At the end of a disastrous 2014-15 season where the Huntsville Havoc endured a franchise-worst 11-38-7 record, team owner Keith Jefferies gave coach Glenn Detulleo a vote of confidence rather than a pink slip. Four years later, Jefferies’ decision has never looked better.
That’s because the Havoc claimed the Southern Pro League title for the second year in a row, sweeping their Alabama rivals down the I-65, the Birmingham Bulls, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,100 at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center.
During the regular season, the Havoc had a franchise-best 36-17-3 record but flew under the radar due to the record-setting campaign by the Peoria Rivermen (40-7-9) and the turnaround sophomore season of the Bulls (39-15-2).
After the Rivermen were swept in two games in the challenge round of the playoffs (where the top teams in the league get to select their first-round opponents), the Havoc – choosing and defeating the Pensacola Ice Flyers in three games – emerged as contenders to repeat as league champions. In the semifinal, the Havoc swept their longtime archrival, the Knoxville Ice Bears, needing extra time in both games.
The final against the Bulls, the first SPHL championship series between teams from the same state, was regarded as a dead heat. The opening game was a back-and-forth contest that was decided in overtime – Huntsville’s fourth such game in the post-season – on Rob Darrar’s breakaway after a Bulls turnover.
In Game 2, the Havoc scored three straight, sparking a jubilant celebration on home ice. “We may not have players with the pedigree that other teams have, but I wanted the hardest-working guys who had something to prove,” Detulleo said.
A short postscript: In late May, Detulleo got another vote of confidence from Jefferies in the form of a five-year contract extension. In sports, where it’s easy to dismiss coaches after seasons like the Havoc endured in 2014-15, Jefferies’ faith in his bench boss was both refreshing and wise.