IceGators 3, Cottonmouths 2: Louisiana ends Snakes' winning streak

Cottonmouths remain in sixth place in SPHL

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJanuary 26, 2014 

The Columbus Cottonmouths hoped the momentum of a four-game winning streak would help them make a move up the SPHL standings this weekend.

Instead, the weather and the Louisiana IceGators prevailed.

Louisiana took a hard-fought 3-2 win home to Lafayette, La., on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday night's game had to be postponed. The IceGators were headed to Columbus when snow and ice slowed traffic to almost a standstill.

Around noon, it became apparent that the visitors would be unable to make it by game time. They ended up arriving in Columbus about midnight. It was the first weather-related postponement for the Snakes in 10 SPHL seasons.

"It was quite a day," Louisiana center Jordan Braid said. "The bus trip took 16 hours. The weather was good as soon as we got out of Louisiana."

Braid, who was traded by the Snakes to Louisiana almost three weeks ago, wasn't on the Gators' roster the first two times the teams met. The Snakes swept the first two contests, both in December and one in each city, by scores of 8-6 and 7-4. This time goals were harder to come by.

"They're a different team now, but so are we," Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard said. "We're playing so much better than we did at Christmas."

The Snakes' fourth win in a row came in Huntsville on Friday. The four straight victories were a season high.

"Everything went right during the winning streak," Bechard said. "They were playing unselfish hockey and playing for each other. You saw that again tonight. Louisiana is a good hockey team. It was physical both ways tonight."

Two referees manned the contest, yet many infractions were not called.

"Apparently they wanted to let us play," Bechard said. "But they let us mug each other."

The physical tone was set early with three fights in the game's first five minutes and 43 seconds. Will Aide tangled with Harry Mahesh at the 2:35 mark. Only five seconds later, Alex Gallant dropped the gloves with Tyler Barr. Dan Bremner tangled with Greg Brown at the 5:43 mark. It ended up being the last fight of the evening.

When the fisticuffs stopped, special teams took over. Four of the five goals scored came on the power play. It was a seesaw affair, as the team's alternated goals all evening.

Louisiana drew first blood in the first period with a Jeff Grant goal. But the Snakes answered only three minutes and 38 seconds later. Veteran defenseman Tom Maldonado, quarterback of the power play, was lined up right in front of the net but was only a step inside the blue line. Maldonado launched a long shot that found its way through traffic and into the net for the tying goal.

It was the Gators' turn in the second. Tyler Lyon scored the only even strength goal of the night to give Louisiana a 2-1 lead entering the final period.

Preston Shupe scored his second goal in his eighth game as a Cottonmouth. Tory Allan and Andy Willigar assisted on the power play goal. The score was tied 2-2 at the 1:25 mark of the final period.

It took just over two minutes for the Gators to net the game winner. It was Grant again on the power play at the 3:19 mark.

The Snakes had plenty of chances but couldn't get the equalizer. Columbus never led in the game.

The Cottonmouths remain in sixth place among the league's 10 teams, gaining only two of a possible six points this weekend. Pensacola and Huntsville lead the league's top tier with 44 points. The Snakes currently have 32.

The makeup game is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 6 at the Columbus Civic Center. Plans should be finalized this week.

The Snakes play only two games next weekend, a Friday contest at home against Huntsville and a Saturday trip to play the Mississippi RiverKings.

Louisiana 1 1 1--3

Columbus 1 0 1--2

First period--1, Louisiana, Grant (K. Byczynski, Boyer) 6:07 PPG; 2, Columbus, Maldonado (unassisted) 9:45 PPG. Penalties--Aide, Columbus (fighting) 2:35; Mahesh, Louisiana (fighting) 2:35; Gallant, Columbus (fighting) 2:40; Barr, Louisiana (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting) 2:40; Bremner, Columbus (roughing, fighting) 5:43; Brown, Louisiana (fighting) 5:43; Boyer, Louisiana (tripping) 8:06; Bowles, Columbus (roughing) 19:33; C. Byczynski (roughing) 19:33.

Second period--3, Louisiana, Lyon (K. Byczynski) 13:34. Penalties--Barr, Louisiana (tripping) 3:16; Grant, Louisiana (slashing) 5:50; Aide, Columbus (hooking) 8:28; Gingera, Columbus (tripping) 16:20.

Third period--4, Columbus, Shupe (Willigar, Allan) 1:25 PPG; 5, Louisiana, Grant (McNeil) 3:19 PPG. Penalties--Barr, Louisiana (boarding) :23; Bremner, Columbus (boarding) 2:27; Bremner, Columbus (roughing) 9:48; Braid, Louisiana (roughing) 9:48; Brown, Louisiana, (boarding) 12:20; Aide, Columbus (roughing double minor) 15:22; Peppler, Louisiana (handling the puck) 19:57; Kaminski, Louisiana (verbal abuse of officials)20:00.

Shots on goal: Louisiana 10 8 7--25; Columbus 13 8 11--32. Power plays: Louisiana 2 of 7; Columbus 2 of 5. Goaltenders: Loewen (loss) 58:26 25 22 3; Smiley (win) 60:00 32 30 2. Referees: Sheehan, Default referee. Linesmen: Dioughy, Rawn. Time: 2:46. Attendance: 2313.

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