The Columbus Cottonmouths were cruising toward a victory over the Augusta RiverHawks, and rookie goaltender Andrew Loewen had his first professional shutout in sight.
The Snakes posted a solid 4-1 win, but the shutout slipped away with only 72 seconds left to play.
Loewen sported his customary wide smile, tinged with a little disappointment and frustration.
"(Kyle) Lundale’s helmet had gotten knocked off and he was trying to get the puck out of the zone," Loewen said. "Their defenseman made a good play to keep it in. It was a hard, low shot and a great deflection that went five-hole."
Loewen was philosophical about the loss of the shutout.
"I’m happy with the game and the win,” Loewen said. "Most of the time we score four goals, we’ll win the game."
Forward Daryl Moore led the parade of Snakes scorers. A total of eight different players posted either a goal or an assist. Moore had a pair of goals and came close to a third.
Moore’s first goal came as the result of an Augusta turnover. He grabbed the loose puck behind the net and wrapped it around, beating RiverHawk goalie Jon Olthuis over his left shoulder.
Moore’s two goals were only 2:18 apart. Moore was in between the two faceoff circles when he ripped a shot past Olthuis giving the Snakes a 4-0 lead.
The Snakes posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season. They also avenged a 5-2 loss on the road in Augusta six days earlier.
"We were facing them on the road for the first time," Moore said. "The road effort isn’t the same. Right now we’re trying to put together a string of wins. We don’t want to dig ourselves too deep a hole. We want to get back to .500."
Thanksgiving victories by Columbus, Fayetteville, Mississippi and Pensacola produced a massive logjam in the SPHL standings. Huntsville is in first place with 16 points, followed by Mississippi and Pensacola with 14. The other five teams — Columbus, Augusta, Knoxville, Fayetteville and Louisiana — are tied with 10 points.
The Snakes head to Knoxville tonight. The small rink was the site of the lone Columbus road win, 5-1 on Nov. 6.
"We need to keep it simple up there," Moore said. "They’ve made changes to their roster. That rink is so small that any shot’s a good shot."
Lundale and Bowles also scored for Columbus. Chipping in assists were defenseman Bret Tyler and forwards Levi Lind, Jesse Cole, Brett Hammond and Brent Clarke.
The Snakes had twice as many power-play chances as the RiverHawks. They converted one of six tries. In one night, the power play slipped from second-best in the league to fourth. The penalty kill continues to shine, leading the league at 92.73 percent. The Snakes are the only team killing over 90 percent of their penalties.
Loewen and Ian Vigier each yielded only one goal in his last performance. The pair is now the league’s best tandem, occupying the number two and three slots. Only Huntsville’s Dan McWhinney has a lower goals-against average. McWhinney’s is 2.65. Loewen’s is 2.82 and Vigier’s 2.83.After Friday night’s game in Knoxville, the Snakes return home for a Saturday contest against Mississippi. Game time for both contests is 7:30.
Augusta 0 0 1—1Columbus 1 3 0—4First period—1, Columbus, Lundale (Clarke) 17:17. Penalties—Peters, Augusta (slashing) 13:05.Second period—2, Columbus, Bowles (Cole, Tyler) 11:23 PPG; 3, Columbus Moore (unassisted) 16:48; 4, Columbus, Moore (Hergott, Lind) 19:06. Penalties—MacDougall, Columbus (unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:20; Megginson, Augusta (unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:20; McGill, Augusta (holding) 9:26; MacDougall, Columbus (roughing) 12:52; McGill, Augusta (boarding, roughing) 12:52; Moore, Columbus (high-sticking) 13:50; MacDougall, Columbus (fighting, 10-minute misconduct) 19:09; McGill, Augusta (fighting) 19:09.Third period—5, Augusta, Holt (Megginson) 18:48. Penalties—Kosolofsky, Augusta (slashing) 4:03; Snetsinger, Augusta (high-sticking) 5:17; Moore, Columbus (interference) 8:05; Lucyk, Augusta (slashing) 9:59; Kinnunen, Columbus (roughing) 13:26; Price, Augusta (roughing) 13:26; Barlow, Columbus (roughing) 14:02; Auffrey, Augusta (slashing) 14:02; Bowles, Columbus (unsportsmanlike conduct; 10-minute misconduct) 14:02; Lundale, Columbus (roughing) 14:41; LaBelle, Augusta (roughing) 14:41.Shots on goal: Augusta 13-6-9—28; Columbus 14-16-8—38.Goaltenders: Loewen (win) 60:00, 28-27-1; Olthuis (loss) 60:00, 38-34-4.Power play: Augusta 0 of 3; Columbus 1 of 6.Referee: Pitoscia. Linesmen: Daisy, ArchambeaultTime: 2:31.Attendance: 2262.