Well, Snakes fans, this is it. This is the moment you've been waiting for since April 1, 2005. The Cottonmouths have advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Step 1 has been taken care of in the team's sweep of Huntsville. A huge victory in that little rink. The win at home almost got away, but I have to tell you...I really wasn't worried. The non-goal by the Havoc notwithstanding, I thought there was no way the Snakes were going to lose that game.
Step 2 and we're all on the road to Augusta tomorrow. Winning up there would be even bigger than the W at the practice rink. A gigantic confidence builder for the Snakes.
The series win over Huntsville is over. No more time to celebrate. Augusta won't go down quite so easily. As Brett and Orrin told me recently, the Augusta team is so different than Huntsville. For one thing, the RiverHawks are more talented. They're definitely more physical. They've enjoyed a terrific inaugural season and they would love nothing more than to advance to the finals.
They may also be overconfident. Sure, they're seeded second for a reason. But they have only six more wins than the Cottonmouths. Six wins over the course of five-and-a-half months. The biggest factor in their possible overconfidence is the Snakes' miserable record vs the Hawks this season. It's awful. No question about it...only 2-7 with both of the wins coming at the Snake Pit. But that makes the Cottonmouths underdogs...and very hungry. We all know a hungry dog is dangerous.
The Cottonmouths are playing their best hockey of the season, but so is Augusta. The Hawks slipped below .500 on January 21. Their record at that time was 16-17. They finished the last two months of the season at a blistering pace...19-4. Pretty impressive no matter how you look at it!!
I also don't believe the Snakes are intimidated by Augusta. They are a team on a mission which is to go up there and steal game one, much like they did in Huntsville.
What's it going to take to accomplish this?
The big three have to stay hot. Jesse, Sammy and Brett are playing their best hockey and they need to continue. Jordan and Matt need to contribute like they did against Huntsville. How about another steal and breakaway for Mitch? Who will be the surprise hero? There always is one...Will it be Levi? How about Orrin? Maybe Pete or Daryl.
The biggest keys, in my opinion, are to limit turnovers...like maybe to ZERO and a strong defense. Tom and Dave, Bret and Will have anchored the D, especially late in game two against Huntsville. There's no margin for error tomorrow night. With the small neutral zone, preventing turnovers at both blue lines will be crucial.
The Snakes have to be willing to hit hard and often and to absorb the hits they know are coming.
Special teams must continue to be special. So far in the playoffs, the PP has converted three times out of 9 for a very healthy 33.33%. Only Mississippi's is better at 37.50%. The PK is in third place at 81.12%. Guess who leads the pack? Augusta has allowed only 2 PPG in 18 tries for an impressive 88.89%.
Obviously goaltending will be huge. During the Huntsville series, the D-men kept the lanes open and kept everything to the outside. As the goalies have told me a million times, if they can see the puck, they can stop it.
My guess is Ian will get the call tomorrow night. Am having visions of Chad during the 2005 playoffs. He played and won all five games, posting a miniscule 1.71 GAA. Yikes. Right now, Ian is 2-0 with a GAA of 3.00 and save percentage of .910. His numbers are a little inflated due to the late goals in game two.
Unlike the opener in Huntsville, this game will be available on AmericaOne. Hope you're able to tune in to the webcast or Mike Vee will have the call on the radio or internet.
Hope you enjoy the story I've done on Orrin and the Snakes' playoff and present. It will run tomorrow.
Lindsey and I hit the road early tomorrow afternoon!