Good morning, Snakes fans! What's good about it, you may ask? Well, the sun came up this morning, the world is still turning and we've got another evening of Snakes hockey tonight!!
I can feel those heads shaking and I know what many of you are thinking: What in the world is going on with the Snakes offense? Good question...
After a stellar opening night, the next two home games have been pretty disappointing. Last night, the team from Oct. 26th was barely recognizable. I didn't see a lot of hitting and certainly virtually no offense. No crisp passing sequences, for sure. The guys looked like they were, in Jerome's words, "running around" for most, if not all of the game.
I gasped out loud at the number of breakaways and open nets the guys missed. In one instance, the Knoxville goalie was nearly BEHIND his net and the Snakes couldn't get in position to get off a decent shot.
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What's wrong with this picture: Tom Maldonado is scoring and roughing and Sam Bowles is fighting. Huh? Not that Tom isn't one of the team's most offensive-minded d-men and the shot he took (more on that later) he's scored on a number of times before, but where was the offense? It pretty much disappeared last night...actually, never showed up at all.
When Ian Vigier let in the first goal, I wasn't a bit concerned. Ian is a machine, yet he's a human being too, haha. He's allowed to let in a goal every now and then. But, when he let in the second one, I thought...uh, oh...with goals at such a premium, a two-goal deficit is looming pretty large. And it was.
Then comes the "who scored it" goal. I knew as sure as I'm sitting here on my sofa, in my pajamas, that Tom fired the initial shot from just inside the blue line. He's done it a million times with several results: the other team blocks it and it never gets there, it gets deflected in by a teammate or it finds the back of the net.
Then the announcement: Kyle Johnson, unassisted. Now I was thrilled for Kyle to have scored his first pro goal...except that I knew he didn't!! First of all, Kyle and Tom shouldn't have been on the ice together. Not that it couldn't happen, but I was positive Tom took the shot. So if Kyle deflected it in, Tom gets the assist. Definitely not Kyle unassisted. My gut feeling was that Tom's shot found its way in.
So, after the game I asked Jerome. He said Tom shot it and he didn't think it was deflected. Went in my new office down the hall, wrote and filed the story. On the way out, ran into Brad Prefontaine and asked him who scored the goal. He said: John Sullivan. HUH??? Where did John come from? This was getting a little comical except that I'd already filed the story saying Tom scored, so I needed to fix it FAST. I asked Brad how sure he was. He said 99%. Yikes!
My pal Tyler McCrea went to look for John as Tom comes around the corner. YAY...the horse's mouth...Tom: was your shot deflected??? "Yea...by the other team." Sooooo, it was Tom's goal, later confirmed by John. :)
As I said earlier, tonight we get to go out and do it again. I was disappointed at the results, but the one dealbreaker I didn't see. The thing that drives me over the edge is lack of effort. I believe the guys were out there trying hard. Things just aren't clicking offensively...YET. Jerome is still tinkering with the lines, trying to find that magical combination. Hopefully, he finds it tonight!
Finally, kudos to the team for their tribute to my friend and colleague, Willie Bowman. Those of you who knew the program seller at the rink experienced only part of Willie's rich legacy in Columbus, Georgia's sports scene. Willie was a fixture at Golden Park from childhood, later becoming the Goody-Goody" Peanut Man. We worked together in minor league baseball for 28 years. I miss him so much.
Randy Schmidt, former GM of the RedStixx, read the mayor's proclamation designating yesterday as Willie Bowman Day. Great call by my friend, Dana Barker, for bringing part of Willie's colorful past into the festivities. Loved the pictures of Willie the team somehow dug up...some were oldies, but goodies. :)
For the record, every day at Golden Park and the Columbus Civic Center was Willie Bowman Day. :) Rest in peace, my friend.