The Columbus Cottonmouths dropped a 4-1 decision to visiting Huntsville in the first of two exhibition games scheduled between the two clubs.
The second exhibition will be in Huntsville on Tuesday night. The Havoc return to Columbus to open the regular season on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Columbus coach Jerome Bechard watched his troops from the stands while assistant coaches Barry Dreger and Geoff Beauparlant directed the action on the bench.
Bechard evaluated each phase of the game, beginning with goaltender Chad Rycroft.
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“Chad was phenomenal,” Bechard said. “He made three or four big stops in the first period. Positionally he was great. His angles were great.”
Rycroft returned to the Snakes after a year working in his native Canada. He was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd of 1,388 in attendance.
The defense is expected to be much improved this year but got off to a slow start.
“We did a lot of standing around, not moving our feet,” Bechard said. “We were not reading, reacting or anticipating plays. I think they were a little too eager to hit, to be very physical. We took ourselves out of plays chasing hits.”
Defenseman Mat Ponto returned from a year in Europe to add experience to the blue line. Rookie Lance Smith is another newcomer on defense.
“Not one line played the whole game,” Bechard said. “We were throwing all combinations of lines out there, so the forwards were never in sync. Orrin (Hergott) was a bright spot. He is electrifying out there but he also showed a lot of composure.”
Bechard also addressed other factors.
“A lot of the guys haven't skated all summer long and they were gassed at the end,” Bechard said. “When you get tired you make lazy mistakes. We're not in game shape. We haven't hit people or had people leaning on you. It's a matter of getting everybody on the same page.”
The Havoc scored three of their four goals on the power play, but Bechard wasn't entirely displeased with the penalty kill.
“We got some bad bounces and the third goal went in off a skate,” he said.
Hergott scored the lone Snakes goal with an assist going to Lorne Misita.
The Snakes were outshot 33-18.
Note: Pensacola, Fla., television station WEAR reported Thursday that Bechard was seeking to relocate the Cottonmouths to that town.
“Obviously, I've been in contact with the people in charge of the lease at the facility in Pensacola,” he said. “I was acting on behalf of the SPHL as Chairman of the Board. We're trying to set up negotiations to put a team there, but not the Columbus Cottonmouths.”