By Alec Etheredge | Shelby County Reporter
PELHAM, Ala - In what has become an annual tradition, the Birmingham Bulls took to the ice at Pelham Civic Complex on Monday, Jan. 17 against the Huntsville Havoc for a rivalry battle on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Meeting for the third of their eight games times this season, the two always bring a strong crowd, especially to this annual matinee game that ends with kids in attendance getting to take the ice following the game to skate with the players.
And this time around, they got plenty of excitement in addition to that thanks to an exciting matchup.Looking for the upset as the ninth of 12 teams in the current Southern Professional Hockey League standings, the Bulls took to the ice with extra motivation against the league-leading Havoc.
Hoping to protect home ice, the Bulls put together their third shutout of the season en route to a 2-0 victory, but more importantly, they put together their second shutout in a row.
Coming off a 4-0 victory against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, the Bulls were looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season and had confidence in their defense.
But Huntsville entered confident as the top team in the SPHL. The Havoc held a 24-4-1 record heading into the matchup for 50 points, which was ahead of Knoxville by three points and third place Quad City by 10 points.
Birmingham, on the other hand, entered with a 6-19-4 record for 16 points.
But the Bulls quickly showed that their defense had carried over from the road win two days earlier.
In the opening quarter, Birmingham allowed just seven shots on goal, all of which were saved by Hayden Stewart. That was part of an impressive day for the defense and possibly an even more impressive day for Stewart. The goalie was leaned on heavily in the second period, which made a huge difference in the outcome. Birmingham allowed 23 shots on goal in the period, but Stewart stepped up to save each one and keep the Havoc scoreless through two periods.
That became key as the Bulls only got four shots on goal in the second period but found a way to capitalized.
With five seconds remaining, and the game seemingly headed to the third period still in a scoreless tie, Carson Rose found the back of the net off assists from Matthew Hobbs and Mike Davis to put Birmingham on top 1-0. With the way Stewart was playing in net, that was more than enough, but the Bulls added an insurance goal for good measure in the final quarter when Danny Liscio buried a power-play goal off assists from Brody Duncan and Scott Donahue.
With 8:47 to play, that 2-0 lead became the final score as Huntsville totaled seven shots on goal in the final period, never finding the net.
Stewart finished the matchup saving all 37 shots he faced, while the Bulls got 34 shots on goal and capitalized on two of them. The win gave the Bulls their sixth win of the season, back-to-back wins for the first time and two consecutive shutouts for a total of three on the season.
Following the win, those in attendance got their chance to hit the ice as well and skate with the players who helped make the win happen.