Fresh off a weekend sweep of Fayetteville, the Snakes launch the last month of the season. Fasten your seat belts, Snakes fans. It's going to be a wild ride!
I see Louisiana as the wild card in the playoff scenario. The IceGators are firmly in last place, thanks to their horrendous 20-game losing streak earlier in the season, but they can still significantly impact the playoff seedings.
The Snakes face Louisiana three more times this season, in LA on Thursday night and back at the Snake Pit on March 18 and 26. The IceGators are a much-improved team and there's no way the Snakes can automatically count on these games in the W column. A fine example is the Gators' 5-2 win on Feb. 18.
The IceGators also face Pensacola twice and Mississippi twice. Mississippi is in first place and Pensacola fourth...at this moment. The Snakes were tied with Pensacola for about an hour last night...haha. That's how volatile the standings are right now.
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Every single game on last night's SPHL schedule was decided by one or two goals. The fourth-place team was in a dogfight with the last-place team. Knoxville threatened to bring home a three-game road win streak over the top two teams. The Knoxville-Mississippi game featured three goals scored in the last 2:54 of regulation and the game-winner in OT. Wow.
Because Mississippi pulled out a win, the Snakes have a LITTLE breathing room--temporarily-- as far as actually making the playoffs is concerned. Knoxville is four points behind the Snakes and in sixth place for now. But their performance on the road this weekend...four out of six points against top tier teams...puts the rest of the league on notice. Mike Craigen was one of the league's fiercest competitors as a player and now apparently as a coach too. No way he's not going to pull out all the stops to climb the SPHL ladder.
As of this very minute, the Snakes are sitting alone in fifth place. That doesn't sound so great, so let's try to phrase it another way: The Snakes are six points out of second place. Yikes. That time of year is here, fans. Time to check the standings each and every night!!
Even though I love this time of year hockey-wise and excitement-wise, it's the busiest time and most stressful time for me. With the Snakes at home every single weekend in March, I have no less than five features/news stories planned for this month. In case you're worried that I can't count, that's one per weekend and a special bonus feature spotlightling the Children's Miracle Network and the upcoming Snake Eyes event.
The Snakes better get busy, too. So good to see Sammy and Daryl back in the swing of things. The two of them, plus Jesse and Brett, will need to put up some big numbers during the stretch run. Every goal will count.
Wish the Snakes didn't have to do without Dave for this important part of the season. His absence really impacts the defense. Good that Jeff was able to come back.
What a great weekend for the goalies. Ian and Andrew only giving up one goal each is impressive, especially since Fayetteville became a desperate team over the course of the weekend. Even their announcers were slamming their effort and performance. The Antz really needed to win at least one of those two games...and didn't. They managed only 29 SOG on both Friday and Saturday nights.
The Snakes' scoring race also heated up this weekend. Sam took the lead with 37 points and Jesse is right behind with 36. Brett and Daryl have 32 each. Keep an eye on Matt and Jordan with 27. Top scoring defensemen are Kyle and Bret with 22 points each.
Two key players in the stretch run, whose contributions don't always show up in the numbers, are Orrin and Levi. Both have the ability to break open a game doing the things that result in points for others.
So excited about the upcoming month of hockey!!