Hi, Snakes Fans!
Hope ya'all don't think I abandoned you. You'd think without hockey at the Pit, I'd have tons of free time, right? Sorry...doesn't work that way! In between my job at CSU, a quick trip to Atlanta for a baby shower, finding out I need a crown...a strange week. But, all that aside, it's time for one of the biggest weekends of the season so far...if not THE biggest.
The guys embark on a long, long, long road trip. Knoxville, Augusta, Fayetteville. All three teams are bunched around the Snakes in the standings, so this three-game series could cause the leaderboard to change drastically.
As of this moment, it looks like this: Augusta 40, Snakes 36, Knoxville 34 and Fayetteville. There's another game tonight which won't impact this chunk of the standings. Pensacola-Louisiana matches up a top team with the bottom one. So all eyes will be on the Snakes-Ice Bears contest tonight.
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The Cottonmouths are pretty shorthanded right now, missing two key forwards and one defenseman. Sammy has a doctor's appointment this afternoon and, coincidentally, he and I are sitting down right afterward for an interview for a future story. So I'll give ya'all Dr. Flandry's view on Sam's progress later today. I haven't spoken to Daryl since right after he got hurt. Will try to catch up with him as well.
Not as critical is Jeff's promotion to the CHL. Good for Jeff! That still leaves the team with Bret, Dave, Tom, Kyle, Will and Brody, a full slate of D-men.
Also on the positive side is the Snakes' road record this season, which is excellent when you compare it with last season. Right now, they're 8-10 on the road and 18-18 overall. Last season, they won only 5 on the road all season long!
More good news is that, of their 8 road wins, 2 have come in Knoxville and 2 in Fayetteville. Bad news (didn't you know that was coming?) is that the Cottonmouths are 0-3 in Augusta. A great time for their first W.
Does that mean that the Snakes don't have a legitimate chance for a road sweep this weekend? Of course it doesn't. They tend to play better when challenged. Since Sam and Daryl went down, other guys have stepped up. It's been really fun to watch Jordan, Mitch and Matt take on more responsibility for putting the puck in the net. Also, Pete is always a threat to score these days.
Don't forget Jesse and Brett. Jesse is one of the hardest-working guys out there. The last few games I've taken my eye off the puck, which is pretty dangerous in a game that moves so fast, and watched Jesse. He just never gives up on the play. He digs and digs and digs as long as the puck is in the opponent's zone. Watch him when the guys come home next weekend.
Brett is one of the most mature guys on the team. Very level-headed with a threat to score at any time. Since he's not as flashy as some, you might not notice how well he plays. Look for Brett to light the lamp on this series.
Another wild card is Levi. He's back on the top line with Brett and Jesse. Wouldn't it be amazing if Levi started scoring...not just occasionally, but a couple of points per night? My advice to Jesse, which he hasn't asked for, by the way...haha...would be to SHOOT the puck more!! It will have a much better chance of going in. :)
Finally, Orrin is having a great year...except on the scoreboard. He's flying around like the Orrin of old. He's always been a streaky player, so maybe he's planning on a big road trip. He's always a threat to score because he's so evasive that other teams still have a hard time figuring out where he'd headed!!
You notice I'm not mentioning the D or the goalies much. I think they're solid and improving every day. If the Snakes score 3 goals a game, they're in a good position to win. Should they score more than 3? Definitely, 4 or more is preferred. But if Ian and Andrew get a clear view of the puck, which the D usually gives them, they won't let in more than a couple. Personally, I prefer the games in which they score 6+ goals, but on a three-in-three, am not holding my breath.
This weekend should give us all an indication of two things. One, have they cured their road ills once and for all? Secondly, how badly do they really miss Sammy and Daryl?