Sorry this is so late, Snakes fans. Getting a pretty late start this morning. Got home around 3:30 from a pretty disastrous night.
Started out great. The trip to Augusta is SO easy. All interstate...yay. A wreck on the highway slow us down a little, but had a nice meal at Red Lobster and got to the rink about 6ish.
Thanks so much to Ken Vezina of the RiverHawks staff for becoming my personal assistant for this trip. Game days are so busy, but he made time to show me around the building in preparation for the mad postgame dash to come later when I was on deadline.
When Lindsey and I arrived, Ken warned us that the building would be pretty cold. Since we'd nearly gotten frostbite last week in Huntsville, was glad I opted not to show off my newly painted toenails and wear sandals....haha. To be honest, it didn't seem that cold to me.
What Ken didn't warn us of, and maybe didn't know yet, was how slushy the ice was. It was AWFUL!! I guess the humidity wreaked havoc on the older building. Don't know, but you should've seen the puck. It was like they were hitting a ping pong ball. No matter how or where you hit it, no guarantee it would go in that direction.
The Zamboni seemed to be trying to dry the ice instead of flood it. Is that possible? Between the second and third periods, the Zam guy went over the ice, but nothing happened. Even the Augusta coach came out for the third, looked at the ice and appeared to say: "it wasn't flooded?". (I'm a teacher...and a lip-reader). Brad Ralph looked very puzzled.
Don't think the Snakes completed a pass all night. Ok, a slight exaggeration, but think about how big a part passing plays on both offense and defense. Think of the passes from Sammy to Brett to Jesse to set up the offense. Think about those from Tom to Bret in getting the power play going.
If they passed it too crisply, who knows where it's going. If they passed it too softly, it hit a pile of snowy slushy stuff and died. It was awful. Augusta struggled with it, too. Their goals came up close and personal. None of this setting up a play that we all know and love. More about the Augusta goals later.
Special teams...normally a strength...killed the Snakes. The numbers are brutal. Augusta 3 for 3 on PP and Snakes 0 for 6. I met up with Jason Bray, Snakes asst GM, when I was taking a stroll in between the first and second periods. At that time, the Snakes had TWO opportunities on the PP, to none for the Hawks. Jason and I were talking about how the Snakes had outplayed them in the first though it was a scoreless game. Jason the prophet shook his head and said "yeah, but I wonder what's going to happen when they go on the power play." Good call...uh, bad call, Jason. :(
I knew something wasn't right about their first goal when Tom went nuts and started pleading the Snakes' case to referee Brent Coulombe. Tom told me later that he was mainly steamed because Auffrey had slashed Ian's stick and the play should've been whistled down right there.
Tom said that they knew the ice was going to be a problem, that it was really hot in warmups. He said that they were already looking forward to coming home and that the PP is one of their top priorities.
Right after the goal, Tom was given a two-handed slash away from the play that Coulombe didn't see. One of many no-calls on both sides.
I asked to talk to Tom, Will and Jesse. I knew Tom was on the ice for their first PPG and Will for the second. Somebody had to answer the lack-of-offense questions since they were shut out. Since I'd talked recently to Brett and Sammy, Jesse was the winner/loser.
After I finished with Jerome, Tom and Will, Jesse peeks out of the locker room, asking if I needed him. He said he couldn't tell if Jerome said Colesy or Bowlesy...haha. Sorry, Jesse.
I talked to Will and Jesse about the scrum with 8 seconds left. Tensions at this time of the year, they said. Frustration with the evening's events, too, I think. They came into this came so confident and playing so well. To lose is not good. To get shut out is worse. But, as my personal heroine Scarlett O'Hara says...tomorrow is another day!!
Before I get to tomorrow, ya'all will enjoy this little side note. I'd made my way down to the glass, rescued by Phil Brand, who is Scott Brand's dad. Phil has apparently navigated this building before. My sense of direction is awful...ugh. Thanks, Phil!
After Ian got mugged and everybody grabbed a partner, Mitch was inexplicably given a five-minute major for charging. How and why, I have no idea. Well, Mitch trudges off the ice and some idiot starts throwing handfuls of popcorn at him. Now before ya'all think I could make something like this up...I was inches away from Mitch and the perp.
It was a teenager, maybe a 20-something alleged young adult. He's also hollering my very favorite.."you stink" or another word that commonly substitutes for "stink". He throws several handfuls and I think...oh, lord, holy Bruce Garber.
A history lesson: in Macon back in the CHL days, a fan dumped a full cup of beer on a Snake and his coach went into the stands after the guy. Bruce, who is now a friend, but who I didn't know back then, received a 30-day suspension for his actions.
The entrance to the visitors' locker room is supposed to be covered to prevent future actions like the beer dumping. Well, it was in Augusta...but the railing of the seating area adjoining it was less than a foot over our heads.
Now Mitch is steamed, tossed from the game, and 21 years old. The only person there was me...neither his mother nor his coach, but there I am. Phil is nearby but not sure where, as it happened so fast. Security????? Arrived way after the fact...:( I was Mitch's security...haha. Not good.
So I see Mitch's career imploding before my eyes. He's responding to the kid...not good. He takes his stick and gestures to him, inviting him to come down and "discuss" this. So I grab, or attempt to grab, his arm gently, saying..."come on, Mitch...let's go, Mitch...you don't want to do this, Mitch."
I'm laughing as I write this...it was like trying to grab the trunk of a small tree. I can't even get my big old hand around his upper arm and I honestly think he had no idea I was there. He and the kid are still jawing. Fortunately, at that moment, Will is also tossed and he comes by, takes one look at Mitch and the two leave peacefully.
Ya'all try to get the picture. There is so much emotion out there at that moment. Augusta has just scored its third goal. Meaningless in one way, but statistically it means that the Snakes have given up THREE PPGs, not two, and it's the end of a long, hot, frustrating night. Ian has been incredible. The score, honestly, could've been 8-0 if not for Ian standing on his head. He's hit...big no-no...and all the frustrations of the evening explode. These are proud young man who always try to do their best and their title hopes have just taken a major hit.
After all this drama, I'm writing in the media room where the guys are having their post-game meal. On deadline, can't get the wireless internet to work. Thanks to Josh and Ken of the Hawks staff and my Lindsey...made deadline with seconds to spare...ugh.
The trip home was fine until we hit the south side of Atlanta where some genius decided to narrow FOUR lanes of 85 down to ONE. We were delayed 25 minutes...at 1:30 in the morning. Yikes!!
Tonight, the Snakes will be a team on a mission, literally and figuratively. They not only have something to prove from last night, but if they don't win...that's our last hockey for 2010-2011. That's what I hate about the playoffs. The season can end so suddenly. One minute you have 56 games plus the playoffs stretching ahead of you and the next minute, it's over.
Hope they have a lot of fans cheering them on tonight. :)