Good morning, Snakes fans!! Hope everyone is ready for Legends Weekend to get started. I sure am!
Let's start with the present-day Snakes and future legends. Or as I like to call them...legends in their own minds...haha. The team is playing really well under adverse conditions. Last night there were 18 Snakes on the bench for the first time in a LONG time.
Since Orrin Hergott was hurt on Nov. 21 and Derek Pallardy on Dec. 1, Jerome has patched together a lineup. Factor in Alex MacLeod's call-up and injuries of various lengths to John Sullivan, Bret Tyler and Tom Maldonado and you have a team facing significant challenges.
The US Army came to the rescue again. This time it was Capt. Biff McNally who's played a dozen games for the Snakes, fulfilling a lifelong dream for him and helping the team out at the same time.
By the way, hope ya'all have read my story on Biff in this morning's paper. We throw around the word hero way too much. Athletes are not heroes. Young men who put their lives on the line for our country are. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Biff, and thanks for your service. :)
Alex returned last night and the Snakes welcomed Corey Bellamy. Corey spend 24 games in the FHL, piling up 175 PIM in 24 games played. So we can expect him to throw his weight around. He also spent a brief time in the ECHL. Corey is from Massachusetts, which brings the total of Mass guys to 3. How many is too many? I'm kidding, Dave and Danny...haha.
When I was watching the webcast last night, I saw number 14 on the ice. My thought was hmmm, I didn't think Biff was going to make the trip. Then I looked a little closer. Nope, not Biff. Corey made a pretty nifty play in continuing the tradition of scoring in his first pro game. He didn't put the puck in the net, recording an assist, but the goal doesn't happen without him.
Corey went flying down the nearside boards, cut inside and slid a perfect pass to Brett Hammond who buried it. A very nice goal to break a scoreless tie. Sam Bowles began celebrating his birthday a little early with a PPG, which is always a good thing. That's the way the score stayed until very late, a real nailbiter.
Andrew Loewen came close to his second shutout of the season but a Pensacola goal early in the third put all Snakes fans on edge until the Ice Flyers pulled their goalie not once, but twice and the Cottonmouths capitalized both times.
What more can I say about Andrew except that he's in a zone right now and Snakes fans hope he stays there! Andrew told me about his new and improved focus and mental preparation. Have to say it's working. He was the difference in the game last night as Pensacola had way more quality chances than the Snakes did. Andrew is the top ranked active goaltender in the league...a hard-earned honor...with a 2.04 GAA and save percentage a healthy .939.
Matt Gingera was finally shut out last night, a rarity for him since he arrived in early December. Matt has played 22 games with the Snakes and failed to tally at least one point only 7 times. He and Bret are the only 2 Snakes above the magical point-per-game mark.
The offense is definitely improving, which is somewhat surprising since the lines have been out of whack for so long. Great to see Derek back up front and the whole D healthy. But the team's hottest line is broken up for now while John is on the shelf. He, Jordan Braid and Matt have developed a real chemistry and, even more importantly, a sense of where the others are going to be on the ice. Hope to catch John this weekend for an update on his possible return date.
Soeaking of return dates, I think we all have to resign ourselves to the possibility that Orrin won't make it back this year and we may have seen the last of number 11 in a Snakes sweater. I've said it several times...Orrin just does not look right to me. This is a pretty severe concussion, which is bad enough, but another one could impair him for life. Orrin is a husband and father now, not just a hockey player. As much as we all miss Orrin, the stakes are too high for him to come back. My blog...my opinion. :(
Great group of legends on hand for tonight's game at 6. Chad Rycroft is making his first appearance since retiring in 2010. Even a rusty Rycroft will be entertaining. When I asked him if we could expect a fight, I expected a resounding "no, I'm too old for that stuff." Uh...I didn't get that answer haha. Generally, you don't fight your own teammates, but how about a scrum between Chad and Dougie Mann? :) Will definitely miss Frankie Ouellette, the singing goalie, but it'll be great to see players from the past like Craig Stahl, Tommy McMonagle, Daryl Moor and many others.
Legends Weekend...one of my favorite events of the year...is here!! See ya'all tonight!