The Columbus Cottonmouths picked up four of a possible six points during an especially grueling three-game weekend.
The Snakes dropped the weekend finale to the visiting Mississippi RiverKings, 4-2, in front of 1,341 at the Columbus Civic Center.
The Snakes also lost ground in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. With Knoxville's 5-3 win at Bloomington, the Ice Bears moved into a tie with the Snakes for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Snakes have 12 games remaining and Knoxville has 15. Columbus and Knoxville are three points ahead of Fayetteville and seven ahead of Bloomington.
The Cottonmouths posted a 5-0 home shutout of Fayetteville on Friday and followed it up with a 5-2 win in Fayetteville on Saturday night. The Sunday matinee against the RiverKings completed the weekend.
"Three games in three nights is not uncommon in this league," forward Tory Allan said. "It was the travel that made it tough this weekend. Eight hours is a killer. We got home at seven this morning."
The long trip made the first period a sluggish one for the Snakes, who managed only five shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. The Cottonmouths didn't record their first shot on goal until 10:37 remained in the opening period.
Meanwhile rookie goalie Curtis Martinu turned back all 18 Kings shots in the first. Andrew Loewen played both of the Fayetteville games and was offered the chance to play for Gwinnett (ECHL) on Sunday afternoon. Loewen and the Gladiators lost to South Carolina, 5-2. Barney Slayton served as emergency backup goaltender against Mississippi.
Martinu is still seeking his first professional win. He has started three games for the Snakes, going 0-3-1. In his first start, the Snakes lost in a shootout to the RiverKings on Feb. 1.
"I thought Curtis played really well tonight," defenseman Mike Switzer said. "We hung him out to dry a couple of times and they got two lucky bounces. He kept us in it in the first period."
After a scoreless first, Mississippi built a 4-0 lead in the third period before the Snakes scored. Allan scored on the power play at the 8:58 mark of the final period. Switzer finished the scoring with a flashy goal. Switzer was streaking toward goalie Matthew Krahn when he was tackled by a Mississippi defender. Referee Pete MacDougall's arm went up, signaling a penalty. Switzer lunged forward with his stick and put the puck past Krahn.
"I didn't quite have the edge," Switzer said. "I was hoping for a penalty, but I took a last stab at it."
Despite trimming the lead to two goals, the Snakes could get no closer.
The Snakes play seven of their remaining 12 games at home, including a rare three consecutive home games in early March. An earlier contest against Louisiana was postponed due to a winter storm that hit the state, making travel to Columbus impossible. The game was rescheduled to Thursday, March 6 and the opponent changed to Fayetteville.
The Snakes have another three-game weekend starting Thursday in Biloxi against the Mississippi Surge, followed by two home games against the Surge and RiverKings on Friday and Saturday. Game time for the home games is 7:30.
Mississippi RiverKings 0 3 1--4
Columbus 0 0 2--2
First period--None. Penalties--Smyth, Mississippi (roughing) 14:07; Arcibal, Columbus (hooking) 15:59.
Second period--1, Mississippi, Hosmer (Mantha, Whitehead) 14:23 PPG; 2, Mississippi Jones (Harrington, Sobotka) 14:44; 3, Mississippi, Mantha (Harrington) 18:15 SHG. Penalties--Sheldrake, Mississippi (elbowing) 3:18; Smyth, Mississippi (high-sticking) 8:47; Randazzo, Mississippi (roughing) 8:57; Allan, Columbus (slashing) 9:57; Gallant, Columbus (boarding) 12:48; Smyth, Mississippi (hooking) 16:27.
Third period--4, Mississippi, Jones (Gallimore) 7:19; 5, Columbus, Allan (Willigar, Shupe) 8:48 PPG; 6, Columbus, Switzer (Bowles) 17:40. Penalties--Willigar, Columbus (roughing) 4:22; Jones, Mississippi (roughing) 4:22; Allan, Columbus (hooking) 5:05; Harrington, Mississippi (hooking) 7:59; Clancy, Mississippi (hooking) 8:58.
Shots on goal--Mississippi 18 11 10 --39
Columbus 5 18 16 --39
Power plays--Mississippi 1 of 3; Columbus 1 of 6.
Goaltenders: Martinu (loss) 59:10 39 35 4; Krahn (win) 60:00 39 37 2.
Referee: MacDougall. Linesmen: Madsen, Meacham.