The Columbus Cottonmouths had a simple game plan in their elimination game against Peoria in the opening round of the Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs.
The Snakes checked every item on their list in cruising to a 6-1 victory over the Rivermen.
The series is now tied at one game apiece. Both teams hopped on the bus after the game for the 15-hour bus trip. The deciding third game will be played at the Peoria Civic Center at 6:15 on Sunday evening.
The Snakes set out to score first, achieve balanced scoring, play a physical contest and win the special teams battle. They accomplished each goal in their best effort of the season.
The Cottonmouths put four goals up by the 6:49 mark of the second period, chasing goaltender Kyle Rank from the net. Rank, leading candidate for the league's goaltender of the year honors, hasn't been pulled from a game in 33 regular-season starts this season.
The Snakes got on the board first when newcomer Shayne Stockton got his first professional goal on the power play and staked the Snakes to a 1-0 lead.
"We were on the power play and were in and out of the zone," Stockton said. "Levi (Lind) took it wide. I was just kind of whacking at it and it went in."
Stockton was playing in only his fourth game as a Cottonmouth, joining the team in time for the final road trip of the regular season.
Snakes leading scorer Matt Gingera was just as happy as Stockton to see the puck cross the line.
"We definitely needed the first goal," Gingera said. "We've not scored a goal in the playoffs since I've been here."
Stockton's goal broke a playoff scoring drought of 190:50.
The last goal scored before Stockton lit the lamp was John Sullivan's empty netter with 28 seconds left in Pensacola on April 14, 2012, when Columbus won its second President's Cup.
The Snakes scored on their second straight power play at the 19:05 mark of the opening period when Neilsson Arcibal deflected a Preston Shupe shot into the net. The Snakes took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The next two goals were crucial. The Rivermen scored only 27 seconds into the second period, cutting the Cottonmouths lead in half. But Jordan Draper answered only 13 seconds later to extend the lead to two goals again.
"Our line wanted to contribute since the other line had two goals," Draper said. "I just decided to go to the net and got a lucky bounce. We scored first, got the lead, got good goaltending and won the special teams battle."
Gingera also noted the stellar play of the team's checking line of Levi Lind, Alex Gallant, Will Aide and Dan Bremner.
"It was a huge game for the bangers," Gingera said. "Levi Lind had a heck of a game. Everybody was chipping in."
The Rivermen played most of the game without their star rookie forward Garrett Vermeersch.
Peoria 0 1 0--1
Columbus 2 4 0--6
First period--1, Columbus, Stockton (Lind) 10:22 PPG; 2, Columbus, Arcibal (Shupe, Willigar) 19:05. Penalties--Hartley, Peoria (high-sticking) 9:54, Greene, Peoria (slashing) 17:50; Bremner, Columbus (hooking) 19:41.
Second period--3, Peoria, Stanfield (unassisted) :27; 4, Columbus, Draper (unassisted) :40; 5, Columbus, Lind (Gallant, Switzer) 6:49; 6, Columbus, Gingera (Draper) 12:42; 7, Columbus, Gingera (Johnson, Bowles) 18:05. Penalties--Gallant, Columbus (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:49; Rush, Peoria (roughing) 6:49; Switzer, Columbus (tripping) 16:47; Larsen, Peoria (roughing) 17:40.
Third period--None. Penalties--Gallant, Columbus (checking from behind major, game misconduct, fighting) :37; Watson, Peoria (fighting) :37; Johnson, Columbus (tripping) 3:31; Switzer, Columbus (fighting) 13:21; Gingera, Columbus (slashing) 13:21; Ruwe, Peoria (fighting, slashing) 13:21.
Power plays: Columbus 2 of 3; Peoria 1 of 5.
Shots on goal: Peoria 10 14 10 --34
Columbus 15 19 11 --45
Goaltenders: Loewen (win) 60:00 34 33 1; Rank (loss) 26:49 23 19 4; Carr 33:11 22 22 2.
Referees: Howard, Sheehan. Linesmen: Rawn, Winkler.