Good morning, Snakes fans. Know you're probably still mulling over all the highs and lows from last night's game...or the whole weekend, for that matter!
The weekend kind of typifies the way the season has gone. Up, down, up, down. Definitely a roller coaster ride of emotions.
It was great seeing all the happy faces after Friday night's game. Unbelievable how Knoxville has owned the Snakes this season. Two wins in nine games against a team which is certainly no better than the Cottonmouths. Knoxville suffers some of the same problems as the Snakes. At the top of the list is an inconsistent offense.
A good win on Friday night. I admit it...I groaned when Knoxville scored first. You did, too. But happily the Snakes tied it and earned a fresh start. One of hockey's most exciting plays didn't work out too well for Matt Gingera. Matt was yanked down on a breakaway but couldn't convert the penalty shot. 1-1 entering the third was pretty tense as it was obviously still anybody's game.
Kudos to the offense for scoring four unanswered goals, including three in the final period to earn a badly needed home win. Jordan Draper, Neilsson Arcibal and Preston Shupe scored in the final period.
How about the Arcibal-Shupe-Tory Allan line? It is definitely on fire...and is composed of three rookies!!
Last night was another story. The Snakes match up well against Louisiana despite a huge gap in the standings. They're 2-2 vs the IceGators this season with the Snakes winning the first two and the Gators the next two.
If you read my story this morning, you may be shaking your head. It seems that Jerome and I didn't see the same game. His decision to start rookie goalie Curtis Martinu was questionable. I know that Curtis has to get some playing time and the clock is ticking. You can't wear Andrew Loewen out with the playoffs looming. Curtis has to get experience. I understand that.
But this team badly needs some kind of momentum down the stretch. Grabbing two home Ws in a row would've been huge. Simply put...if Andrew starts this game, the Snakes' chances of winning rise significantly. Why not wait until next weekend when the team has a three-in-three? Start Andrew at home on Friday, put Curtis in net on Saturday and back to Andrew on Sunday afternoon? Well, one of many reasons I'm not the coach...
My first question to JB last night: So, Curtis looked a little shaky...Jerome came as close to snapping at me as he ever has in 10 years. He said absolutely not, we left him hung out to dry. Then he said that they'd not given up close to 40 shots all year. He said it...I wrote it, but definitely a memory lapse as the Snakes have definitely yielded 40+ shots multiple times.
Needless to say, I didn't get to my next question: Did you consider pulling him? Curtis looked overmatched, nervous, and completely uncomfortable in net. Granted, he settled down in the second period, but I wouldn't describe his play as phenomenal. I couldn't help but wonder if Jerome was defending Curtis, which I predicted he would, or defending his own decision to start him.
Jerome also noted the many turnovers last night. Not saying there weren't some, but costly turnovers that cause Miss Flit and me to holler out loud? No hollering from the senior citizen/handicapped section last night. Thought it kind of curious that JB threw his captain under the bus for one of the LA goals and only gave his goalie responsibility for "maybe one goal in the third". Huh?
Please do not misunderstand me. Never, and I mean never, is one person responsible for a loss. This is a team sport. No way am I putting this loss on Curtis' shoulders, any more than I would on Andrew, Ian Vigier, Chad Rycroft...any goalie. The offense is still sputtering. The penalty kill is too. There are a million different pieces of this puzzle that contribute to victory or defeat.
One other concern I have is the unpopularity of the decision with season ticket holders. Some were, literally, hollering for JB to take Curtis out. Others simply left. True, Jerome has to do what he thinks is best for the team, but the season ticket holders help pay the bills.
The fans who remained were treated to the relatively rare exhibition of a goalie fights. I'll admit I didn't see who threw down the gauntlet first. I asked Jerome and LA coach Kevin Kaminski and neither saw it start. This fight, as so many others do, was the last in a chain of events.
A LA player boarded Tom Maldonado, which ticked off Alex Gallant, who charged the offending player. Almost simultaneously, Will Aide dropped the gloves with Greg Brown. I was watching Will's fight when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw goalie Kiefer Smiley lumbering toward center ice. Actually, he was moving pretty fast, as quickly as all that gear would let him. Curtis was on his way at an equally fast pace.
Interesting to watch both Smiley and Curtis preparing for battle, removing equipment beginning with sweaters, masks, blocker, glove. The crowd, which contained many newbies...believe me, I can tell...was thrilled!
My son may be the only person in attendance who doesn't like fighting. Reese: "There were good things and bad things tonight. The good thing was Andrew Loewen dancing. The bad thing was that Curtis goalie fighting." I passed on Reese's forensic analysis to Andrew. haha. Not sure many in the crowd would agree with him, though!
All in all, a disappointing end to a promising weekend. The clock is ticking, folks. Only 16 regular season games left and the Snakes are sitting in a tie for 7th place with Knoxville. The only two teams below them are Fayetteville and Bloomington. As I said earlier, there is a very real possibility that, for the first time in 10 years, the Snakes will be on the outside looking in when playoff time arrives.
The good news is that six of the remaining 16 Snakes games feature Fayetteville or Bloomington as the Snakes' opponent. So they definitely control their own destiny as far as getting into the playoffs. What happens in the first round? Let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
I'd had such high hopes for this season. Those hopes are fading fast. Sigh.