Jesse Kallechy denies Emery Olauson during the shootout (Photo : Richard Perigo)
Anthony Battaglia celebrates his 2nd period goal (Photo : Richard Perigo)
Stuart Stefan battles for the puck (Photo : Richard Perigo)
For the 8th time in 9 seasons, the Huntsville Havoc are playoff bound.
With the team's 3-2 shootout victory over Knoxville Thursday night, coupled with an Augusta loss, the red & black clinched the 8th and final spot in the hunt for SPHL President's Cup.
The Havoc set the tone early, firing 21 shots at Knoxville goaltender Bryan Hince in the first two periods. The home team took the early lead 11 minutes into the first, when Hince stopped an Aaron McGill shot, but had to get out of position to scramble for the rebound. Former UAHuntsville Charger Justin Cseter got to the puck first, and slid it into the Knoxville net for his first professional career goal.
In the second period, a rare power play tally for the Havoc, as Anthony Battaglia let a rocket rip from the center blue line. The puck zipped over Hince's glove hand, giving the Havoc a 2-0 lead.
Knoxville fought back, but weren't able to crack goalie Jesse Kallechy until the start of the third period. They added another goal at the 9:16 mark to tie the game at two. From there, Kallechy settled back in and was dominant through the remainder of the game.
The Havoc weren't able to break the tie in the third, or in five minutes of over time play, and the game went to a shootout.
Even after five rounds of the shootout, the score remained tied - with each squad netting one goal. The game went into sudden death with the playoffs in the balance. Finally, Mike Gurtler slipped one between Hince's legs, giving the Havoc the advantage. Knoxville had one opportunity to keep the game going, but Kallechy stopped Nate Peterson cold, clinching the win and the playoff berth.
The Havoc are on the road Friday in Knoxville, and will play their final regular season home game Saturday against Fayetteville.
The Havoc will likely take on the Louisiana Ice Gators in the first round of the playoffs. Huntsville is 1-3-2 against them this season. The only home game in the best of 3 series will be Thursday, March 28th at 7:30. Tickets go on sale Monday.
Saturday is team poster night, where 2,000 fans will receive an 11x17 poster of the team. It'll be signed by the players after the game.
Former Havoc captain Travis Kauffeldt, who led the team to the 2009-2010 championship, will play one final shift with the team Saturday. He's set to start, take a face off, then hang up his skates. After winning the title with Huntsville, Kauffeldt played a season with New Jersey in the FHL before injuries forced him to retire. He said he wants to end his career with Huntsville.
Kallechy will be the goaltender through the remainder of the year. As we first reported Thursday, goalie Dan McWhinney is out after emergency surgery. Backup Jonathan LaRose was formally placed on season-ending IR earlier this month, and Ross Cherry has been added as an emergency backup goaltender. Under SPHL rules, an emergency backup can only play if the starter is injured during a game.
Defenseman Bryant Doerrsam played in his first game after serving a six game suspension for a brutal slash against Ryan Raven on March 2nd.