Hi, Snakes fans.
One "tough" isn't enough to describe this loss in a strange hockey game. The Snakes came out on fire, scoring a pair of first-period goals just over a minute apart and outshooting Augusta 16-8. Things were looking pretty good...'were' being the operative word.
One note about the first period. Alex MacLeod got hurt in the first minute or two of the game and didn't return for the whole first period. When he did, it was with 4 stitches in his cheek. Ouch.
The Snakes made the trip without defenseman Bret Tyler, which puts extra pressure and responsibility on Tom Maldonado. Bret and Tom are the Snakes' two most prolific scorers on D, not to mention key members of the PP and PK units. They are steady, experienced defensemen who contribute a lot both offensively and defensively.
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I didn't see Tom get hurt in the first period, if, indeed he did get hurt. I know he got an assist on the Snakes' first goal. It was only when Tom's dad messaged me that I realized he wasn't in there for all or most of the second period. If you listened to or watched the game, you know that the second period was pretty disastrous for the Snakes...4 unanswered goals!
If Tom wasn't on the ice, that leaves Kevin Kessler (3rd season), 3 rookies: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Kyle Johnson and Chris Bailer, plus a d-man who's not a d-man, Derek Pallardy. Derek, remember, is recovering from an injury himself!
I don't know if Tom is hurt or ill, but if the Snakes have to play without both Tom and Bret tomorrow night in Knoxville, they could be in trouble. Not that the other defensemen aren't good players, but you can't replace these guys' experience and offensive output. Crossing my fingers that Tom is ok. He came out for the third, but played sparingly.
After the 4-goal outburst by Augusta, including 2 PPG, the Snakes went into second intermission trailing 4-2. They had to have been reeling about now, having started so quickly and Augusta responding so strongly.
But, the Snakes once again showed that there is no quit in this team. They clawed back to tie it 4-4 on goals by Derek and Jordan Braid. Derek was a key member of the Snakes' championship squad a year ago, but has struggled this season, not only putting the puck in the net, but with a concussion that put him on the shelf for a month. This was Derek's first multi-point game of the season...YAY. He had a goal and 2 assists. Good for Derek!
Jordan tied it up almost exactly halfway through the period. 4-4. New hockey game. Derek's goal earlier came with the Snakes on an extended 5-on-3. Good job taking advantage of that opportunity.
Ian Vigier took the loss in net. Ian recovered well from the second and stopped a number of quality shots, including a couple of three-on-ones.
Then comes the heartbreaker. Any goal given up in the last minute of the period is a killer, but 12 SECONDS left? That's really hard to take. There was a flurry of activity around the net and the puck was in the Columbus zone for at least 10-15 seconds. Finally, Casey Mignone put the game winner past Ian. A huge win for Augusta, their third over the Snakes in Augusta this season.
The rematch is Tuesday night when the RiverHawks finally come to the Snake Pit.
Other misadventures on this day...The bus blew a tire and the start of the game was delayed until 8 o'clock. The guys basically arrived, dressed, warmed up, played, which made their fast start even more remarkable.
Also, security was called to the area right behind the Snakes' bench. It appeared that a beer was thrown at coach Jerome Bechard and a fan or fans ejected. This is according to Mike Vee and Ken Vezina, as the camera didn't catch it. No excuse for throwing stuff, no matter how heated a rivalry is...and this one is pretty heated.
A couple of corrections are coming to the official boxscore, I imagine. The game winner was credited as an empty netter, which it wasn't. Ian was pulled after the goal. An interesting strategy it would've been to pull the goalie...on the road...in a TIE game...haha. Just a clerical error, I'm sure.
The other mistake will be corrected, not that I'll like it any better. I rarely look at, much less write about, the stars of the game, as selected by, I assume, off-ice officials. But, how in the world, in a 5-4 game, can you give all of the stars to Augusta players? The mistake that will undoubtedly be corrected is giving Chad Ziegler the first star. I'm assuming that will go to Matt Auffrey. Second star went to Shawn Skelly and third to Dennis Sicard.
Auffrey had 3 assists, Skelly 1 goal and 2 assists and Sicard 1 goal and 1 assist. Remembering that there were 2 teams on the ice in a one-goal game, what about Pallardy's THREE points, along with Sam Bowles and John Sullivan's 2 each??
How can you ignore a three-point performance in favor of Sicard or Auffrey because one is a fan favorite and the other is your captain. UGH. One star should have gone to Skelly, one to Auffrey and the other to Derek Pallardy.
Augusta has experienced a flurry of transactions since the NHL lockout ended. The RiverHawks lost Ian Watters (Idaho-ECHL), Pat Schafer (Tulsa-CHL), William Lacasse (Idaho-ECHL) this week. Other teams in the league have seen players move up, but not the Snakes. Injuries have depleted the Cottonmouths' roster enough!
Rumors were flying that Matt Gingera was headed out...and up. When I asked him about it on Tuesday night, he rolled his eyes, shook his head and said, emphatically, "I love it here!!"
Rematch with Augusta on Tuesday night at the Snake Pit.