Don't look now, Snakes fans, but your team is on a roll!! The Columbus Cottonmouths come home to the Snake Pit tonight riding a four-game winning streak. After their three-game sweep of Fayetteville last weekend, they traveled to Huntsville on Friday night to face the first-place Havoc.
Before the game started, I felt like the Snakes had a great chance to win, despite how well Huntsville had been playing. I kept thinking of something that Tory Allan said to me during our interview for today's story:
"We're enjoying coming to the rink. We're confident we're going to win. In the past, one thing goes wrong and everything just snowballed."
Maybe I've target the wrong element in preaching about consistency...or lack thereof. Maybe it was confidence all along. I'd have to say that one breeds the other. If that's the case, then the Snakes will build on last night's game and finish the season with a 28-game winning streak...haha.
Obviously, the last sentence was meant in jest, but hear this: if the Snakes play a full 60 minutes of the brand of hockey they showed last night, they'll shoot up the SPHL standings in a hurry, stay there and be successful in the playoffs.
Despite the coldness of the web and my inability to feel the energy and see the players' faces, there was no mistaking the intensity of this game. I've not seen it all year, except in spurts, of course.
But this was a total, wire-to-wire effort by every single guy. The speed of the game and the guys' effort is really hard to describe. So I'll take a line from the Huntsville broadcaster (I think his name is TW but many apologies if I'm wrong...UGH).
First let me set the stage for you...
It's the beginning of the third period and the Snakes are up 2-0. They're playing a tremendous game in all phases and even doing what I always hope they'll do: trying desperately to get that third goal and put the Havoc away. The Havoc, on the other hand, are desperate to light the lamp, cut the deficit in half and put themselves in position to win.
Both teams had a lot at stake. The Havoc are in a virtual tie with Pensacola and the Mississippi RiverKings for first place. The Snakes are poised to make their move from ninth place where they were before the streak started.
So the puck drops on the third and who is out there flying, banging and dominating? Yep...the Snakes. As TW said: looking at these two teams, you'd think the Snakes were the ones who were behind. I hollered out loud as this is what I'd been thinking!
Scoring first is huge, especially if you expect a close game, which I definitely did. The power play came through, showing both skill and patience, waiting for the right shot. Sam Bowles celebrated his birthday a little early (Happy Birthday, Sammy!) at the 6:58 mark of the first. 1-0 Snakes, which was the score at the end of the first.
The absolute best thing you can do is score in the first minute or last minute of the period. The opposite is true if you give up a goal during these time frames.
Will Aide's goal happened so fast that I can only guess what happened. Will was right in front of the net. It looked like he swiped an errant pass and...BOOM. His one-timer gave the Snakes a 2-0 lead only 24 seconds into the second. Hardly time to relax, though.
Things got really interesting late in the game when the Havoc pulled goalie Jesse Kallechy for the extra attacker and Ray Ortiz scored with 59 seconds left. Andrew Loewen protested that the puck had been played with a high stick, to no avail.
At this point I'm thinking two things: how great a W this will be...or how devastating a loss. To have played this well, could they possibly still lose this game? The answer is found in Tory's statement...confidence. They believed they were going to win, and they did.
I was disappointed that Andrew didn't get the shutout because he really deserved it. The expression "standing on his head" hardly describes what Andrew did. He was everywhere...on his belly, on his back...using every available tool. An excellent performance by the Snakes #1 (and only) goalie.
Despite a fine performance by assistant coach John Bierchen as EBUG, there will be a new goalie in town today. Travis Bosch went to Denver (CHL) and they liked what they saw, so he's staying. Very happy for Travis and happy for the team that it comes when Andrew has hit his stride. He's seeing the puck well and is ready to put the team on his back and carry it into the playoffs.
Not to mention, Andrew's mom and dad were in Huntsville and will be at the rink tonight for Andrew Loewen bobblehead night! Things going pretty well for Andrew, I'd say!!
The lines appear to be stable...for now. Jerome tinkers with them constantly, but they're all so superstitious when they're winning that we should see these lines and defensive pairings for a while:
- Maldonado and Switzer
- Willigar and Bailer
- Gray and Johnson
Be sure to take a close look at the back of the guys' helmets today. They're wearing a sticker to honor James "Buzzy" Slayton, dad of equipment gurusPedro
. Mr. Slayton died very suddenly last Sunday, one of three tragedies this family experienced in less than two days.
I went to the visitation last night and Pedro and Barney are doing as well as can be expected and are staying strong for their precious mom. I met Jossie Slayton several years ago. She sits right near the steps I go down to get to the lockerroom at the end of every game. She introduced herself as Barney and Pedro's mom and told me she reads this blog and cuts out every article in which her sons' name appears.
Barney has suited up as EBUG for not only the Snakes but visiting teams, so we used to joke that I'd get his name in here at least 3 times a year, somehow. Then Pedro became the team's equipment manager last season, so he got a shout out in here too!
Thinking of you and your family at this sad hour, Jossie. God bless you all.
Big series against Louisiana begins tonight. Right now, the sixth-place Snakes have a precarious one-point lead over the Mississippi Surge and Fayetteville and are only three points out of fifth place. The standings are so tight that there's only a 13-point gap from first place to last!
Don't miss out on your Loewen bobblehead and some great hockey tonight! Game time is 7:30.