Let the celebration begin!! The Snakes advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since hoisting the cup almost exactly six years ago.
It was a solid series and a pair of great victories. The 5-4 final in tonight's game is a little deceiving as the fourth goal wasn't really a goal. I'd already made my way down to the ice in the final couple of minutes and was standing, literally, next to the goal judge and right behind Ian. The net was off...no goal. That's what I saw, but the ref vehemently signalled GOAL!!!! several times. All of a sudden it's a one-goal game with 1:33 left.
Let's back up a little. Randy Murphy started McWhinney in goal after he pretty much called Sibbald out for losing Thursday night's game. Yikes. To me, that was pretty surprising. Sibbald was the SPHL's goalie of the year and his number one guy all year. This was a do-or-die game and Sibbald is on the bench.
Billy McCreary and Sammy set the tone in pregame warms. You know Sam is always the last one on the ice. Always. As the horn sounded, Sam fired a shot down to the Havoc net. McCreary made a big show of stopping it. Game on...haha.
The Havoc came out like a desperate team...because they actually were a desperate team. They were hitting and playing at a pace that it would've been pretty tough to sustain for long. They jumped out to a 7-1 shot advantage and it took the Snakes 3:19 to get their first SOG.
The line of Daryl-Matt-Jordan was on fire. Daryl got things going with the Snakes' first goal on a deflection in front. Assists to Matt and Jordan. 1-0 after the first.
A turnover behind the net and it's tied. Just that quickly. But it didn't stay tied long. Matt took a pass from Will and brought the puck down the right side into the Huntsville zone. Matt whistled a one-timer past McWhinney and it's 2-1.
The Snakes were on the power play when Tom scored on a long shot, with assists from Bret and Jesse. The puck had eyes because Tom shot through traffic, from a step or two inside the blue line. Everybody...including Tom...was shocked that it made it all the way through!! 3-1 Snakes.
Brett's goal was one of the prettiest I've ever seen...wow. He and Sammy were coming in on McWhinney two-on-one. Would Brett pass it to Sam or shoot? He held onto it until the last possible second, drawing McWhinney out to play the puck. When McWhinney came out, Brett slipped in behind him and put the puck in the net. It was a thing of beauty.
Things are looking pretty good for the home team. A 4-1 lead with 20 minutes to play is not too shabby. But the Havoc came back, desperate to extend the series to a third game and force me to make another loooooong trip to Huntsville on Sunday. Ugh.
They cut it to two, 4-2, but Jordan put the lead back to three with another PPG. Huntsville scored again to make it 5-3. The disputed goal came next. Ian went nuts because he knew the net was off. Not to mention that it was now a one-goal game at 5-4. Yikes.
McWhinney must have felt like a yoyo. He first came out of the net with 2:04 left. He came back in after their fourth goal then went out with 1:09 left. Sammy missed the open net and McWhinney had to come back in once again because the faceoff was in their zone. He came out once more for the last few seconds.
The penalty kill was perfect on the night and the power play chipped in two.
The good news offensively is that the scoring was so balanced. The Daryl-Jordan-Matt line had six points. The Sammy-Brett-Jesse line had three points. The D contributed with Tom's goal and assists to Bret and Will. Levi had an assist also. The top line ruled on Thursday night. Daryl and the rookies dominated on Saturday.
The Snakes-Havoc series was the first one to finish. Pensacola and Augusta are tied at one game apiece with the deciding game today. The Snakes will face the winner of that series.
The long series between Knoxville and Mississippi is also tied at one apiece. Theirs is best-of-five so it will go on for a while.
Regardless of who the Snakes play, they are a team on a mission. This series win was great, but they have their sights set on a much bigger prize! :)