By Dana Barker | Macon Mayhem
The Macon Mayhem widened their lead in the SPHL standings on Tuesday night with a 2-1 overtime win over the Knoxville Ice Bears before 1,650 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. With the win, Macon opens up an eight-point lead over second-place Knoxville with just five standing points needed to claim the regular season title.
It took the Mayhem only 88 seconds to open up the scoring as Brian Bowen notched his 15th goal of the season, with Mason Baptista logging his 20th assist of the season on the goal as well. For Bowen, his 15thmarker of the year pulled him into a tie with Baptista for the team lead and third-best in the SPHL; for Baptista, his 20 assists and 35 points so far this year have him in third place in the league in both categories. Jason Tackett also assisted on the goal, continuing his stellar professional debut season with points in 11 of his first 14 games. Jacob Benson tied the game for Knoxville later in the period with his SPHL-leading 18th goal.
The second and third periods were a tight-checking game with both teams alternating chances, and both goaltenders rose to the challenge. Both Ryan Ruck for Macon and Peter di Salvo for Knoxville kept the game knotted at one goal apiece heading into the overtime session.
Ryan Smith provided the Mayhem with the OT game-winner just 35 seconds into the extra frame, taking a pass from Matt Stief and burying it past Di Salvo for the extra standing point. The OT loss was Knoxville’s second straight on home ice after reeling off 12 consecutive home victories.
Ruck earned his 10th victory of the season between the pipes for Macon, stopping 23 of 24 shots on goal. It was his second straight game allowing one goal after a 3-1 win in Huntsville on Saturday night. Di Salvo turned aside 26 of the 28 Macon shots on goal he faced in the regulation tie and overtime loss for the Ice Bears.
With the win, Macon’s magic number is now five points to clinch the regular season championship and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Any combination of points that the Mayhem earn or points Knoxville fails to earn totaling five will clinch the William B. Coffey Trophy for the Mayhem, bringing it back to Macon for the first time since 2017.
The Mayhem return home later this week for three games in three nights, beginning Thursday against Pensacola. The Mayhem will face the Ice Flyers again on Friday night before the Huntsville Havoc come to the Centreplex on Saturday. Game times are 7:35 PM EDT on Thursday, 6 PM EDT on Friday, and 6:35 PM EDT on Saturday. Between the Friday and Saturday games, the second weekend of the Southern Soul Showdown will take place on the Centreplex ice as the University of Georgia ice hockey team will take on Auburn immediately following Friday night’s game (approximately 9:30 PM EDT) and at 3 PM EDT on Saturday afternoon. Tickets are still available for all games on Ticketmaster and at the Macon Coliseum box office; tickets for Friday and Saturday are good for both the Mayhem game and the Auburn-UGA game taking place on those respective days.