The Columbus Cottonmouths open the 2011 Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs in Huntsville on Thursday night.
It is the best possible matchup for the Snakes, though the conditions will be less than ideal. Game 1 — and 3, if necessary — will be played in Huntsville with Game 2 at the Columbus Civic Center.
The series opens on Thursday night at the Wilcoxon Ice Complex at 8:30 p.m. and returns for a 7:30 contest inColumbus on Saturday. No date or time was announced for Game 3.
By virtue of their third-place finish, the Havoc earned the right to home ice advantage for the series against the fourth-seeded Snakes. Unfortunately for the Havoc and Snakes, as well as their fans and families, their regular venue is booked. A rodeo has displaced the team from the Von Braun Center for round one, leaving Huntsville’s large season ticket base out in the cold.
Instead, Wilcoxon, which is a public ice skating rink, will host the Snakes-Havoc for the opening round. Estimates range from 600-1,000 seats available for spectators. Hasty arrangements to wire the building for the AmericaOne web broadcast of the games are being considered.
Tickets will go on sale for Huntsville season ticket holders on Wednesday morning. If any tickets remain, they will be opened up to the general public at 2 o’clock, central time, on Thursday, the day of the game. Seating is general admission only, according to the Havoc’s website.
Cottonmouths leading scorer Jesse Cole was fresh off celebration of his hat trick and the Snakes’ resounding 6-3 victory over Louisiana on Saturday night when his thoughts turned to the playoffs. Cole’s parents have made several trips to Columbus this season and are poised to return for the playoffs.
Now Cole faces his folks making the 1,900-mile round trip to see only one game.
“I guess I could just leave them in my apartment to watch the first game on the web,” Cole said, before discovering that thegame may not be broadcast.
Huntsville edged Columbus by only two points to grab the coveted third seed. The Havoc won 30 games this season to 29 for the Snakes.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout the year, with the Cottonmouths putting the puck in the net 169 times, to 168 for the Havoc, lowest totals in the league.
Both teams feature strong goaltending and sturdy defenses. Goalies Mark Sibbald and Dan McWhinney finished second and seventh among the league’s goalies, while Ian Vigier and Andrew Loewen came in sixth and tenth. The difference between Sibbald and Vigier in goals-against average is only .28 and in save percentage only .06, with Sibbald holding the slight advantage in each category.