The Columbus Cottonmouths and Mississippi Surge played a close contest on Thursday night in Biloxi in game one of their weekend series, with the Snakes posting a 5-3 win.
In the rematch at the Columbus Civic Center on Friday night, Matt Gingera defeated the Surge 6-5 in overtime.
Gingera scored a career-high five goals to pace the Snakes, as the home team has suddenly been bitten by the injury bug. Rookie Tory Allan and his 36 points were in street clothes, awaiting evaluation of an injury which could be season-ending. Gingera stepped up to score his third hat trick, plus two goals, in five games.
"Tory's injury puts a lot more pressure on the offense," Gingera said. "Guys had to bear down. Now we have to all try to stay healthy."
Defenseman Chris Bailer was also on the sidelines, having been placed on the 30-day injured reserve list. Dan Bremner saw limited playing time and veteran defenseman Tom Maldonado was hurt midway through the second period and did not return to action.
Gingera put the team on his back and carried the Cottonmouths and rookie goaltender Curtis Martinu to a crucial win. He'd scored five goals only once before.
"It was in midgets," Gingera laughed. "I was about 13. But that time the game was a blowout, not overtime."
Seth Ronsberg scored his first professional goal to open the scoring, the highlight of a dismal season. Ronsberg was making only his second appearance in the Snake Pit. He was injured in the home opener on Oct. 26 and spent the year recovering.
"It was a long wait," Ronsberg said. "This has been a tough recovery but I'd been looking forward to coming back and scoring the first one. My linemates set me up. All I had to do was wait for the rebound."
After Ronsberg's goal at the 5:53 mark of the opening period, it was all Gingera. The second-year pro scored two of his goals on the power play. He scored once in the first period, twice in the second, once in the third and the game winner in overtime.
Martinu was playing in his fourth game since taking over when Travis Bosch left for Denver of the Central Hockey League. He was 0-2-1 in the previous three games.
With the game headed to overtime, Martinu wasn't satisfied with the Cottonmouths gaining just one point.
"I was thinking that we've got to win this one," Martinu said. "Thanks to Matt Gingera, but it was a team effort. It feels great to get my first pro win, but it was a battle."
The seesaw battle saw the Snakes take the lead four times, only to see the Surge battle back. The home team led 1-0, 2-1, 4-2 and 5-4. Former Cottonmouth Mark Thorburn tied it 5-5 midway through the third period.
In overtime, which the teams skate three-on-three, Gingera, Sam Bowles and Jason Gray took the ice first.
"I had three chances to score on my first shift in overtime," Gingera said. "The next time, Sam gave me the puck and I was able to get it done."
The win puts a little distance between the Snakes and ninth-place Fayetteville. With the top eight teams making the playoffs, the Snakes are now six points ahead of the FireAntz and nine points ahead of las-place Bloomington.
Seventh-place Knoxville is only one point ahead of the Cottonmouths and the Surge are in sixth place, two points in front of the Cottonmouths.
The Snakes have now captured four points this weekend. Saturday night, the Mississippi RiverKings come to town. Game time is 7:30.
Mississippi Surge 2 1 2 0--5
Columbus 2 2 1 1--6
First period--1, Columbus, Ronsberg (Aide) 5:53; 2, Mississippi, Baker (Kudroch, Vandehogen) 11:36 PPG; 3, Columbus, Gingera (Martinu) 16:21 PPG; 4, Mississippi, Vandehogen (Baker, Boots) 18:19. Penalties--Switzer, Columbus (hooking) 9:40; Peddle, Mississippi (hooking) 15:25.
Second period--5, Columbus, Gingera (Draper) 2:11; 6, Columbus, Gingera (Maldonado) 3:14; 7, Mississippi, Thorburn (Peddle, Barber) 14:13. Penalties--Thorburn, Mississippi (hooking) 2:24; Ronsberg, Columbus (interference) 16:51; Draper, Columbus (roughing) 20:00; Peterson, Mississippi (roughing) 20:00.
Third period--8, Mississippi, Peddle (Craig) :41; 9, Columbus, Gingera (Johnson, Draper) 5:01; 10, Mississippi, Thorburn (Peddle) 10:35 PPG.
Overtime--11, Columbus, Gingera (Bowles). Penalties--None.
Shots on goal: Mississippi 14 8 7 0 --29
Columbus 17 13 9 5 --44
Goaltenders: Martinu (win) 63:09 29 24 5; Dugas (loss) 63:09 44 38 6.
Power plays: Columbus 2 of 4; Mississippi 2 of 5.
Referee: Sheehan. Linesmen: Kuerston, Rawn.
Time: 2:29. Attendance: 2379