Bulls finish last regular season home game with 1-1 weekend

Published 12:27 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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PELHAM – The Birmingham Bulls finished their last game on home ice during the 2023-24 regular season with a 1-1 weekend against the Macon Mayhem on March 29-30.

Fans were treated with a home-ice victory on Friday, March 29 with a final score of 3-1. But on Saturday, March 30, the Macon Mayhem came out on top with an overtime win of 3-2.

Despite having nearly double the shots on goal for the majority of the Friday night game, the Birmingham Bulls were unable to get a puck past the Macon’s netminder in the first period. The redeeming factor for the Bulls was that the Mayhem were also unable to capitalize on any of their scoring opportunities.

This stalemate caused mounting tension between the two teams that erupted in the second period.

Macon’s Jake Goldowski opened up the scoring at the 4:14 mark. After his teammate zinged the puck past the front of the goal, the undefended Goldowski snatched up the puck and effortlessly tapped the puck in net.

A little over two minutes later at the 6:52 mark, Bulls’ Troy MacTavish and Mayhem’s Alec Severson exchanged some words in front of the net. The resulting skirmish saw both players tumble to the ice.

After the refs pulled the players off each other, both MacTavish and Severson earned five minute fighting majors, but the subsequent 4-on-4 was cut short as Birmingham’s CJ Walker joined his teammate in the penalty box for a high-sticking infraction at the 7:34 mark.

Despite the 4-on-3 advantage, the Mayhem were unable to sink another puck past Bulls’ goaltender Drennen Atherton.

As play continued, Birmingham’s shots on goal tally continued to climb without a single successful goal until late in the second period.

The Bulls offense made shot after shot on Macon’s netminder Jack Bostedt who valiantly defended against the onslaught. But with each subsequent shot, Bostedt became more frazzled as players clustered around the goal, obstructing his view.

With sheer determination, Birmingham’s Nikita Kozyrev managed to force the puck past Bostedt to tie up the game at the 16:37 mark of the second period.

Birmingham had the opportunity to end the period with the lead after Macon’s Sacha Roy committed a high-sticking penalty at the 17:13 mark, but the Mayhem fought through the penalty kill as the clock wound down on an eventful second period.

The action picked back up in the third period as Macon’s Dan Winslow committed a tripping penalty that sent both him and a Bulls player sliding against the boards at the 5:40 mark.

The subsequent power play did not last long. Just eight seconds after Winslow went to the box, the Bulls offense faked a shot attempt with a sly pass to MacTavish who nailed the puck into the net.

As the third period charged on with neither team able to make any more headway, the Mayhem pulled Bostedt out of the net at the 18:41 mark. The Bulls made quick work of this advantage with Birmingham’s Carson Rose scoring an empty net goal just 15 seconds later.

With nothing else to lose, the Mayhem briefly put Bostedt back on the ice before once again attempting to score with an extra attacker.

This play could have given Birmingham a fourth goal of the night, but when the Bulls gained possession of the puck, several Mayhem players laid out on the ice, blocking shots that otherwise would have penetrated the empty crease.

The final result of the first game was a 3-1 victory for the Birmingham Bulls.

The Mayhem carried this same determination into the second game of the weekend on Saturday, March 30. As Birmingham Bulls fans waved free towels, excited to celebrate the last home game of the season, the Mayhem sauntered onto the ice while the Bulls took longer to get on their feet.

Unlike the previous game, the Mayhem began the night casually dominating possession of the puck and leading in shots on goal, while the Birmingham players took tumble after tumble with uncharacteristic clumsiness.

Macon capitalized on the Bulls’ slow start as Goldowski lobbed the puck into the left side of the net just 5:36 into the first period. The Birmingham home crowd responded with absolute silence.

The Bulls struggled to regain control of the game, but managed to steadily decrease the shots on goal differential. With neither team managing to score again in the first period, it became abundantly clear that the tension from the Friday game had carried over into Saturday.

At the 18:31 mark, while the action carried on in one zone, a fight broke out in the other. A brutal hit away from the action resulted in Birmingham’s Kyler Matthews and Macon’s Severson throwing down the gloves. After a few circles, the two players locked into combat, resulting in both being escorted to the box for five minute fighting majors.

The second period saw a continuation of this agitation.

Just 45 seconds into the third period, a high-sticking penalty by Macon’s Derek Contessa was met with retaliation from Bulls’ Zac Masson who was given a roughing penalty.

In the end, Contessa was unable to serve his high-sticking penalty because he was actually sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. His teammate, Brandon Picard, served his high sticking penalty for him, resulting in a 4-3 power play for the Bulls.

In the next two minutes of play, Birmingham took full advantage of their extra man.

As the Bulls players crowded around the net, Bostedt tried to smother a shot, losing sight of the puck which slowly crept out from under his body, ending up behind the goaltender, just shy of the goal line. Walker intercepted the puck before Bostedt could gain his bearings, tapping it in for a Bulls power play goal at the 2:46 mark.

During the rest of the second period, a slew of penalties resulted in the Mayhem having three separate power plays. Despite one of these power plays being a 5-on-3, Macon was unable to score during the remainder of the period.

These penalties continued in the third period with Macon’s David Nippard committing a boarding penalty at the 1:33 mark. Continuing their power play domination, the Bulls scored just 13 seconds later courtesy of Rose as his shot soared right past Bostedt’s glove.

As the teams continued to battle through the third period, more players went to the box for penalties and fighting. The final penalty of the game went to Kozyrev for high sticking at the 17:56 mark.

With a power play in the last two minutes of the game, the Mayhem decided to pull their goaltender, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage. The resulting offensive attack had Birmingham goaltender Hayden Stewart scrambling with saves left and right.

Despite this effort, Macon’s Cohen was able to poke the puck in net with just two seconds left in the game.

After unexpectedly tying up the game, the Mayhem charged into overtime, capitalizing on the momentum of their last-minute success. Cohen, the very man that tied the game, scored the game-winning goal for the Macon Mayhem at the 2:34 mark.

At the end of the 1-1 weekend, the Birmingham Bulls remain at the top of the standings for the SPHL, while the Macon Mayhem hold the ninth spot in the league.

The Birmingham Bulls will finish their regular season with two away games against the Evansville Thunderbolts on April 5-6 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.

Because of their guaranteed playoff position, the Bulls will host the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday, April 10 at the Pelham Civic Complex.