If you're looking for answers as to why the Snakes imploded last night, may as well stop reading now. I have none. Clueless. Stunned. Disappointed.
I do assume partial responsibility, on the superstitious side, for last night's shutout. I remembered this happening to Knoxville a few years back...no goals, frustrated teddy bear holders...not ideal. So before the game, I asked my pal Mark Atnip about it. I was right, and Snakes fans suffered the same fate a few hours later.
I wasn't feeling great last night. Just a cold, but I soldiered on, armed with my cough drops, tissues, ibuprofen and giant glass of Chick-fil-A tea, which cures anything and everything. I thought it would make me feel better to see this new-and-improved team which scored a whopping 8 goals against LA.
To put that W in perspective, the IceGators had lost only 4 games prior to the Snakes' invasion. The Cottonmouths spotted them a two-goal lead, then came roaring back with 6 goals in the second. That's what I came to see last night...the roaring back, 6-goal part.
Ya'all know my son Reese is autistic and a rabid Snakes fan. He also thinks Dana Barker is the voice of God when he tells him to do something or bring something. Teddy bears...check. First goal...TBD.
Every year, I tell Jerome that I'll come down and talk to the boys myself if needed, but in order to preserve my husband's mental health, the good guys need to score a QUICK goal. Well, I forgot to talk to JB about the teddy bears this year. We all see how well that worked out.
This game had no flow or rhythm from the start as it was punctuated by constant blowing of the ref's whistle. It brought to mind a suddenly quiet moment in the rink a few years ago when a fan hollered..."hey, Ref!! Nobody came here to hear you blow that whistle!". Funny...and true.
Knoxville scored late, but no big deal, right? Blink your eyes and a one-goal lead evaporates. The first period ends 1-0, but I'm thinking that the dreaded bus legs will disappear in the second and the guys will come out with guns blazing. Or not.
The Snakes killed off the remainder of a five-on-three, which came late in the first when Jordan Draper was whistled for tripping and JB voiced his displeasure, which put the Snakes two men down. But they killed it...which should have been the launching point for a big second period. Or not.
Looking back, the Snakes' two best opportunities came in the second. Matt Gingera took a perfect pass from Tom Maldonado and headed toward the Snakes' nemesis, Bryan Hince, on a breakaway. I had a good view of it as the attempt was at my end of the ice, but still not 100% sure what happened. It looked to me like Matt mishandled the pass and couldn't get a solid shot off. First missed opportunity.
The second came only a few minutes later with the Snakes on the power play. It appeared the puck crossed the line (I think from newcomer Steve Mele) but a quick whistle negated the goal. How different would things have turned out if one or both of these chances had been successful?
As it turned out, the Snakes were whistled for too many men on the ice minutes later. Knoxville took advantage and the PPG made it 2-0 halfway through the game. Still not a problem as you know what they say about a two-goal lead in hockey.
However, it didn't stay a two-goal lead for long. The Ice Bears led 3-0 after two. To be honest, the way the guys were playing, the question at this point became tossing those dang bears...lol.
Ya'all know I can always find something positive to say. But, as Jordan Braid said to me after the game, it's hard to find something positive about this game. Passes weren't crisp and didn't connect. Way too many penalties at the wrong times. A total of 32 shots on goal, but how many of them were quality shots?
Hince gives up so few rebounds that you need to pounce on them when he does. Those long-range wing-and-a-prayer shots only work if you have somebody ready to tip in the rebound...IF you get one.
In between the second and third periods, assistant coach John Bierchen came by and I asked him if I should offer cash or maybe a steak dinner for somebody...anybody to put the teddy bear holders out of their misery? John reported that it was not a happy locker room. He also said that the Snakes had a whopping ONE shot when they were even strength. Not good.
A couple of untimely penalties in the third removed pretty much all hope for a W and diminished hopes for the teddies. Dan Bremner, who sure looks like he has an axe to grind with his former team, was slapped with a high-sticking double minor, which Knoxville converted into its final goal and a 4-0 lead.
Alex Gallant got a whopping 7 PIM for instigating and fighting. At least that's what I wrote down, but I don't see that on the game sheet. At that point...7 minutes shorthanded with 7:35 to play, it was just about over.
The hallway was as somber as I've ever seen it. Wanda Amos' mega-watt smile was reduced to a grin and Jerome and Brad Prefontaine looked pretty grim. When JB called Jordan and Tom out to talk to me, thought I heard a groan, but both were cooperative as always.
What's going to happen this afternoon in Huntsville? Your guess is as good as mine. Third in three. Long trip and good result on Thursday, home disaster on Friday, quick turnaround and reasonable trip today. A W would be huge and another loss would make this hill a little tougher to climb.
I said that this team has a lot of talent. I still believe that. My question is: why does this talent come and go?
I'm NOT throwing Matt under the bus, but I think it has to start with him offensively. He is wildly inconsistent. He is so talented, but just seems to be off this year. He needs to assume a leadership role offensively. Matt has 13 points, but it's been a pretty quiet 13 points. Don't know if that makes sense or not.
The D will get a big boost when Mike Switzer comes back next weekend.
Both goalies have struggled at times and need to form a solid partnership and work on better communication with the D to strengthen all of their performances.
We'll know a lot about this team in a few hours.