By James Hayes | Field Pass
The first round/semi-finals in the Presidents Cup Playoffs ended in the fewest games possible, but it did not disappoint in action. In case you have been under a rock this whole season and missed the format for the playoffs, here is a quick rundown of how it all went down. Since COVID restrictions prevented all the teams from competing in the regular season we only got to see 5 teams play this year. Of those 5 teams, the top 4 teams at the end of the regular season would go on to compete for the Presidents Cup. Those teams in order of final standings were the Macon Mayhem, Knoxville Ice Bears, Pensacola Ice Flyers, and Huntsville Havoc. Both playoff series were best of 3 with the higher seed choosing when they wanted their home games during the series.
The series between the #2 Knoxville Ice Bears and #3 Pensacola Ice Flyers got the playoffs going in dramatic fashion. In game one that took place in Pensacola, the Ice Flyers found themselves down 2-1 after one period, and then had an explosion of offense in the second period scoring 3 goals in just over 4 minutes. This caused the Knoxville coaching staff to make the tough decision to pull goaltender Austyn Roudebush and put veteran netminder Peter Di Salvo between the pipes. Despite the goaltender change the number two seed in the playoffs couldn’t get back into the game and fell 5-2 in the first game of the series. Game 2 in the series took place in Knoxville and the Ice Bears needed the victory to stay alive. Once again the Ice Bears found themselves with a 2-1 lead except for this time they headed into the final period with it. The Ice Flyers however did not seem too concerned playing from behind and had themselves another 3 goal period. The Ice Flyers tied the game up 12:09 into the period and took the lead a minute and nineteen seconds later with a goal from Jordan Ernst. Knoxville gave it their all and pulled the goalie in the final minute of play but that only lead to an empty-net goal by Pensacola. The Ice Flyers won their series 2 games to Nil and look ready to take on the regular-season champs in the finals.
The other series over the weekend featured the William B. Coffey Trophy winning Macon Mayhem against the 2 time defending champion Huntsville Havoc. The series started out this past Thursday night in Huntsville, AL. The defending champs took an early 1-0 lead but it only lasted about 4 minutes before the Mayhem would tie the game and then score once again a minute later. At the end of one in game one, the score was 2-1 in favor of the Mayhem. Both teams locked down defensively in the second and no goals were scored. The third period was a wild one it started with a Huntsville penalty that resulted in a Macon powerplay goal and after that, the penalties just started rolling in. 9 total penalties were called in the final period but only the Mayhem were able to capitalize on the powerplays. When the final horn sounded the score in Huntsville was Macon 4 Huntsville 1. The series shifted to Middle Georgia for game 2 on Saturday night. In this game, Huntsville’s goaltender put on display why he has been considered one of the best in the league and a key part in the Havoc’s back-to-back championships stopping 38/40 shots. A scoreless first period in which both teams went 0 for 1 on the powerplay set up an exciting second period. Huntsville finally broke the scoreless tie with 1:48 remaining in the period off an Alex Berardinelli goal. 26 seconds later the Mayhem struck with a goal of their own off the stick of Brian Bowen. The final period got going and 1:02 in Ryan Smith of the Mayhem put the puck in the back of the net giving Macon their first lead of the night. After the goal, Macon locked things down and didn’t give up the lead again. Macon’s 2-1 victory clinched the top seed a spot in the finals against the Pensacola Ice Flyers.
The Presidents Cup Finals will start this Friday, May 14th at 7:05 CDT in Pensacola for game one of a 3 game series. Game 2 will take place in Macon on Saturday, May 15th at 6:30 EDT, and if necessary game 3 will take place in Macon on Sunday, May 16th at 4:00 PM EDT.