'New guys' Will Aide, Jordan Draper finding their way with Cottonmouths

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerOctober 31, 2013 

Forwards Will Aide and Jordan Draper played a total of 14 games for the Columbus Cottonmouths last season.

It was just enough for the pair to learn some valuable lessons.

"Every day your job is on the line," Aide said. "From the first day of camp until the first day of the playoffs, you have to prove yourself."

Both Aide and Draper received made the Snakes' opening roster last month, setting their sights on a full 56-game season. A year ago, Aide played 10 regular season and two playoff contests. Draper arrived in time for the Snakes' two-game playoff run.

"The whole organization was so accepting of a new guy," Aide said. "I was really nervous coming in."

Draper's stay was even shorter than Aide's.

"My experience was short-lived," Draper said. "But this team is like a family. Everybody gets along and they treat you fantastic."

Draper reported to camp with Tulsa (CHL), but couldn't pass its demanding physical after off-season surgery. So he headed to Columbus a little early.

"I started to skate a week before camp," Draper said. "Everybody started arriving and I started adding up the numbers. I realized then that there would be no guaranteed spots."

The intense, competitive nature of training camp, coupled with the larger numbers that coach Jerome Bechard brought in made it challenging for the players.

"I think it's more of a good sign than bad," Aide said. "Competition brings out the best in you. It makes you mentally strong as you fight through the stress."

Draper agreed.

"Nothing's guaranteed," Draper said. "There is always somebody ready to step up and fill your spot."

The Snakes shook up their roster Wednesday, waiving defenseman and assistant captain Kevin Kessler and signing Mike Switzer. Rookie forward Seth Ronsberg was injured in practice, placed on the 30-day injured reserve, and replaced by rookie Jordan Zalba.

Goaltender Jesse Chenard was waived and Travis Bosch signed. Chenard and Bosch are competing for the backup goalie position. Andrew Loewen will play one game this weekend and Bosch the other. Bechard will choose between Chenard and Bosch early next week.

Neither Aide nor Draper has scored yet and the team has started 0-2. The Snakes dropped a road contest to Pensacola 6-2 and their home opener 3-2 to Knoxville.

They opened the season at Pensacola where the defending SPHL champion Ice Flyers raised the championship banner and received their rings before a raucous crowd.

The Snakes got off to a quick start, jumping to a 2-0 lead.

"It was a good atmosphere," Aide said. "We've done it before. You just go out and do your job. We got off to a good start and led 2-0, but then in the second period everyone backed off and we took some bad penalties.

"I thought everyone handled it very well," Draper said. "It was penalties that cost us that game. It had nothing to do with anything but us."

After the home loss to Knoxville, the Cottonmouths remain winless.

"It's going to take hard work to get that first win and we have to be disciplined," Aide said. "Teams win games on the power play. When we would get a penalty, we started gripping the stick harder."

Draper went a step further.

"Discipline is the key to winning all season," Draper said. "You also need skill, talent and hard work. The other teams have capitalized on their power play chances and we haven't."

The Snakes host Huntsville on Friday night and Knoxville on Saturday. Game time is 7:30.

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