Seventh time's the charm. Pretty sure that's not the old saying, but it definitely worked for the Snakes. Six times this season the Cottonmouths have faced the Knoxville Ice Bears and goaltender Bryan Hince. Six times, the W went to Knoxville. Actually, nine times if you go back to the back-to-back playoff shutouts last season. I prefer not to relive those two games.
In a wild game Friday night, it appeared that the Ice Bears would cruise to yet another win after they had the Snakes on their heels early in the second period (actually...I don't think Snakes have heels). Oh, well.
It took most of the first period for the Cottonmouths to work out their bus legs and get into a good rhythm. Knoxville scored first, but Sammy Bowles and the PP unit answered. It appeared that the teams would head to the lockerroom tied 1-1. Or not.
A late goal gave Knoxville the 2-1 lead after one. Not really a big deal as goals can be scored so quickly and in bunches. It turned out both scenarios would play out as this game unfolded.
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The scoresheet looks so weird for this game. A nice little three-goal first...and then SIX in the second. Not just that six goals were scored in a period. It happens. But how and when they were scored... Wow.
It was a little disconcerting when Andrew Dovey scored to put Knoxville up 3-1, but downright disheartening when Francis Drolet scored 33 seconds later. The first of these two goals came on a perfect passing sequence on a two-on-one. The second was a deflection off Andrew Loewen's skate.
None of these goals were particularly tough chances for Andrew and if he was ever going to become unglued, now was the time. Jerome wisely called timeout to settle the troops...hopefully.
Just seven seconds after the fourth Knoxville goal and Columbus timeout, Will Aide dropped the gloves with Brad Pawlowski. Good for Will. It wasn't much of a fight. Over in the blink of an eye, but kudos to Will for realizing that something had to spark his team. With Alex Gallant finishing his suspension, Will stepped up. Did it provide that spark?
Before we leave the almost-fight, what were those theatrics by Pawlowski after the not-really-a-fight? You know it must have been over the top as he was slapped with 10-minute misconduct.
Well, just 1:31 after the fight, newcomer Preston Shupe scored his first goal as a Cottonmouths and 1:00 after that Chris Bailer scored only his second goal of the season. Just that quickly, it was the Ice Bears and the previously invincible Hince who were reeling. It's 4-3 and anybody's game, where it had been 4-1 with Knoxville in full control.
Matt Gingera scored the tying goal on the power play at the 10:54 mark of the third, the last of three unanswered goals by the Snakes. 4-4 game.
The real test was yet to come. This team was not only winless vs Knoxville for nearly half a season, but consistency is not exactly its middle name. The guys battled back from a pretty deep hole, only to fall behind once again. Ben Power's goal at the 14:55 mark gave Knoxville the lead with 20 minutes to play.
When we look back at this season, is the third period going to be a turning point? This has been a tough week for the Snakes: losing Steve Mele to an ECHL call-up, suspension of Alex Gallant, trading Jordan Braid, welcoming Preston. Sounds like a roller coaster ride doesn't it?
They claw back from a deep hole, only to have to fight back again. When I took a break from hollering at the computer, I said to my husband that whoever scored the next goal would win the game. Really. You can ask him.
If Knoxville scores to go up 6-4, it would be way too demoralizing for the Snakes to come back. If the Snakes tied it 5-5, they'd seize that wild intangible called momentum and grab that elusive first W over the Ice Bears.
The other wild card was whether Hince would become unglued if his cage was rattled enough. Would relentless pressure, not to mention a good bounce here or there cause too many problems for him to handle?
Hince was clearly rattled. He was steamed either at himself, his D or both. The six goals he gave up were an all-time high in his 54 games over three seasons in a Knoxville uniform. It may have taken half a season for the Snakes to solve him, but they did so in a big way.
So many heroes in this one. The tying goal was scored by Tory Allan, who also had an assist in the game. The game winner came on the power play (the THIRD PPG of the contest for the Snakes) by rookie d-man Jason Gray. This was only the third goal of the season for Jason and his first game winner.
Speaking of adversity, not only was Alex among the missing, but so was captain Kyle Johnson. Jerome told me that Kyle was still not feeling well, but he'd hoped to skate later in the week. Whether he did and later suffered a relapse or didn't get to skate at all, I don't know.
There were only 14 skaters instead of the usual 16...and 11 of them scored at least one point. Only Will and defensemen Andy Willigar and Mike Switzer didn't score a point, but certainly made major contributions. Andy is sporting a nice bruise right about now from a shot he blocked and Mike made outstanding defensive contributions as well.
Leading the way was Sam with a goal and three assists. Tom Maldonado and Neilsson Arcibal each had two assists, while Levi Lind, Dan Bremner and Jordan Draper had one assist each.
The PP was great (three goals in four tries) and the PK was perfect, killing all five chances.
This was a tremendous win for the guys, but they have an opportunity to really turn a corner against Huntsville on Saturday night. Ooops...just looked at the clock. Make that TONIGHT vs the Havoc.
They have a chance to post their first three-game winning streak of the season, not to mention end the first half the season on a winning note.
Will they do it?