The magic of the number 5 ended in Southaven, MS last night, Snakes fans. The winning streak ended at 5 and the Snakes didn't come close to 5 goals, falling 4-1 to the Mississippi RiverKings.
Ya'all know I'm a glass-half-full person, as a rule. It's pretty hard to find positives in this loss, but here goes:
The guys grabbed a hard-fought OT win in Knoxville on Thursday night, then made the 400-mile trip to Southaven. Don't have any details yet, but Mike Vee mentioned a hotel room snafu which caused a number of the guys to have to sleep on roll-away beds. Not good.
You might say the guys were due for a bad game, as well as they've been playing. But I really thought they'd do fine vs the MSRK. It was tomorrow night's game I was more concerned about. Huntsville has made changes, but clearly still has some issues. I was afraid that the Snakes would overlook the league's lowest-ranked team and be ambushed. But, back to the Kings...
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The Kings feature our old pal Kyle Lundale. I knew Kyle would start something, being the agitator that he is and facing his former teammates. I also figured, correctly, that Kyle wouldn't go after one of the bigger guys on the team. Sure enough, he aggravated Jason Yuel all night. Noticed that Kyle wears the A for the RiverKings...
The red flags started appearing from the very beginning. The guys looked tentative, slow, sluggish. That's to be expected if you combine little sleep with bus legs. The thing that bothered me the most was that they weren't hitting. They let Mississippi shove them all over the place. I've said it a million times: if this team doesn't hit, it doesn't win.
Early in the game, the Snakes got a golden opportunity...a 5 on 3. It was to be the first of TWO chances with a two-man advantage. Both were lengthy. The first was 57 seconds and the second 1:47. They cashed in neither.
Andrew Loewen was hung out to dry for most of the game, an uncharacteristically rough night for the D. The Kings skated right in on Andrew, unchallenged.
The shots on goal ended up pretty even, with the RiverKings holding a 33-28 advantage. But, after one period when the Snakes trailed 2-1, they managed only 19 shots. Mississippi had 24...and they were ahead!!
Frustrations boiled over late in the second period when Tom Maldonado, normally very level-headed and controlled on the ice, was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct and then slapped with a 10 for abuse of officials. As if things weren't bad enough, the Snakes lost an experienced, steady d-man and quarterback of the power play for 12 whole minutes.
Late in the game, the fans were treated to a few fisticuffs. Jason Yuel vs Darrell Stoddard; Chris Bailer vs Paul Kurceba and Alex MacLeod vs Tyler Sheldrake. None of them classic fights, but all had a message: We know we lost this game, but we're still fighting. :) These actions also send a message that the Snakes will be more than ready for a rematch later in the season.
The lone goal in the game for the Cottonmouths was a PPG by Jordan Braid, who scored two key goals in a row. Jordan had the OT winner vs Knoxville and his goal against MS cut the deficit to a manageable 2-1. But a pair of Kings goals in the second were way too much for the Snakes. Too deep a hole to climb out of. They were gassed, flat, tired...you choose.
They were also shorthanded. Orrin Hergott and Derek Pallardy on offense, and Tommy Fitzpatrick on D are all on the shelf. Fortunately, Biff McNally has been able to juggle the US Army and pro hockey. He's done a nice job, ala Ken Porter from last season.
Hockey amnesia will benefit the guys tomorrow night. Though they'll be playing their third-in-three, the home crowd will energize them, as will sleeping in their own beds tonight...uh, tomorrow morning.
Ya'all know I love the Scarlett O'Hara line, which pretty much fits the bill here.
Tomorrow is another day!