By Shawn Bednard | Macon Mayhem
April draws the final month of the Southern Professional Hockey League regular season. For the first-place Macon Mayhem, it means waning opportunities to create as much separation as possible between them and the teams on their heels. With three-straight wins under their belt, the Mayhem would welcome in Huntsville on a Thursday night, looking to buck a recent two-game skid against the Havoc.
Opening Frame action would not have much to report for either side. While the Mayhem would be recipients of two power play opportunities, neither would result in a goal against Max Milosek. Ryan Ruck on the opposite side would hang tight with a wave of Havoc pressure in the defensive, and both sides would escape a quick-moving period with nothing on the scoreboard. In spite of the pressure, Macon would take a 12-3 shots advantage into the first intermission.
Action would open up early in the Second, as Ryan Smith would be the beneficiary of proper positioning just over two minutes in. With a preferable pass from Jason Tackett, Smith would sneak one past Milosek for his sixth of the season, and an early Mayhem lead 1-0. Even with a pair of Havoc power plays, Huntsville would be unable to beat Ryan Ruck. Finally with 6:17 to go in the frame, Alex Berardinelli would net his first of the year, and knot it up with a 1-1 score. It would be back and forth to the end, as the game would head to the final period knotted at 1-1. Huntsville would outshoot Macon 14-12 in the period, but Macon would still lead in shots 24-17.
A gutty back-and-forth third period would see both teams clawing for that goal to put them on top. In a tightly-contest 20 minutes, shots would come at a premium, and with just one power play split between the two teams - going in favor of Huntsville - it would take heart to take the win. Luckily for the Macon Mayhem, they had all the heart they needed in the form of SPHL Player of the Week Jason Tackett. With under a minute to go, and the Mayhem willing their way into the offensive-end, Tackett would be left alone in front of the net, and send home the eventual game-winner with :33 left. Tackett's fourth of the year would be his second game-winner, as the Mayhem would secure their 20th win of the year.
Bigger than that, with the win tonight and Birmingham's loss to Pensacola, the Macon Mayhem officially clinched their first playoff appearance since 2018-19. A tremendous turnaround season for the #1 team in the SPHL, who look to bring their second Regular Season Championship to Macon-Bibb County. There's still a long way to go in the 2020-21 season, but the Mayhem are ready to extend it.