By Brett Batchelor
The Birmingham Bulls fought their way to victory on Saturday in Macon, Georgia for their first win of the season. Birmingham battled trough two late 3rd period goals from the Mayhem to come away victorious 3-2 in overtime on the road.
There was a new face between the pipes for the Bulls on Saturday against the Mayhem. Rookie goaltender Hayden Lavigne out of the University of Michigan got the start with Austin Lotz having a scheduled night off. The Mayhem came out firing shots from all over the ice against the rookie net-minder putting nineteen shots on goal in the first period. However, Lavigne stood his ground firmly allowing none of the shots to get past him in the opening slate. “It was great to see. I’m incredibly happy for Lavigne and the way he played for us on the road,” said head coach Craig Simchuk. Despite going on the power-play twice in the first period, the Bulls were only able to get off four shots on goal in the first period and headed into the first intermission all knotted up at 0-0 in Macon.
The second period went as quiet as the first when it came to putting goals on the board. Neither team was able to put double-digit shots on goal, Macon having nine and Birmingham having seven. There were no penalties from either team in the second period and both squads headed back into the locker room still tied at zero a side.
The third and final period brought heavy action from both teams. Three minutes and eight seconds into the period, the Bulls netted their first goal of the game from Logan Nelson, his first of the season assisted by Mike Davis and Taylor Pryce. Birmingham held their 1-0 lead for just over six minutes until Logan Coomes of the Mayhem tied the game back up 1-1 at the 9:38 mark into the period with assists from Derek Topatigh and Ryan Smith.
The intense third period battle between the two teams continued when Kasey Kulczycki and Josh Victor headed to the box for five minutes for fighting. Birmingham stayed on the gas pedal and would not let up as the game went later and later into the third period. John Gustafsson put the Bulls in the lead again on an un-assisted goal at the 15:31 mark giving them a 2-1 lead late in the game. Macon would not go away quietly as they tied the game up just one minute and three seconds after the Bulls had taken the lead. Nick Minerva and Logan Coomes sent passes to Gabe Guertler at 16:34 to once again tie things up between the two at 2-2. The officials called the fourth penalty of the final period and seventh of the game at the 19:12 mark on the Mayhem for holding. However, the Bulls were not able to capitalize and headed into overtime for the second time in three games.
The three-on-three overtime period did not last too long as Birmingham came out ready to win. Just two minutes and six seconds into the extra period Tanner Froese found the back of the net for the second time this season giving the Bulls a thrilling overtime victory and their first of the season giving them a 1-1-1 record.
Head coach Craig Simchuk could not have been happier for his team and to get the first victory of the season and his head coaching career. “It was a huge win. So happy for the guys. They battled hard and fought through the adversity. The first win always feels good, more to come!”