Strange night at the Snake Pit tonight. A small crowd, which was expected. Not only was it a Tuesday night, but Election Night, too! It was a pretty quiet crowd, too. Pretty uninspired, which pretty much describes the Snakes too. Ouch. Was that too honest?
To me, there was such a contrast between tonight and opening night (which was 11 whole days ago...more about that later). Tonight, and Saturday night in Fayetteville, not much offense to be found. But the biggest thing I thought was lacking tonight was hitting. You can take this to the bank, Snakes fans: When this team doesn't hit, it doesn't win. Period.
Not that this was the main problem tonight. The offense just never got going. Passes were all over the place. Nobody could get, or keep, control of the puck. It was pretty ragged.
Before anybody panics, this is the THIRD game of 56!! The Snakes are a skilled, precise offensive team. It takes time for them to get used to playing together, for the lines to settle in. Then the guys know who's going to be where and the passes become more intuitive and crisp. I didn't see that tonight.
What we were all treated to was strong defense and goaltending. The rookie goalie for the Ice Bears, Connor Toomey, was terrific and we all know I've run out of adjectives to describe Ian Vigier. Both had strong D in front of them. I talked to my pal Mark Atnip, the Knoxville radio guy, PA guy, media guy...and a colleague and friend for most (all?) of my SPHL years, before the game.
Mark said that the Ice Bears mirrored the Snakes in that both had incredible D and goalies and forwards were still a work in progress. I definitely agree with that assessment. Mark told me that the flu hit the Bears hard and that David Segal was so sick he didn't even make the trip. Goalie Kyle Rank came to Columbus, but had a miserable trip and didn't play.
A few notes before I tell ya'all what Orrin had to say after the game. Jason Yuel signed a three-gamer which Jerome neglected to tell me. He sheepishly tried to slide that little tidbit of info into our pre-game conference...about 3 seconds before Jason skated out...haha. He knows I'm fairly observant. I can figure out who's new or who's missing in about 10 seconds. Too late, Jerome...:)
The good news is that Jason's getting a chance to play. The bad news is that somebody had to sit. That somebody was veteran Brett Hammond. I hate it not only because Brett is such a mature, classy guy, but because it's so tough for these guys to watch. They just hate it...ugh.
Because Brett was sitting, somebody else had to wear the A. Orrin is wearing the C on the white sweaters and Sammy will get his turn when they switch to the blue ones. Whoever isn't wearing the C gets the A, so Sam wore one. Kevin Kessler got the other one. Congrats, Kevin!
It's an honor for these guys to be chosen to wear a letter, no matter who picks them. Whether the coach does or the players vote, the validation of your efforts and leadership skills matters a lot.
One injury tonight that I'll be keeping an eye on... Alex MacLeod left the game early in the third period and didn't return. Ya'all know I can't tell you exactly what's wrong with him, but will check with Jerome and let you know if he'll be in the lineup on Friday when the team travels to Mississippi.
The shootout went to EIGHT players and the goalies were outstanding. The winning goal was kind of freakish. It looked like Ian stopped it but then it hit his skate and trickled in. UGH. Skaters for the Snakes: Lind, Bowles, Sullivan, Hergott, Maldonado, Redlick, Yuel, Braid.
Orrin's thoughts after the game:
"We had our chances. We've got to get back to being ugly. We're trying to be a little too fancy. We need to be dirty, ugly....I said to Tom (Maldonado) after he went in the shootout, this is one of the longest shootouts I've been in. We practice that a lot, so there's no reason why we couldn't score. We'll get back to work tomorrow."
I asked Orrin if the team's crazy schedule had anything to do with their slow start offensively. They played on 10/26...then 8 days later head to Fayetteville. Then back to Columbus 3 days later...then another 3 days to Mississippi. They won't play games on consecutive nights until Nov. 16-17.
"You can practice as much as you want but there's nothing like playing a game. We played Friday and then had to wait a whole week. But we're professionals. We need to deal with that."
I know it's early, but the power play has gotten off to a terrible start...1 of 11 in the first 3 games. Tonight the Snakes had 2 key opportunities in the third period and couldn't convert either one. They were 0 of 5 on the night.
These first 2 games have been strange in that I've had early deadlines both nights. The first night, we were shorthanded down at the paper, so I had to file the story without quotes and add them to my blog. Then tonight was election night and sports needed to get in early so everyone's attention could focus on all the results. So neither time was I in my customary spot as the guys leave the ice. By the time I got down there, I figured I'd just head to the training room and find a forward to comment on the offense's struggles.
I see Alex in there, but I didn't want to ask him about the offense, much less his injury. Rookies are usually a little hesitant and some downright suspicious of the media. Technically, Jerome is the only one supposed to talk about injuries, but the guys who have known me for a while and trust that I'm not going to tell the world the specifics of their injuries, will be brutally honest. Sometimes, they even include show and tell...haha.
I really wanted Sammy or Orrin, since that's one of the joys of wearing the C...answering my questions on a losing night. So Pedro Slayton went in and grabbed Orrin for me.
It was so great to see my friend Paul Ezell, who was somewhere between confused and panicked when he didn't see me in my usual spot outside the locker room last Friday...then again tonight! He actually looked relived when he spotted me...haha. Great to see you, Paul!!
Well, it's late, and I'm about to call it a day. First webcast for me on Friday night!