Columbus Cottonmouths rookie goaltender Curtis Martinu made his first home start since joining the team in late January.
Martinu and the Snakes dropped a 7-4 decision to visiting Louisiana before a crowd of 4,361 at the Columbus Civic Center in a game Martinu will remember for a couple of reasons.
The Ontario native, who earlier suffered a road shootout loss to the Mississippi RiverKings, stopped 33 of 39 shots. More memorable was that Martinu engaged in a goalie fight with Kiefer Smiley.
With 10:13 remaining in the game and the Snakes trailing 6-3, the game started getting chippy. Snakes enforcer Alex Gallant took exception to defenseman Tom Maldonado getting boarded near the penalty box and got a charging call to start the chain of events.
Nearby, a fight broke out between the Snakes' Will Aide and Louisiana's Greg Brown. As Aide and Brown tangled, Smiley and Martinu rumbled to center ice, tore off their gear and sweaters and pounded on each other with the festive crowd roaring its approval.
Soon after, Jordan Draper trimmed the lead to two but the Snakes could get no closer.
Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard did not lay the blame for the loss on his rookie goalie.
"Just the opposite," Bechard said. "I thought we left him hung out to dry. We've not come close to giving up 40 shots on goal all year. Maybe one goal in the third he would like to have back. The first one was a bang-bang play. On the second one, Kyle Johnson let the guy walk in. The second period I thought Curtis played a phenomenal game. We committed turnover after turnover. Out of the seven goals, we gave them four."
The Cottonmouths' power play continued to struggle. After scoring once in 15 chances over three games last weekend, they finished this weekend 1 of 11.
"The power play didn't have a sense of urgency," Bechard said. "Louisiana is the kind of team that keeps putting pressure on you. They kept coming at us. Halfway through the second, we got a sense of urgency and clawed our way back. Turnovers and the penalty kill really hurt."
The Snakes allowed two Louisiana power play goals in six tries.
The Snakes found themselves in an early 2-0 hole. The IceGators scored a pair of goals just under three minutes apart and led by two at the first intermission. But Preston Shupe cut the lead in half early in the second as he scored unassisted at the 2:37 mark.
But two quick goals stretched the Louisiana lead to 4-1 before the Snakes started chipping away at the lead. Defenseman Jason Gray contributed a shorthanded goal and Neillson Arcibal added the third. The score was 4-3 at the end of three, but the Snakes couldn't manage the equalizer.
Two quick goals in the first 3:01 put the game away for the Gators.
With the Snakes loss and a Knoxville win, the teams are tied for seventh place in the SPHL standings.
Louisiana 2 2 3--7
Columbus 0 3 1--4
First period--1, Louisiana, McNeil (Robertson, Stuart) 9:33; 2, Louisiana, Wilson (Braid, Brown) 12:27. Penalties--Boyer, Louisiana (tripping) 10:09; K. Byczynski, Louisiana (cross-checking) 13:28; Bremner, Columbus (roughing) 13:28; Lyon, Louisiana (hooking) 16:06; Aide, Columbus (fighting) 18:25; K. Byczynski (fighting) 18:25; Gray, Columbus (high-sticking) 19:52.
Second period--3, Columbus, Shupe (unassisted) 2:35; 4, Louisiana, Cramer (Braid) 3:44; 5, Louisiana, Grant (K. Byczynski) 6:31 PPG; 6, Columbus, Gray (unassisted) 15:16 SHG; 7, Columbus, Arcibal (Shupe) 18:08.
Third period--8, Louisiana, K. Byczynski (McNeil, Stuart) 1:27 PPG; 9, Louisiana, Braid (Cramer) 3:01; 10, Columbus, Draper (Lind, Maldonado) 12:34; 11, Louisiana, Peppler (Stuart, Boyer) 19:55 ENG. Penalties--K. Byczynski, Louisiana (hooking) :58; Switzer, Columbus (slashing) 5:45; Aide, Columbus (fighting) 9:47; Brown, Louisiana (fighting) 9:47; Gallant, Columbus (charging) 9:47; Martinu, Columbus (fighting, second altercation, game misconduct) 9:47; Smiley, Louisiana (fighting, second altercation, game misconduct) 9:47; Peppler, Louisiana (tripping) 14:54; Bremner, Columbus (cross-checking) 18:15; Stretch, Louisiana (slashing) 18:15.
Shots on goal: Louisiana 11 15 14--40
Columbus 7 10 14--31
Power plays: Louisiana 2 of 6; Columbus 0 of 6.
Goaltenders: Martinu (loss) 49:47 39 33 6; Loewen 9:16 1 1 0; Smiley (win) 49:47 30 27 3; Zenzola 10:13 1 0 1.
Referee: Howard. Linesmen: Meacham, Rawn.