Pensacola, Fla.--The Pensacola Ice Flyers began the evening with one celebration and ended up with another. After spotting the Columbus Cottonmouths two early goals, the Ice Flyers responded with six unanswered to post a 6-2 opening night victory.
Penalties were the difference as was each team's performance on the power play. The Cottonmouths had six power plays and Ice Flyers eight. The Snakes converted once and Pensacola scored a whopping four power play goals.
After a lengthy ceremony raising its championship banner and awarding rings, Pensacola got off to a sluggish start. Matt Gingera scored the first goal of the game only 1:30 into the new season. Tom Maldonado added a power play goal just over four minutes later and the visitors led 2-0.
Drew Baker sliced the lead to a single goal halfway through the period. Gingera was stuffed on the season's first penalty shot late in the period when a goal would have given the Snakes a little breathing room as the teams headed into the locker room. Pensacola led 2-1 after the first.
Never miss a local story.
Jordan Braid assisted on both Snakes goals. Dan Bremner got his first assist as a Cottonmouth on the first goal. Jason Gray notched his first professional point when he assisted on Maldonado's goal.
"We got off to a really good start, getting two right off the bat," Braid said. "It felt like it was going to be a really good game. But then we couldn't stay out of the box."
It all came unraveled in the second. The Ice Flyers put three goals on the scoreboard, two of which came on the power play. Pensacola was four-of-eight on the PP on the evening and the Snakes were 1 of 6.
"We had a lot of penalties tonight," Braid said. "We obviously have a few things to work on on the penalty kill. We've not had a lot of time to work on it so far."
With Pensacola leading 3-2, Columbus' Daniel Amesbury was slapped with a five-minute major for elbowing and issued a game misconduct. Only 2:48 later, Dan Bremner was whistled for tripping, giving the Ice Flyers a five-on-three. It took only 15 seconds for a Pensacola goal putting the Ice Flyers up 4-2.
The second period ended 4-2 but the Snakes still had chances. The Ice Flyers were called for three straight minors to open the third, but the Cottonmouths could only manage one shot on goal on each power play.
Pensacola outshot the Snakes by a wide margin, 46-24. The Snakes managed only five SOG in the second when they were busy killing penalties and seven in the third period.
Despite the loss, Braid saw some bright spots.
"Everybody was feeling it out a little bit tonight," Braid said. "We have a lot of new guys on the team who are trying to figure out the pace of the game. Jason Gray looked good out there. He has good vision and played the body well. It's disappointing to lose the season opener 6-2, but we're already looking forward to the home opener tomorrow night."
The Snakes open at home against the Knoxville Ice Bears on Saturday night at 7:30. It will be the third times the two teams have tangled in the past nine days. The teams played a home-and-home series of exhibition games last weekend.