If you weren't among the crowd of 4478, shame on you...:) Action, thrills and excitement everywhere you looked. Hard to know where to begin, so I'll just jump right in.
First, to clarify an assumption I made earlier about Marcel Alvarez. I assumed that Marcel didn't make the trip to Pensacola because Uncle Sam wouldn't let him. To back up, Ken Porter, Biff McNally and now Marcel continue part-time pursuit of their pro hockey careers totally at the mercy of their commanding officers at Ft Benning. Also in the mix is where their REAL careers stand.
For instance, Biff finished his course on Feb. 1. Not sure what's next or where, but Biff could very well be free...or not even in Columbus! If the guy's superiors are supportive, Ken, Biff and Marcel are welcomed with open arms by Jerome as it seems his regular players are dropping like flies...UGH.
The latest to join the sad sacks in the hospitality suites is Bret Tyler...for the second time. Different injury, hopefully only a week or 2, but Bret joins John Sullivan and Orrin Hergott as very unhappy spectators. Marcel would have been a welcome addition to the blue line in Bret's absence. But...
Jerome told me last night that Marcel couldn't get off work in time for the bus ride to Pensacola. However, he was able to head up to Atlanta to play for Gwinnett that night. Yay for Marcel, boooo for the Snakes. Marcel then had the option to come back to Columbus and suit up for the Snakes on Saturday night or stay with the Gladiators. He chose the latter and it was his choice to make, not Jerome's. Marcel's availability for Tuesday or Friday is...day-to-day. Lot of that going around...haha.
To update the medical news...John is not expected back for another month and we could have some news on Orrin soon. After receiving all of the reports from Dr. Cantu in Boston, there will be a meeting of the minds: Orrin, Fonda and Nixon Hergott, Wanda Amos, Jerome and probably the Snakes team docs as well.
The decision is very difficult and comes with too many risks to mention. My heart breaks every time I look at Orrin knowing the decision could take him away from the game he loves. Then I look at his beautiful family and do the risk vs reward thing and, to me...it's a no-brainer. :(
The Snakes welcomed a new guy, Will Aide, who promptly fought the gigantic Bill Baker. I asked Will after the game if his mama never told him to pick on somebody his own size...haha. Will is listed as 6-0. Baker is listed as 6-6. Let's go with 5-9 and 6-9...just kidding, but that's what it looked like. Will had to stretch up to reach Baker's face! He got in a couple of licks and kudos to the new guy for stepping up under less than ideal circumstances.
This game was chippy to say the least. Huntsville always plays that style and the Snakes can certainly dish it out as well as take it. I was concerned that the ref let things get out of hand and that Huntsville got away with a couple of dangerous moves.
For one, Corey Fulton (the instigator of the giant brawl vs the Surge, if you'll remember) is wearing a full cage. No idea why. I have enough to do to keep up with my own team's medical woes...lol. I always thought it was a penalty if you instigate, much less fight while wearing a cage. I expressed this concern to my friend Flip Weaver at the end of the game and he agreed. Those two great minds couldn't be wrong, could they?
Another thing that I couldn't understand is why Aaron McGill didn't get an extra 2 for an incident in the third. Corey Bellamy, who is the Snakes' enforcer, agitator and all-around pain-in-the-neck for other teams, scored a goal, his first as a Snake. It appeared that Corey said to the nearby Havoc players: "hey, look at me, guys...I can score goals, too!! Are ya'all happy for me?" Uh...am paraphrasing here, plus taking the high road as this is a family-friendly blog.
Then Corey turned his back and started to do his victory lap and McGill skated at him full speed and jumped on his back. Both got 5 for fighting and Corey got the extra 2 for his unsportsmanlike comments. Shouldn't McGill have gotten a minor as well?
Now before all of my learned hockey rules fanatics jump in, I don't pretend to know all the rules. Just applying a little common sense. Does common sense have any place in hockey?
A few concerns about the Snakes' penalty kill last night. They failed to convert on all 6 chances, which included a 5-on-3 of about a minute. I'll admit while watching the first period and the Snakes letting one PP opportunity after another slip through their fingers, I was a little concerned. On the heels of Friday night's shutout, was this going to be a really low-scoring, close game?
Great teamwork by Levi Lind and Brett Hammond on the Snakes' first goal. The guys came in the zone 2-on-1 and kept everybody guessing, including goalie Jesse Kallechy, as to who would take the shot. Textbook. Levi buried it for a 1-0 lead. A Huntsville PPG has the score tied 1-1 after 1.
Ya'all know I can see one goal very well and at the other end, just wait for the light to come on if there's a mass of humanity in the crease. Well, in the second period, the Snakes score at the end I can see well. I saw Tom Maldonado shoot, score and celebrate. Then the goal was announced as Jordan Braid's. I'd already written down 2...hmmm. What a great teammate Tom is. The grin on his face as he celebrated Jordan's goal was priceless...haha. It was a key goal, as Tom said later, because this was a must-win game.
The third goal electrified the goal because it was a penalty shot. Always exciting...if you make it. VERY deflating if the home team shoots and misses. Matt Gingera was yanked down as he streaked toward the goal and was awarded the penalty shot. If you watched the game on Friday night, you know that Matt missed on at least 3 breakaways, which he's normally very good at burying. All this is going through my mind, and I'm betting through Matt's too.
Another key moment in this game was when shooting guru Andrew Loewen gave Matt advice, he took it, and it worked haha. What's next: Matt in net? Don't count on that. :)
More great timing and teamwork by Mark Thorburn and Corey on the Snakes last goal. Mark had a breakaway and Corey caught up to him. At the last second, Mark passed it to Corey who buried it. Then came the big scrum with Corey and McGill. Snakes captain Sam Bowles had a few choice words for the ref and got the gate for his efforts.
Comical moment when Jerome sent Ian Vigier to the box to serve Corey's extra 2. Not the first time he's done it, but it wasn't successful either time. Ian came right back to the bench...not smiling.
Ian isn't doing a lot of smiling these days, nor making eye contact with me in my "office" outside the lockerroom. I know he's worried, frustrated, stressed about his play as opposed to last season. I hate that he's going through this because he's a first-class guy and player.
Not much more can be said about Andrew. He's playing so well, with so much confidence, that he's earned the right to be the number 1 goalie. There...I said it. Jerome always says he has two number ones and he's right, to an extent. Through the looooong regular season, he's always good about giving them equal opportunity.
But it's crunch time. The playoffs are looming. Am I saying sit Ian down for the rest of the season? No way!! But, Andrew, in my most humble opinion, has earned the majority of the starts. He's won 11 in a row...can't argue with that stat!
Two huge games coming up. The Snakes play Knoxville on Tuesday, the team they're tied with. A stroke of good fortune last night when ALL the teams above them lost. An opportunity to gain ground and an even better one on Tuesday. Friday night, Augusta comes to the Pit. Before anybody celebrates the last-place team coming in, the RiverHawks thumped Pensacola last night. Ya'all know the old saying: on any given night, any team can beat any other team. Never was that more true that this year in the SPHL.
Looking forward to 2 good games this week!