Well, Snakes fans, it's the morning after the big Military Night celebration at the Snake Pit. This wonderful event featured the Infantry vs Armor pre-Snakes exhibition along with fundraising efforts for American hero Cpl Josh Hargis.
Reese and I arrived early and dropped our check at Fan Relations for the Hargis family. Knowing Cottonmouths fans and their generosity, there will be many more checks joining ours. A small indicator of the passion our community has for those who serve was when it was time for chuck-a-pucks. This is a fun promotion that's always done between the second and third periods. It is especially attractive to hockey newbies who want to enjoy the full Snake Pit experience.
Last night it was an absolute blizzard of pucks!! It was awesome to see that visual evidence of support and try to translate it into $$$. Hurray!
Will find out asap how much was raised by the breast cancer jersey auction and also last night for Josh, Taylor and baby Hargis.
I correctly predicted that Brad Prefontaine would break out the powder blue suit until the Snakes lost. He did...they did...so I'm guessing the suit goes back into the closet until the next promotion...or maybe next Halloween, when he could dress up as a hockey coach on 80s night. :)
Some fans were a little surprised at the singing of God Bless America before the game instead of our national anthem. If you were one of those fans, you may not have been there for the start of the military exhibition. Reese and I barely made it...actually we were still in the concourse.
The Star Spangled Banner was played before the military game, technically game one of the hockey doubleheader (sorry for mixing the sports terminology). Normal procedure is to play the anthem only once per night. Kudos to whoever realized that a military crowd needed a patriotic song to precede the game, especially one as popular as God Bless America.
Usually I don't have time to pay attention to what's going on between periods, especially second and third, because I'm already working on the boxscore. But when I heard Toby Keith's American Soldier, I stopped and looked up at the jumbotron. That song has special meaning to me ever since the first of my three nieces and nephews entered the military.
Also, when I worked at Golden Park for many years, we'd play it to a stadium full of soldiers.
You haven't lived until you've heard 3,000 YOUNG soldiers singing this song loudly and proudly...with the players, umpires and fans waiting for the song to finish before resuming the game. Brings tears to my eyes years later. Thanks to all who serve the greatest country in the world!
Back to the tribute. It was a wonderful array of pics of soldiers. Then the grand finale...the Salute Seen Round the World...the pic of Josh Hargis. Beautiful job by Andy Luker of the Snakes front office.
Now to the game...
I had high hopes for this game after the finish of Friday night's contest. But I also had the same fears that Jerome voiced in his interview between periods. I was afraid the guys would come out flat after a super-emotional W the night before. Didn't happen.
The first period was solid yet chippy with the chirping starting pretty early. Remember that these teams, natural SPHL rivals as two of the league's cornerstone franchises, have faced each other twice in preseason and now twice in the regular season's first couple of weeks. They're rather familiar with each other by now!
Great to see Dan Bremner get his first goal as a Snake...against his former team. Dan may not admit it when I interview him but it had to be a special moment to score on the team in whose plans you no longer fit. Ian McNulty got an assist and Jason Gray picked up his third assist of the young season.
Scoring first is always a big lift psychologically. It also helps to grab early momentum and, hopefully, keep it. The first period also featured three fights. Will Aide and Brett Valliquette got things started, followed by Daniel Amesbury and David Segal and finally Levi Lind and Nathan Peterson. This aspect of the game would have been even more interesting, but Knoxville's Paul Kurceba (22 PIM in 2 GP) was serving a suspension.
As you know, Levi rarely fights. He's good for maybe a fight a year or every other year...haha. But he handled Peterson very well and I wonder if this is more evidence of a new-and-improved Levi. Levi is wearing an A, has three points in the first four games and one fight added to the mix.
Segal put on a clinic on how to be an agitator. He's one of the best in the league...if not THE best. His job is not to fight. It's to get under everyone's skin and send them to the penalty box while he stands outside it and laughs. He infuriates fans and opposing players alike, but he is great at his job.
Segal dropped them with Daniel and, despite giving up three inches and 40 pounds, took Daniel to the ice. He went helmet-to-helmet with Mike Switzer a little later. Segal was just setting the stage for the drama to come.
