Pensacola blows game open in third period
By KATHY GIERER
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
PENSACOLA, Fla. -- The Columbus Cottonmouths fell behind in their first-round playoff series against Peoria but rebounded to finish off the Rivermen and sweep the Huntsville Havoc.
Now the Snakes are desperate for a victory over Pensacola to keep their SPHL championship hopes alive.
The Cottonmouths were mauled by top-seeded Pensacola 9-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals at the Pensacola Bay Center.
Game 2 is at 7:30 on Saturday night at the Columbus Civic Center. If the Snakes win on Saturday, the third and deciding game will be back in Pensacola at 7:05 on Sunday.
The Snakes struggled from the outset, digging themselves a deep hole in the first 2:36 of the game. The Ice Flyers ended their first rush with a shot wide of Cottonmouths goaltender Andrew Loewen. But the Snakes couldn't clear the puck out of their zone. When the game was only 31 seconds old, Ryan Salvis scored on a deflection and Pensacola led 1-0.
Columbus' troubles continued. A Snakes turnover near their blue line gave Pensacola possession and Brett Lutes scored at the 1:41 mark. The large, festive crowd was delirious as the home team posted a 2-0 lead before the fans were settled into their seats.
Pensacola wasn't finished. Their first-period scoring barrage continued. It was Salvis again, scoring at the 2:36 mark to give Pensacola a commanding 3-0 lead.
Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard immediately burned his timeout to settle
the Snakes. Loewen, who entered the game having given up only six goals in five playoff games, had yielded three on the Ice Flyers' first three shots on goals. Defensive lapses and a turnover put the Cottonmouths in a deep hole.
Though the first period ended scoreless for the Snakes, they peppered Pensacola goalie Ross MacKinnon with 12 shots to only seven for the Ice Flyers. After scoring on their first three shots, Loewen didn't see another one until the 9:00 mark and only a total of seven for the period.
The Cottonmouths trimmed the lead to two at the 1:56 mark of the second period. Alex Gallant put a perfect pass on Will Aide's stick. Aide directed it toward the net and the puck dribbled in, getting the Snakes on the board. By this time, the Snakes defense and Loewen had settled in. The game featured a great deal of back-and-forth action and good scoring chances for both teams.
Then the wheels came off for the Cottonmouths. The Ice Flyers scored three times in 8:47, chasing Loewen from the net for the first time this season. Shannon Szabados took her place in goal at the 16:55 mark of the second period with the Snakes trailing 6-1.
The Ice Flyers extended their lead to 7-1 on a power play goal early in the third period. With Tom Maldonado in the box for slashing, Lutes scored his second goal of the evening.
The Cottonmouths' misery continued in the third as Pensacola scored a pair of goals only 33 seconds apart. With 10 minutes left in the contest, Columbus trailed 9-1.