Good morning, Snakes fans...
It's the first day of my spring break from CSU, so what am I doing? Writing about hockey in the morning and attending a hockey game at night. :) Of course!
First, let me report that my timing in sitting down with Sam Bowles was impeccable. Sammy had just received the slightly unexpected news that he would not be cleared to play tonight. UGH. His reward? Sitting down with me at my McDonald's office. Bless his heart...
Sam expected to be cleared and, not surprisingly, was itching to get back on the ice against Augusta tonight. He's been skating for a few days and feels good. But the doc wanted to give the injury a little more time to make sure it's 100%. This is Sam's second long inactive stretch, so the decision is a good one...to the doc, you and me. Hopefully, he'll be good to go in another week.
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In the meantime, the sad face in a suit you see at the rink tonight will belong to Sammy. I told him that he definitely wins the prize for this most dejected injured player ever. Beats Jesse Cole. Beats even Greg Beller whose jaw was wired shut. Sam managed a smile and said "I can't help it."
Not to be a part of a single game for this special team has to be killing Sam. The good news is that he'll be rarin' to go come playoff time.
I talked to Sam for this story because I needed somebody who had experienced the "challenges" of two years ago. Some of the other guys who have been here a little while are already in the planning for future stories (lucky them) and I also wanted to see how Sam was doing. So he was the chosen one.
You might remember a couple of years ago, the guys' game day routine for road trips changed. They used to leave hours ahead of time, eat on the road and arrive at the rink several hours before game time. The players went to Jerome and asked if they could leave later.
"A lot of guys like to have the choice of what they wanted to eat. They wanted to eat at home. When we left two hours earlier, we'd arrive three-and-a-half hours before game time and spend all that time sitting around. Now, when we're about 15 minutes out, we stop for coffee before we go to the rink."
I spoke to Sam at length about the bus legs phenomenon. I wasn't sure he'd admit that it could take a whole period to get rid of bus legs, but he did. :)
Not surprisingly, he pointed to the New Year's Eve game in Augusta as the turning point. I was so glad to hear that because that's what I thought as an outsider, as someone who viewed that game from across the state on a computer screen.
Since the guys were 0-for-Augusta last season (5 regular season and 2 playoff games) they couldn't wait to make a statement. "It was our first time in Augusta all year. We all had that game circled. It wasn't only winning, but how we won it."
A dramatic OT win in a place where you'd had no success, ringing out 2011 in style, was definitely the statement the guys wanted to make.
More road trivia from this season and the past two:
- During the five-win season of 2009-2010, there were two rinks in which the guys didn't win a game in regulation. At Huntsville, they were 0-4-1 and in Biloxi 0-4. The only team in which they had two wins was Pensacola, 2-2-1.
- In 2010-2011, the Snakes were a perfect 5-0 in Fayetteville and winless in Biloxi and Augusta.
- This season, the Cottonmouths were a perfect 3-0 in Huntsville and, so far, haven't lost in regulation in either Augusta or Fayetteville. Two games left in Augusta (2-0-1) and two in Fayetteville (1-0).
- Over the past three seasons, including 21 of this year's 28 games, here are the road records vs each team:
The ultimate irony for fans who've been with the team since the first SPHL season: look at the record in Knoxville and remember 2004-2005 when the team was 0-for-Knoxville in the regular season and won a key playoff game there en route to the title. Now the team has found success there.
Can't wait to see how the rest of this season unfolds. I told Sam I've had a good feeling about this team, literally, since the first day of training camp. Should be a great stretch run and even better playoffs.