Late in the game, Segal and Daniel were engaged in a wrestling match on skates where Segal was simultaneously dragging Daniel down and holding his stick. Remember what I said about Segal being a great agitator. He's also very good at working every situation to his advantage, including knowing where the ref is at all times. :)
So when the ref's arm goes up, guess who's headed to the box? Yep...Daniel. Why? Because it's just like on the playground at school. The kid who retaliates and throws the last punch is the one caught and punished. Daniel goes to the box. Segal stands outside it grinning. Knoxville scores the game winner on the PP. Game, set, match...Knoxville.
Should Segal have gotten the original call? Probably. But he didn't...and was smart enough and experienced enough to goad Daniel into retaliation. Bottom line...he did his job and did it well. Shouldn't surprise you. Look who's behind the Knoxville bench. One of the greatest agitators in league history.
I will never forget asking Chad Rycroft if Mike Craigen spent more time in the crease than he did. The result: one of my top 10 favorite SPHL quotes: "I hate that little guy". I laughed out loud...haha. He may have hated Craigen, but I guarantee you that every time Craigen stepped on the ice, everybody knew where he was and what he was up to!
Daniel also gives up a lot in age and wisdom to Segal. Daniel turns 23 later this month and Segal is 28. Lots of hockey played and lessons learned in that five-year span.
Speaking of lessons learned, hopefully Andrew Loewen learned another tough one last night. Andrew's always been a wanderer. That's not necessarily a bad thing. You can't chain a goalie to the net, though some fans would like to! But the distance Andrew goes sometimes drives all of us crazy. In that bulky gear, with the ice getting slushy late in a game, not to mention all of the bodies flying everywhere, it's just too easy for something to keep him from getting back to the goal..
A clearing pass going awry happens. But when you're WAY out in front and can't get back, it's an easy goal.
In case you're wondering if this is the worst start ever for a Snakes SPHL team, no, it's not. This is actually third time in 10 years, Columbus has started out 1-3. The worst start was 0-4, which later stretched to 0-4-2 before the 2005-2006 team picked up its first W on Nov. 12. So...definitely not time to panic!!
So encouraging to see how many players are putting up points. Historically speaking, the team that succeeds in this league is the one with three scoring lines, not just one. Every team has one team of big guns. It's scoring depth that produces Ws and later raises trophies.
Looking at the stats, albeit very early, 8 players (yes, you read that right) are near, at or over a point a game. When was the last time that happened? Hmmmmm.
Topping the list of scoring leaders are rookie forward Tory Allan and veteran defenseman Tom Maldonado. I knew Tory was going to be something special in camp. He's got great speed and quickness and good instincts. Tom is the defensive leader out there and always has contributed offensively, but this is an especially great start for him.
Sitting at 4 points (one per game) are Jordan Braid, Matt Gingera and Jason. So glad to see Jordan B and Matt on the same line. That line will continue to yield huge dividends...if Jerome doesn't start tinkering with it (again)...:)
At 3 points are Levi, Ian and Dan. One almost-vet, one very young rookie and one newcomer. Are ya'all getting the message: this team is balanced from front to back. When all of the pieces come together, the Snakes will be a powerful team. Trust me. :)
I, for one, will be happy when the goaltending situation is resolved, but am sad, in advance, for either Travis Bosch or Jesse Chenard. Both are great guys with such a positive attitude. I hate to see either of them go. But keeping three goalies isn't going to happen. Will let ya'all know as soon as I hear.
Andrew hasn't gotten off to the start he wanted, but don't worry about him. He has broad shoulders, but there were heavy, unrealistic expectations on this young man this season. The de facto SPHL goalie of the year with out-of-this-world numbers, where could he go but down?
Andrew will get into a rhythm and have another fantastic season. Maybe not a 1.74/.945 season, but this team will ride Andrew into the playoffs...and stay longer than 2 games.
Next on the schedule is the first trip to the northern quadrant of the SPHL for a two-game series with Bloomington. I'll be out-of-pocket this weekend for my fall Girls Weekend with my sisters.
Will return with a feature on two new Snakes and a Sunday matinee on the 17th. See ya'all then!