Hi, Snakes fans!! Hope all of you are a lot more wide awake than I am right now. What a night...
Lindsey and I left town around 12:30. So disappointed that her friend and colleague Whitney couldn't go with us. Missed you, Whitney!! We started out with Chick-fil-a on wheels, so right away the trip was off to a good start.
We had absolutely no problems with the trip, thanks to her GPS and backups from my pal Dana and mapquest...haha.
We got to the rink pretty early, even for me. Ya'all know how stressed I was about this trip. Not just missing all the comforts of home, but the simple things in life, like a seat and place to work. Got the word from my editor earlier in the week that my game story was going on-line only. Usually a disappointment, but such a relief in this case!! With an 8:30 eastern start, next to impossible to make a 10:45 deadline. Yikes.
We were greeted by GM Kevin Walker and his assistant Ashley Balch, neither of whom I'd ever met. Also welcomed by owner Keith Jeffries, who is a regular at the Snake Pit when the Havoc come here. Here is the time for the plain, unvarnished truth as only yours truly can tell it...
Ya'all know I whined, moaned and complained (feel free to insert your own verb here) about this situation. Hosting a playoff game in a practice facility doesn't exactly conjure up images of the professionalism that the SPHL tries so hard to achieve. When I heard things like they hoped I'd have a place to STAND, then talk of my climbing up a ladder to watch from a platform...I was more than a little concerned.
But I have to tell you...the front office staff from Huntsville did absolutely the best job they could under hideous conditions. Keith told me that the rodeo was coming to Huntsville and taking over the Von Braun Center. It was a question of WHEN, not IF. His choices were a regular weekend in February or a playoff weekend in late March. Financially speaking, March was better.
That said, the Havoc fan base turned on its team. The word I got is that they were steamed with not only the game location, but the general admission seating. For $12 you could purchase a GA ticket. For $20 you could sit by the glass in a tall chair, which is where I sat.
The announced attendance was 526, way under all estimates I heard for the building's capacity. I heard 700, 1000, 1200. Anyway, you do the math. There were plenty of empty seats and I think that's sad.
It was funny when they opened the doors, the Havoc faithful filed in and immediately began filling up the back row of bleachers. A policeman told me they had 1,000 for high school hockey, which I find hard to believe, but he was wearing a gun and I have a personal policy of not challenging anyone who's armed. This was the same gentleman who asked me if I was sure I'd have access to the Snakes' lockerroom area. I said...yes, pretty sure. :)
The seats they reserved for Lindsey and me were perfect and afforded me a view of the game I rarely have. In Knoxville, I'm usually seated at a table, raised a few feet off the floor, near the Zamboni entrance. Here we were on the floor to the goalie's right. A great view of one goal. The other is pretty much in another zip code...haha. Took some getting used to, but we enjoyed it.
We were seated near Wanda and Shelby Amos and their crew. For a while, there was talk of us flying to the game with the Amos contingent. Dashed Lin's hopes there. Major ethics violation that wouldn't fly, no pun intended, with my editor or his bosses. But a nice idea...:)
Not only was I treated to a rinkside seat, but the building had wireless internet after all. Was given a quiet place to write and the internet worked. YAY.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank the Havoc for their hospitality. I appreciate all you did to make us feel welcome and help me do my job!!
Now, to the game...A scoreless first, which I considered a plus for the Snakes, who had bus legs in a strange place, while the Havoc was fresh and in a barn in which they practice every day. Two PP opportunities in the first for the Snakes and one for the Havoc. Shots nearly even with Columbus ahead 12-10.
Sammy got things started with a shortie early in the second. As he described in my story today (which ya'all better have already read) it was a surprise to all, even him! The boards there encourage weird bounces and Sam got one. 1-0 Snakes.
The building went deathly quiet as the light went on. Lindsey, the Amos group, Ellie and Jessica were hollering and squealing and, despite, being vastly outnumbered, could actually be heard. Wow.
The first of several gut checks for the Snakes came just over a minute later when the Havoc scored a PPG. Tied 1-1. Brett put the Cottonmouths ahead 2-1 at the 11:29 mark, setting the stage for the funniest moment of the night.
A slow-motion pass came right to Mitch. I mean...right to him. The whole building let out a collective gasp. So it's Mitch racing...well, not exactly racing...haha...on a breakaway against the league's best goalie in the regular season. He shoots...he scores. Silence more deafening than last time. Snakes up 3-1.
Randy Murphy called a timeout shortly there after, but still lots of hockey to play. Sure enough, the Havoc answer with a PPG of their own and it's one-goal game with over half a period to play. Sammy scores on a PPG of his own for a little breathing room and a 4-2 win.
Honestly compels me to report that the Snakes outhit and outplayed the Havoc in a situation in which the roles could have easily been reversed. It was a great game and huge victory.
Game 2 gives the Cottonmouths the opportunity to display the consistency that has been lacking so many times this season. They can show all of us that they've peaked at exactly the right time. We're always fussing about their inability to play 60 minutes of hockey. They did last night and easily handled the Havoc in their own mini-building.
Personally, I'll be glad to be back in my own little seat in my own section though will miss Joe and Miss Flit terribly. Only a family gathering would keep these faithful fans from a Snakes playoff game. Ya'all will have to cheer for them!
Big step for the guys tomorrow night. Can they win a playoff series for the first time since April of 2005?