulls first win in the month of February didn’t come easy but thanks to the efforts of Hayden Stewart and his 37 saves on the night they found the win column again. Stewart certainly played a great game and did his part to silence his critics in this victory.
Coach Simchuk after the game said, “Wasn’t our prettiest effort but we’ll take it.”
Right he was, in a game that the Bulls never had more than 6 shots on goal in a single period they manage to grind out a victory and show they can in fact win in these close games. Birmingham will head to Knoxville this Saturday night and seek out revenge once again on a team that snuck one by them late last weekend in what should be another great night of hockey in the SPHL.