The Columbus Cottonmouths were in the SPHL basement for one day after losing to Bloomington on Friday night.
Saturday night was an entirely different story.
The Snakes dominated in all phases of the game in taking game two of the series 4-0. The game featured four different goal scorers, solid defensive play and the first shutout of the season for goaltender Andrew Loewen.
"Everyone contributed tonight," Loewen said. "It wasn't our best game, but we scored some goals. If you score goals, you're going to win. I'm not looking at the standings but I did hear we were in last place. I'm not worried. This is a process. We've been playing well. It was just a matter of time. Now we need to string some wins together. The teams ahead of us are bunched up."
The Snakes (22 points) are in ninth place out of 10 SPHL teams, two points ahead of last-place Bloomington. Columbus is only five points out of fifth place. Ahead of them are Knoxville and Fayetteville (24), the Mississippi Surge (25) and Peoria (27). First-place Louisiana has 37 points.
Loewen posted incredible numbers last season, going 19-8-1 and shattering league records in both goals-against average (1.74) and save percentage (.945). This season has been a different story. Loewen is now 6-8-1, with a GAA of 3.22 and save percentage of .897.
Loewen has had a streaky season, winning four straight, then losing two in a row before Saturday night's shutout victory.
He's also been hampered by an inconsistent offense. In his last two losses, Loewen gave up only two goals in each game, but the Snakes scored only one.
Tory Allan got the offense going with an early shorthanded goal. With Sam Bowles in the penalty box for high-sticking, Allan gathered the puck at the blue line and advanced on goaltender Max Strang on a breakaway. Allan's shorthanded goal was the Snakes' nine of the season, best in the SPHL.
"I just got the puck," Allan said. "We've had trouble scoring lately, so I just shot it. We tend to score more when we're bearing down. Then we have a big night and start thinking goals are going to come easy. But we've learned that there are no easy ones."
Allan's goal ended a five-game scoring drought. Jordan Draper had also struggled to put the puck in the net. His three assists halted a four-game scoreless streak.
"The last three weeks there have been games we probably deserved to win," Draper said. "Tonight we got some lucky breaks. I was lucky to get three assists. My linemates did all the work."
The Snakes played the second straight game without their captain, defenseman Kyle Johnson. Johnson is battling an illness and his return is day-to-day. Enforcer Alex Gallant served the second of his three-game suspension for fighting after the final horn in Knoxville last Saturday.
The Snakes introduced a new player who arrived in town on Saturday afternoon.
Forward Preston Shupe was signed to a three-game contract.
The Snakes led 1-0 on Allan's first-period goal. They got a little breathing room in the second when Neilsson Arcibal and Levi Lind scored only 16 seconds apart. Jason Gray capped off the scoring at the 18:21 mark of the final period.
The Snakes hit the road for the next three games, travelling to Knoxville and Huntsville next weekend and starting a home-and-home series on Jan. 17 in Fayetteville.
They return home on Jan. 18 to meet the FireAntz. Game time is 7:30.
Bloomington 0 0 0--0
Columbus 1 2 1--4First period--1, Columbus, Allan (unassisted) 8:08 SHG. Penalties--Bowles, Columbus (high-sticking) 7:45; Sicard, Bloomington (roughing) 10:29; Cintala, Bloomington (high-sticking double minor) 10:29; Allan, Columbus (slashing) 17:57.
Second period--2, Columbus, Arcibal (Draper, Gray) 9:18; 3, Columbus, Lind (Aide, Draper) 9:34. Penalties--Watson, Bloomington (fighting) 4:27; Willigar, Columbus (fighting) 4:27; Sicard, Bloomington (unsportsmanlike conduct) 11:11; Cramer, Bloomington (unsportsmanlike conduct) 11:11; Bremner, Columbus (unsportsmanlike conduct) 11:11; Bremner, Columbus (hooking) 18:08.
Third period--4, Columbus, Gray (Draper) 18:21. Penalties--Helowka, Bloomington (equipment violation, 10-minute misconduct) :17; Cramer, Bloomington (high-sticking) 11:13.
Shots on goal:
Bloomington 10 12 8--30
Columbus 10 11 11--32
Power plays: Bloomington 0 of 3; Columbus 0 of 6
Goaltenders: Loewen (win) 60:00 30 30 0; Strang (loss) 60:00 32 28 4.
Linesmen: Archambeault, Kuerston.