Dreams of a sweep are over, but can the Snakes salvage a split with the Surge tonight?
Not if they don't come out with the drop of the first puck and dictate the style and tempo of play. History has shown that once the Cottonmouths let other teams decide how the contest is going to go, it takes, almost to the minute, half of the game for them to right the ship. If, as happened last night, they're behind by more than a couple goals, it's over.
We should have all known that things weren't going to turn out well when the home team managed ONE shot on goal in the first eight minutes of play. One. Not that Mississippi had many more and the Snakes had an early penalty on Pete that they had to kill. But, still...one SOG won't win games, especially against the first-place team.
Great defensive play by Brody in stopping a Beeman breakaway right after the first Snakes PP failed. Versteeg-Lytwyn, who was inexplicably let go by Tommy Stewart in Fayetteville as desperation sets in there, went five-hole on Ian and the Surge led 1-0.
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I don't know about you, but I'm never concerned with a one-goal deficit. Not even when it was 2-0 was it time to locate the white flag. The Snakes can score in the blink of an eye...so I waited for the offense to get rid of its car legs (no bus legs for the home team).
At the end of one, it's 1-0 and anybody's game. Lots of hope for the home faithful (a surprisingly small crowd of 2156) as the second period has been the Snakes' strongest this season. In the second, the Snakes have a 58-45 advantage over their opponents. Great, right? Well, the Surge's performance is nearly identical...58-46. Which one would prevail?
We all know the answer to that question. The Surge scores a second goal...on seven shots. Like those numbers if you're a Mississippi fan. A nifty wrap-around, wide-angle shot on the power play. 2-0 at the 7:46 mark.
A hockey game is filled with scores of key moments, but I look back on Will's penalty as one of the big ones. I had a clear view of it. It was not in a crowd, but Will and a lone Surge player on whom he put what looked to me as a simple, effective hip check. Will called it "finishing his check" but the ref called it interference and put Will in the box. It was one of those borderline calls that ended up being very costly to the Snakes.
Right before the PK, Jerome took advantage of a media timeout to give his troops instructions in a very animated manner. It didn't work. Took only 31 seconds for the Surge to score a PPG and take a huge 3-0 lead.
The fourth goal was the result of the Snakes filling the penalty box. Matt took a charging call. Kyle was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct, though it could have easily been delay of game as Kyle and Pete kept chirping at Chambers. It seemed all night that several Snakes players wanted to go with Chambers, but either his coach held him back or he declined.
Anyway, Kyle kept skating around barking at and challenging anybody and everybody. Finally, the ref gave him two minutes as well. Then things got REALLY interesting...
I hear the crowd react and look down at the bench. Jerome is standing on top of the boards at the edge of the Snakes bench, leaning around the glass and hollering at Steffon Walby, the Surge coach, who is returning fire. At this point, I'm thinking...please, Jerome...all hell will break loose and it will cost you big-time if you take this a step further. But Jerome is as calculated as a coach as he was as a player. No way he's going to risk life and limb, not to mention a brawl, by going into the Surge bench. That would be way beyond ugly.
Well, with a five-on-three, it took Mississippi only one rush and seven seconds to build an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
Here's where the Snakes deserve a lot of credit. There was absolutely no energy left anywhere in that building, with the exception of the Surge bench. They had plenty and they should have. They were pouring it on a team who'd not lost at home in six weeks!! Ugh.
A couple of funny moments where no occasion for humor should have been found...after Woldemuth was whistled for a penalty, the Snakes sound man, my pal Dana Barker, played the Hallelujah Chorus...hahahaha. Good one, Dana!
I happen to know Chad Rycroft was NOT in the building, although his precious family was in attendance, including my buddies Tanner and Miller. Well, Chad was reincarnated in the person of Ian Vigier late in the second period.
Ya'all know how feisty Chad was in net, not hesitating to whack an opponent who got just a little too close. Normally, Ian is pretty laid back. Last night, Ian was shoving away at defenders in his crease. Go, Ian...haha.
Sorry, this is so late, Snakes fans, but the one thing that could interfere with my Snakes duties did just that. Out of the blue, my son Reese has a seizure this morning, so I've been Dr. Mom for a couple of hours. He's happily off to the movies with dad and will be first in line for his player cards tonight. Scary, but there are a lot of moms in this world that are dealing with a lot worse. Am thankful for the tiny challenges we have. A call to our awesome neurologist, adding a second anti-seizure med and my young man will be just fine. :)
Now, where was I? Oh, yes...the great comeback. Daryl has a talent for grabbing loose pucks, especially in the opponent's zone. He had a breakaway on Zaniboni and beat him...4-1.
At first we thought Bret scored the second goal on a looooong shot. Forgot to ask Jesse if it was a deflection. Either that or Miss Flit and I need to visit the eye doctor...haha. Somehow the puck found its way to the back of the net...a problem all evening. 4-2.
A patented Jesse-and-Sammy goal cut it to one. The building came to life and so did the Snakes. Yikes. Sam took the shot, Jesse was positioned at the corner of the net to bury the rebound. 4-3...new game. Plenty of time left, as 4:24 is an eternity in hockey.
True confession...I didn't see the fifth goal. Was trying to make my way downstairs and watch, but all I saw was Ian react...too late. A disappointing finish, but great comeback.
The comeback begs the question: what happens when the Snakes play 60 minutes of hockey against the Surge? I thought Jesse's quote was right on the mark: they can't use the first half of the weekend's first game as a wake-up call. I couldn't agree more.
Tonight the Snakes should come out on fire with something to prove. Pensacola is idle, so the Snakes have the chance to claim sole possession of fourth place and, depending on the outcome of the Huntsville-Augusta contest, creep to within two points of third. This is going to be an awesome last few weeks of the season, Snakes fans. Hang on and...