What an amazing weekend at the Snake Pit. Hate it for those of you who missed it...
I sat down with John Sullivan and Brett Hammond on Wednesday in preparation for Friday's preview story. That's when John looked me straight in the eye and gave his headline-making quote:"We aren't intimidated by them."
Uh, maybe ya'all should be...haha. Look at their record, Look at what they've accomplished. At the time, the Fayetteville FireAntz were a dazzling 12-1. They lost very early to Huntsville and then reeled off 8 straight wins. That's a pretty impressive winning streak. But both Brett and John were firm in their conviction that this team was so close to living up to its potential.
Everything went wrong for Fayetteville this weekend as they played three games in three nights. Friday in Augusta, they had a nice 4-1 lead going into the third period. Huge? No, but certainly comfortable when you're playing as well as they were. But a hellish third period saw them give up 6...yes, SIX goals in the final period to lose, 7-4. Yikes.
That didn't bode well for the Snakes coming into Friday night's game. The Antz had lost only two games all season. Didn't look good for them to lose their second in a ROW, but that's exactly what happened. A tight, low-scoring game went to the home team, 2-1.
Friday night marked the return of Orrin Hergott to the ice. So glad, and a little relieved, to see Orrin back, especially after how bad he looked just a week earlier. Kind of dazed and glassy-eyed. Very un-Orrin-like. He looked good in practice when I was there Wednesday and was fine this weekend.
Derek Pallardy is back on the bike with, thankfully, no side effects. Expect to see Derek back in the lineup this week..which is great news!
Game 2 of the weekend series started out exactly like the previous night. 2-0 Columbus...then 2-1. But the Snakes offense, which has been in hibernation since opening night, woke with a vengeance. There were a total of 11 players who contributed over the two nights. Here's the tally sheet for the two nights:
I've said it a million times: this team wins if they HIT and lots of guys contribute. They take great pride in the fact that all 3 lines can score. By the way, here's the way the lines look right now:
The problem is that the numbers don't work. Matt just completed a three-gamer and Derek is due back soon. Right now, Tommy Fitzpatrick is on loan to SC in the ECHL. When Tommy comes back, that's 19 if Jerome keeps everyone and signs Matt to a regular contract. If Tommy doesn't return, Jerome needs a d-man and has one-too-many forwards.
Back to Saturday's game. It wasn't just me...Orrin had never heard of a six-minute penalty either. Daniel Amesbury got the original two-minute for elbowing, then a double minor for head-butting. Orrin said it was a mutual head butt, but the other player involved got nothing.
To me, the defining moment (well...6 of them) of this game was a successful SIX-minute PK. Orrin said they took it one penalty at a time, like 3 minors strung back-to-back. It was incredible. Everybody contributed to this successful, LONG penalty kill.
John, who had a great weekend, scored the next 2 goals to stretch the lead from a precarious 2-1 to a healthy 4-1.
Great job by both goalies this weekend. The only "bad" (notice the quotation marks, please) thing about games like these is that time and space keep me from interviewing all the stars of the game. Friday night, I'd like to have talked to Andrew Loewen, who gave up only one goal.
Saturday night, I'd like to have talked to Bret Tyler (3 assists), Kyle Johnson (2 assists) and Jason Yuel. Jason scored his first professional goal in an unusual manner. An empty netter in the waning moments of the game. But it still counts!! Congrats to Jason.
All in all, it was a most satisfying weekend for the Snakes and their fans. A total team effort with everybody chipping in, whether it showed on the scoresheet or not. A pair of Ws against the first-place team.
At the Snake Pit, life is good right now.