(Column: Preston Baker, Photo: Brian Collett)
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Needing a spark after a rough six-games against Pensacola, the Marksmen trudge into Macon this weekend for a pair against the Mayhem. Fayetteville comes into this series with a rough 3-3-4 record in their last 10 games. They look to end the skid against an opponent that they need to beat down the stretch.
Macon is currently tied for fourth with Knoxville, only one point ahead of the Marksmen. The Marksmen sit only six points behind Huntsville for third place, the key spot for the Challenge Round. One big way that they can do that is by winning games, a pair of points is key every time the Marksmen hit the ice. Without the greatest results recently, each game keeps building in necessity for points.
A key role in the upcoming games will be special teams. The Marksmen look to improve on their second best power play at 20.7% on the year. They go against a below-average Macon penalty kill at only 78.9% on the season, good for ninth in the league.
The Marksmen will need to help around their crease, as they currently only have one experienced-professional goaltender on the roster, with Nathan Perry being called up to the ECHL Adirondack Thunder. Dillon Kelley is no slouch in net, as he comes into the contest with a 12-10-2-1 record, a .896 save percentage and gives up 3.15 goals per game. No stranger to the Mayhem, Kelley looks to improve upon a solid relief role in Sunday’s loss to Pensacola.
To help combat the hole in the goal, Head Coach Jesse Kallechy today signed SUNY Brockport Senior Jake Moore to a Standard Player Contract. Moore has been a consistent goaltender at the collegiate level, but looked most impressive in his final season, where he’s coming off a 1.93 GAA and a .925 SV% in 16 games played. Moore will add a young, hungry energy to the Marksmen crease.
Early-game offense will need to play a big role in this series, as Fayetteville has scored early but has failed to keep it going. Momentum will be a huge player too, the Marksmen failed to harness any of their recent momentum and dropped the games late. Key games against teams above you in the standings need to be closed out well, and not lost in the final 20.
Fayetteville has played very well on the road this season, logging a 10-5-6 record away from the Crown so far. They haven’t played their best hockey in Macon as two of their five regulation road losses have come in Macon. The Marksmen don’t make another trip to the Peach State this season and don’t want to get shutout of points this season.
Macon comes into the game holding on for dear life in the four spot. They’ve lost 11 of their last 12, including five of their last six at home. They’ve been down after an unbelievably hot start to the season, and a top three spot is no longer guaranteed. They’ve been very successful against the Marksmen this season, dropping only one of four games against them.
Both teams, as with every team in the league, have less than 15 games remaining in the regular season. Every game is more important from here on out, as everyone wants to pick who to play come April – and get home-ice advantage. The Marksmen come back home after this brisk two game road trip for their final home stand of the regular season.
The final six games at the Crown are some of the most important in the history of the Marksmen.
The calendar turns to March, the end is near for the regular season in the SPHL. Every team is on their heels for the final stretch of the year. Points and playoff positioning is key if the Marksmen want to play important games in front of Fayetteville. Everything matters more now with the end ever approaching.
Join us tonight at On-After for our Home Away From Home Watch Party, and cheer on the Marksmen as they look to slide ever-closer to a top-four playoff spot. The puck drops at 7:30 both nights this weekend, we’ll see you there. If you can’t make it out to On After, watch the action live on SPHL Live ($). There will not be a Marksmen Radio broadcast this weekend, as the Voice of the Marksmen Shawn Bednard is still battling flu-like symptoms.
We’re back home on March 8 & 9 for HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER weekend. With proceeds from the weekend going to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the American Cancer Society, this will be an emotionally-charged weekend you won’t want to miss.
We invite all fans to come paint our ice on March 6 for just a $5 donation, or with our Hockey Fights Cancer ticket packages, you get either your chance to paint the ice and a ticket to either game for $20, or painting the ice and a ticket to both games for just $30. Get yours here.
If you’re interested in partnering up with the Marksmen organization, or hearing about our season ticket packages, group packages, mini-plans, or advertising benefits in-arena or with the broadcast, email Director of Digital Marketing and Media Shawn Bednard, SBednard@MarksmenHockey.com or call the Marksmen Office at (910) 321-0123.
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The Fayetteville Marksmen are owned and operated by Union Pro Hockey Group and play their home games at Crown Coliseum. The Marksmen are a committed community asset, designed to provide premium entertainment to families and individuals in Cumberland County and surrounding areas.