Good morning, Snakes fans...
Considerably happier faces on the Snakes last night proving my theory that winning is infinitely more fun than losing!! As is often the case, the guys I wanted to talk to were the stars of the game, so I got to stand outside the happy lockerroom and hear all the shouting and imagine the hugging, backslapping and heaven knows what else...haha. Sure beats the deathly silence I've heard way too many times this season. Sigh.
Interviewing guys post-game is so different than for a feature or news story. It's interesting how some of the rookies react. I've met Tory Allan only once, officially. Many hi-how-are-yous exchanged since camp, but really we've had no conversations. Tory was happy about the game, but he was a little reserved at first. Not at all unusual.
My preference is to talk to rookies for the first time one-on-one either after they score that milestone first pro goal or for a planned story, but it just hasn't worked out yet for Tory. I've had a story planned on him for a while, but it keeps getting postponed. So Tory can look forward to a sit-down soon. Shhh...ya'all don't tell him...lol.
Alex Gallant is a happy man right now. He's completed game 2 of his three-game sentence. He's dying to get back on the ice. These guys are terrible at just watching.
Very concerned about Kyle Johnson. No diagnosis yet and symptoms still persist. The team will send him to a specialist tomorrow if he's not better. He looks miserable, but still managed a smile when I asked how he was doing. :(
No shortage of smiles when I talked to Andrew Loewen, Jordan Draper and Tory. Was so tempted to interview Jason Gray, who had a goal and an assist, but so afraid I wouldn't have space to run the quotes. Big no-no for me...talking to a guy and not using the quotes. Have only had to do it a handful of times over the years, but hate it. Was afraid of the space I'd get in the morning's paper. It seems as though there's a football game of some importance on Monday...
Not sure if I've said this lately, but I'm so fortunate for the freedom and space the newspaper affords me. They're incredibly flexible and I, in return, try to plan ahead which helps my editor a lot. Thanks to Darrell Roaden for shooting the game last night. The photography department is rather small these days. I'm always grateful when Darrell, Robin Trimarchi, Joe Paull and chief photog Mike Haskey are able to shoot my games. Their photos add so much!! Thanks to Kevin Price for the space and play you always give me. Even in the thick of football season, folks know what's going on with the Snakes!
There's a new player in town, the latest in the Canisius College pipeline. Following in the footsteps of Andrew, Pete MacDougall and Dave Cianfrini is forward Preston Shupe. He arrived at the rink hours before game time and hit the ice without ever practicing with the team! He saw considerable ice time and I'm sure he'll settle in nicely.
Playing with 5 D instead of 6, the pairings were as follows at the beginning of the game: Gray-Bailer, Maldonado-Switzer and Willigar-???. After everybody skates his first shift, then it's every d-man for himself. Random pairings for the rest of the game, depending on the situation.
Lines to begin the game: Braid-Arcibal-Allan; Lind-Draper-Aide and Bremner-Bowles-Gingera.
I told Tory after the game that, in my opinion, one of the most exciting plays in hockey is the shorhanded goal. The Snakes lead the SPHL in shorties with 9. Never was one needed more than to open the scoring last night. Wish I saw who the Bloomington player was, but whoever he was, Tory just picked his pocket clean. Grabbed the puck and, probably with so little time to think about it, buried it. Bam. 1-0 lead. Great way to jump start the offense!
Golden opportunity missed when the Snakes had a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. A double minor to Peter Cintala for high-sticking and one on everyone's favorite Dennis Sicard for interference. But the Snakes failed to capitalize. Not good.
Thoughts of the previous night started to creep in when it was 1-0 after the first period. We all know how Friday night's game turned out...
Thanks to Neilsson Arcibal and Levi Lind, the Snakes had a little breathing room midway through the second. A pair of goals only 16 seconds apart were just what the doctor ordered for an anemic offense.
I've been saying for weeks that the Cottonmouths needed to stomp somebody, beat them handily...not 2-1, or 1-0. They needed to go out and score a bunch of goals. To me, a bunch of goals is 5, 6 or 7. Am I happy with 4? YES. Should they be? At this point, it's baby steps. 4 goals when you've managed to score only a single goal in three of the past 4 games is a significant accomplishment. Next goal...beat Knoxville. More on that in a minute.
Scary moment in this game. Jason cranked up a slapshot which struck Cintala. He dropped like a rock on top of one of the Snakes. At this moment, the arena is hushed because nobody knows who's down and how badly he's hurt. Is it a Columbus or Bloomington player who took the puck and where was he hit? My blood runs cold when I see these kids hurt. Having lived through the Steve Weidlich skate-to-the-neck incident in living color, don't think it could get much worse than that. But my biggest fear is always a hit to the head.
The Bloomington trainer came sprinting out and the Snakes player crawled out from under Cintala. I'm looking for moving arms and feet first. Saw those but I believe Cintala was briefly knocked out. He appeared to be dead weight on top of the Columbus player. They literally had to drag him off the ice. So scary. Am going to email the Thunder and see if I can get an update on him.
I get a week off from writing as the Snakes are away from the Pit next weekend. Trips to Huntsville and Knoxville. Knoxville...their nemesis this season.
Bryan Hince is a good goalie, but, for heaven's sake, he's not the second coming of Tuukka Rask!! Why he and the Ice Bears have the Snakes' number is one of this season's great mysteries. Hince can be beaten. He's given up 5 goals four times this season and 4 goals twice. His GAA is good at 2.73 and save percentage fine at .907. Look at his record: 12-7-2. SIX of those Ws came over the Snakes. Add two playoff wins last season (shutouts, actually) and you have EIGHT straight victories over the Snakes.
New goal for this season: solve Hince and beat Knoxville. Think of how different the standings would look if the Cottonmouths won even half of those games vs Knoxville. I have to believe it's a mental thing at this point. They need to believe they can beat them...and they will.
Didn't intend for this to be so long, Snakes fans. Thanks for your patience!