Columbus Cottonmouths goaltender Andrew Loewen slammed the door on the visiting Bloomington Thunder before 3239 at the Columbus Civic Center on Friday night.
Loewen and the Snakes posted a 2-0 shutout victory in Game 1 of their weekend doubleheader. The series finale between the two teams is tonight at 7:30.
The shutout was Loewen's fifth of the season, and second in a row at home. The fourth-year pro set both a Columbus record and career high. Loewen broke the record of four shutouts in a season set by Frankie Ouellette. Loewen's shutout streak has now reached 131:07 over three games.
"We're playing well right now but we're still not perfect," Loewen said. "We know we can be better. We just have to play focused. Tonight two goals was enough. Last night we needed five. That's just the way it works out."
Captain Kyle Johnson and his defensive corps provided plenty of support for Loewen.
"The first couple of periods we played good team defense," Johnson said. "We let in five last night, which we weren't happy about. Andrew made some huge saves in the third period."
Neilsson Arcibal provided all of the offense the Snakes needed, scoring twice in the second period. His linemates Preston Shupe and Steve Mele assisted on both goals.
"We've worked hard trying to do the little things," Arcibal said. "When we got the two-goal lead, everyone kept trying for the third one. We kept pressing and stuck with the game plan. Neither of them were pretty goals. We just kept working."
Arcibal's first goal came from a difficult angle and the second was a heads-up play on his part. Goaltender B.J. O'Brien thought he'd stopped the puck, but it was just sitting in the crease. Arcibal reached out and tapped it in. The two goals came in a 5:18 span of the second period.
Arcibal has chipped in 11 points over the last 10 games, three goals and eight assists.
The Thunder came out aggressively in the first period, a strategy that the Snakes anticipated.
"That's how they play," Arcibal said. "They run around and run themselves out of position. We concentrate on trying to do the little things."
The Snakes sit in seventh place in the SPHL standings with seven games to play. After tonight's rematch, they have three more at home and three on the road. The gap between the Snakes and ninth-place Fayetteville has stretched to 12 points. Columbus has a 13-point lead over last-place Bloomington.
The Snakes are in pursuit of at least fourth place, which would give them home ice advantage in the first round. Currently they are only five points out of fourth place. The Mississippi RiverKings, Tuesday night's opponent, and Peoria are tied for fourth.
Bloomington 0 0 0--0
Columbus 0 2 0--2
First period--None. Penalties--Aide, Columbus (instigator, fighting) 5:27; Watson, Bloomington (fighting) 5:27; Bremner, Columbus (cross-checking) 9:06; Granbois, Bloomington (roughing) 17:42; Bremner, Columbus (roughing) 17:42; Watson, Bloomington (tripping) 17:42.
Second period--1, C olumbus, Arcibal (Shupe, Mele) 3:01; 2, Columbus, Arcibal (Mele) 8:19. Penalties--Gallant, Columbus (roughing, tripping) 8:03; Mitchell, Bloomington (roughing double minor) 8:03; Gallant, Columbus (fighting, equipment violation) 12:36; Mitchell, Bloomington (fighting, equipment violation) 12:36; Cintala, Bloomington (tripping) 14:09; Mahesh, Bloomington (tripping) 15:04; Hew, Bloomington (holding) 18:45.
Third period--None. Penalty--Willigar, Columbus (slashing) 3:59.
Shots on goal: Bloomington 7 8 21--36
Columbus 10 23 11--44
Goaltenders: Loewen (win) 60:00 36 36 0; O'Brien (loss) 58:40 44 42 2.
Power plays: Bloomington 0 of 3; Columbus 0 of 4
Referee: Sheehan. Linesmen: Kuerston, Winkler.