In a year full of uncertainty, the SPHL launched its 2020-2021 campaign on Saturday, December 26th. Only five teams are playing this season due to COVID-19 complications, and those clubs have played a total of eleven games since the start date. With such a small sample size this list could see lots of variation in a week or two, as any team could make a case for why they should be number one. Every team has been on the giving and receiving end of a blowout, and close games as well. That being said, here is the first edition of the SPHL power rankings.
#1: Birmingham Bulls
Though there might be a bit of bias in this selection, it’s hard to argue that Birmingham hasn’t played great hockey as of late. The Bulls started the season a bit rough, blowing a 3-0 lead to the Ice Flyers on opening night, and falling to them again 1-6. However, they have answered emphatically since then, winning 3-2 in Macon and dominating Pensacola in their last contest. While the offense has struggled at times, they seem to be improving as the season goes on. Right Wing Taylor Price is the second leading scorer in the SPHL, with four goals in the young season. The x-factor for Birmingham could be in its goaltending, as Lotz looked great in their recent 5-2 win. On top of that, backup goaltender Hayden Lavigne was incredible in his first SPHL start, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
#2: Pensacola IceFlyers
The IceFlyers seem to be in a complete opposite situation as Birmingham, a hot start, but cold as of late. The Flyers opened the season with three straight victories, including back to back wins over the Bulls a 5-1 mauling of the Havoc. However, the team has seen a twist of fate recently, losing two straight games by three goals each. There is no doubt Pensacola has a dangerous offense. The team acquired talented winger Alec Hagaman and Nick Neville, who had the most points for a defenseman in the SPHL last season. Both men were picked up from the Peoria Rivermen, who opted out this season. Hagaman and Neville are among the top six in the SPHL for points this year, spots that are ALL occupied by IceFlyers. In other words, if the Ice Flyers can get out of their recent funk, expect them to slide into first place.
#3: Macon Mayhem
The Mayhem finds itself in the same position as the Bulls, with a 2-1-1 record and tied for second place in the standings. Macon opened the season with an impressive 2-1 win over Huntsville, only to lose in overtime to Birmingham and get shut out by Knoxville 0-3. However, the Mayhem responded to the shutout loss by beating the Ice Bears 6-2 in their most recent contest. While the Mayhem’s offense and defense have been solid for the most part, its largest issue seems to be efficiency. Macon had more shots on goal than their opponent in every single game, and had twice as many as the Bulls in a 3-2 loss. If the Mayhem focus on getting quality shots, it could easily find its way into first place as well.
#4 Huntsville Havoc
While there were high expectations for the defending champions coming into this season, the Havoc has started its 2020-2021 campaign fairly slow. Huntsville started with a two game homestand, beating Knoxville 2-3 in the opener and falling to Macon 2-1 two days later. The Havoc then played a home and home series with the IceFlyers, losing 1-5 in Pensacola and answered with a 1-4 victory in Huntsville. In summary, the team seemed to flip-flop in its four contests thus far. The talent is certainly there for Hunstville, winning back to back President’s Cups in 2018 and 2019, and was third place in the SPHL last season before its cancelation.
#5 Knoxville Ice Bears
With the Ice Bears playing the least amount of games so far, it may be too early to judge them. However, Knoxville is the only team thus far with a losing record, so it made the most sense to put them here. The Ice Bears lost in Huntsville 2-3 to start the season, and responded with a 3-0 shutout of Macon in their home opener. However, the Bears fell to the Mayhem 6-3 in their most recent matchup. Additionally, the goaltender in the Ice Bears lone win was Jeremy Brodeur, son of NHL legend Martin Brodeur. While Brodeur was a huge pickup for Knoxville to start the season, Jeremy recently signed a deal with the AHL’s Binghamton Devils.