It almost was entirely good news for the Columbus Cottonmouths as they completed a home-and-home series against the Knoxville Ice Bears in Knoxville on Sunday afternoon.
The only bad news in Sunday’s contest was the score. The Snakes dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to first-place Knoxville in their third game in three nights.
There is a list of positives to come out of the contest and the weekend slate. The Snakes picked up five of a possible six points and gained ground in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. Though they remain in sixth place, the resurgent Snakes are only four points out of a playoff spot and eight points out of second place.
Knoxville is 13 points ahead of Richmond and Huntsville. Fayetteville, Twin City and Columbus are bunched up in fourth, fifth and sixth places and separated by a total of only four points. Second place is now a realistic goal for the Snakes. A week ago, they seemed entrenched in the league’s basement.
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More good news for the Cottonmouths involves their power play. Though it is still worst in the league at 15.6 percent, the Snakes scored three power-play goals this weekend in 14 tries (21.4 percent).
Ian Vigier picked up a pair of victories Friday and Saturday nights at home. Chad Rycroft took his place in net for Sunday’s rematch. Rycroft was impressive in despite his statistics. He surrendered four goals, but one was on a Knoxville five-on-three and one came in overtime during the league’s three-on-three format.
The Snakes took a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Mike George on the power play and former Ice Bear Kyle Lundale. Knoxville responded with three unanswered goals, taking a 3-2 lead into the final period.
Columbus rallied. Tim Green, the team’s leading scorer, pushed the tying goal past Andrew Gallant at the 4:29 mark.
But the Ice Bears scored the game winner with only 14 seconds left in the extra period as Mike Carter completed the hat trick.
Next weekend, the Cottonmouths have another three-game set. Fayetteville comes in for a Thursday contest, followed by a home-and-home series against Huntsville Friday in Columbus and Saturday in Huntsville.