The Columbus Cottonmouths limped home after a resounding loss in Knoxville on Saturday night, hoping to salvage a disappointing weekend.
The friendly confines of the Columbus Civic Center yielded similar results.
Huntsville jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, claiming a 6-2 win over the reeling Snakes before a crowd of 1,647.
Both teams were playing their third game in three days. Huntsville lost its first two and ended on a positive note. The Cottonmouths salvaged a point in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Mississippi RiverKings before being thumped by the Ice Bears in Knoxville 9-4. Columbus gained only one of a possible six points this weekend.
"We talked about it before the game," Snakes captain Kyle Johnson said. "We put the last two games behind us and were ready to make a fresh start. We are tired, but so are they. It's not an excuse. We have no excuses."
Johnson emphasized that the Snakes' lack of success didn't result from a lack of trying.
"It's not because of lack of effort or heart," Johnson said. "We're upset and frustrated. We have tomorrow off but we'll be right back to work on Tuesday."
Johnson, a second-year defenseman, spoke of the team's difficulties on the blue line.
"We've got to calm down and play team defense," Johnson said. "We need to do what we're taught to do in pee wee hockey. We're just trying to do too much."
The defense entered the game shorthanded and was dealt another blow in the first period. Second-year defenseman Chris Bailer missed the game after suffering a mild concussion in practice on Monday. Newcomer Mike Switzer suffered a knee injury on a routine play with just under 8 minutes to play in the opening period. Switzer did not return to action and was on crutches after the game. He's to undergo an MRI early this week.
The team also played without its newest forward, enforcer Alex Gallant. Gallant signed with the Snakes this summer but had to complete his rehabilitation following off-season surgery. Gallant was suspended indefinitely pending review by the league of his major penalty for checking from behind. Gallant was given a game misconduct for his actions.
Huntsville scored two goals in the game's first 6:03, causing Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard to make the unusual move of burning his only time out. A little over two minutes later, Jordan Braid got the Snakes on the scoreboard with a power play goal, cutting the Huntsville lead to a single goal.
After Braid's goal, the team's swapped goals and it appeared that the second period would end with Columbus trailing 3-2. But a pair of Huntsville goals gave the Havoc momentum and a comfortable cushion.
Ray Ortiz scored with only 50 seconds left in the second period to put Huntsville up 4-2 and Josh Harris added an insurance goal only 44 seconds into the third, making the score 5-2.
Four of the game's eight goals were scored by special teams. The Snakes were one-of-six with a man advantage and the Havoc two-of-seven. Huntsville also added a shorthanded goal.
"Special teams are the way to win hockey games," Johnson said. "Our power play and penalty kill had taken a step forward."
The Cottonmouths possess the SPHL's second best power play unit (24%) among the league's ten teams, but their penalty kill has dropped to sixth (81.48%).
Braid said that the team was disappointed in grabbing only one of a potential six points over the weekend.
"We definitely underachieved," Braid said. "It leaves a bitter taste. We want to go out there and win every game."
Integrating the new players into the Snakes' system takes time. The team's three leading scorers -- Gingera (10 points), Braid (9) and Levi Lind (9) are all returning players.
"Different guys bring different skill sets," Braid said. "We just need to know how to play together."
The Snakes, 3-5-1, play a home-and-home series against Fayetteville next weekend. The FireAntz come to the Columbus Civic Center on Friday and the Cottonmouths travel to the Crown Coliseum on Saturday.
Huntsville 2 2 2 --6
Columbus 1 1 0 --2
First period--1, Huntsville, Fox (Gurtler, Harris )1:23 PPG; 2, Huntsville, Lazorko (unassisted) 6:03; 3, Columbus, Braid (Gray, Draper) 8:17 PPG. Penalties--Draper, Columbus (slashing) 1:02; Gurtler, Huntsville (interference) 3:43; Fox, Huntsville (holding) 6:36; Singleton, Huntsville (hooking) 16:37; Lind, Columbus (roughing) 19:30.
Second period--4, Huntsville, Gurtler (Florentino, Osman) 7:00 PPG; 5, Columbus, Gingera (McNulty) 11:44; 6, Huntsville, Ortiz (Kurceba) 19:10. Penalties--Johnson, Columbus (holding) 6:05; Amesbury, Columbus (fighting) 7:00; Bellamy, Huntsville (fighting) 7:00; Aide, Columbus (fighting) 7:05; Cannata, Huntsville (fighting) 7:05; Kurceba, Huntsville (roughing, slashing) 11:44; McNulty, Columbus (roughing) 11:44; Gingera, Columbus (high-sticking) 15:43; Singleton, Huntsville (cross-checking) 18:04.
Third period--7, Huntsville, Harris (unassisted) :44; 8, Huntsville, Fox (Gurtler, Harris) 13:29. Penalties--Harff, Huntsville (interference) 4:53; Gingera, Columbus (hooking) 7:30; Allan, Columbus (hooking) 10:43; Bellamy, Columbus (charging) 17:10; Amesbury, Columbus (roughing) 17:10; Amesbury, Columbus (elbowing) 19:19.
Shots on goal: Huntsville 12 12 6 --30
Columbus 15 8 5 --28
Goaltenders: Loewen (loss) 60:00 30--24--6; Kallechy 60:00 28--26--2.
Power plays: Huntsville 2 of 7; Columbus 1 of 6.
Referee: MacDougall. Linesm,em: Dioughy, Meacham.