Good morning, Snakes fans!! I'm sure the Cottonmouths are celebrating this morning. They certainly deserve to be. What a great weekend of hockey at a most opportune time...
Hard to know where to begin, so let's start with Thursday night in Biloxi. The Snakes are set to face the Surge for a home-and-home series that begins on the road. This season you can pretty much toss the 'home ice advantage' phrase out the window for the Cottonmouths as they've struggled mightily at home...until now.
I missed Thursday's webcast. I know, I know...40 lashes with a wet noodle...lol. I usually miss two November games for Girls Weekend with my sisters. Other than those, I've missed exactly 5 games in 10 years, including webcasts. :) BUT...this miss was the Snakes fault! The Gierer, Simmons and Hendricks families all had tickets for Les Miserables that had to be exchanged when Mother Nature postponed the LA game and it was rescheduled for March 6. We were fortunate to get great seats for opening night, Feb. 27.
Sidebar to Columbus readers...IF (a gigantic 'if') you are still able to get tickets for Les Mis, run, don't walk to the Springer Opera House box office and grab them. We've been going to the Springer forever. It's the historic state theater of GA as well as a local treasure. This is, hands down, the best production Larry and I have ever seen. It's incredible. GO get tickets, if any are available!! Back to hockey...
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I asked Lindsey to text me scores, so I could check at intermission. Her first texts were not encouraging: down 2-0 and an injured Tory Allan dragged off the ice by his teammates. While still at intermission, I hear it's tied 2-2. OK, back to Les Mis...and it's anybody's game in Biloxi. Very exciting to click on the phone after the play and find a 5-3 win!
Even with the dark cloud of Tory's injury making the W pretty costly, it's a great start to a big weekend. The regular season is rapidly coming to a close and it's time for the Snakes to peak and make their move up the standings. I texted Jerome and his reply was chilling: "It doesn't look good". Now ya'all know that Jerome is totally a glass half-full guy. I texted my pal Dana Barker with JB's preliminary diagnosis and Dana translated it as I did...out for the season.
I spoke with Tory last night. He gives new meaning to gloom and doom. I thought Jesse Cole and Sam Bowles were the worst injured spectators. Nope. Tory looked awful on Friday night. When I talked to him last night, he managed a tiny smile (I do mean tiny) and said he could put a little weight on his injured knee. I saw him walking. He was right...a little weight. There is still a lot of swelling and an MRI hasn't been schedule yet. He's on the 30-day IR, which means he's done til at least the second round of the playoffs. Would love to be optimistic, but I'm afraid Tory is done for the season.
Back to Thursday night. Despite Tory's injury, two keys from that game. Though they had to be shaken by their linemate and pal's being dragged off the ice, Neilsson Arcibal and Preston Shupe recovered nicely. Their line scored two goals and the Sam Bowles-Matt Gingera-Jordan Draper line scored three. If the Snakes are to be successful down the stretch, they need TWO top scoring lines to contribute. Most teams have only one high-powered line. The Snakes have two. If both can click at the same time, they'll be successful.
On to the Friday rematch and Saturday game vs the RiverKings.
Not sure what I can say about Matt except he must read this blog and heed my advice...haha. I've been saying all season that, though Matt has put up good point production, they've been quiet points. Matt needed to step up if this team was to be successful. Uh...he did that Friday night. FIVE goals in one game. Most teams would love to have that. FIVE for one man. Yikes.
It was fun to watch. It got to where every time Matt stepped on the ice, the crowd expected a goal! This was a slugfest, back-and-forth, you take the lead, no, I want the lead. Curtis Martinu started again in net. To say Curtis has struggled would be an understatement, but to say he's improving game by game would be accurate. Unfortunately, he still looks very unsettled out there at times, so it was obvious to me that his teammates were going to have to score some goals as Curtis was going to let some in.
A side note: the Snakes D has been seriously hampered by injuries lately, which definitely affects the goaltenders. Chris Bailer, whose glum face was a pretty good match for Tory's, is on 30-day IR also. Levi Lind has filled in admirably, but midway through the period, veteran d-man Tom Maldonado went down with an injured hand.
Tom can't grip the stick properly and is wearing a brace. An MRI would diagnose either a deep bruise or broken bone. Holding our breath as this would be a huge loss if Tom joined the M*A*S*H unit for a significant period of time. Simply put, there isn't a significant period of time left in this season! Six healthy, productive d-man is on Jerome's wish list. He's shopping for a d-man (or two) but he's not going to find Tom's skill or experience out there. Hoping for good results from that MRI.
Seth Ronsberg opened the scoring with his SECOND pro goal of his career. Apologies to Seth from Dana and myself for overlooking his first goal, which came during a two-game stint with, ironically, the Surge last season. The Surge countered and Matt scored his first. Great, but not eye-popping. That came later.
Matt got our attention when he scored twice in a 1:03 span early in the second. A hat trick! That's always great, but when it comes in the first three minutes of the second period, you start wondering: how many more are in there, Matt? haha At the end of the second, the Snakes are up 4-3, but in a real dogfight. This is going to be a one-goal game. Everybody in the arena knew it.
The Surge tie it 4-4 only 41 seconds into the third and every single person groans in unison. It could've been funny, but it wasn't. A goal scored against you in the first or last minute of the period takes the wind out of your sails. Sure did on Friday night. But, Gingera to the rescue...gives the Snakes a 5-4 lead five minutes into the third. Way too long to hold it, right? Right. Mark Thorburn ties it and we head to OT.
Not gonna say I hate OT and shootouts. Ya'all have heard it before. Three-on-three...too much open ice. Somebody makes a mistake and the other guys win. Ultimate thrill of victory and agony of defeat. So much riding on this game. Somehow, this team has to get Curtis that first W. He should gain a ton of confidence with that first one under his belt. If Andrew Loewen needs a rest (though my vote is that he plays every night 'til mid-April :) the team needs a confident goalie. The Snakes need every single two points the rest of the season. They need to run the table, streak into the playoffs and win the Cup. Ok...got a little carried away, didn't I? lol
Who steps on the ice to start OT? Yep...Superman. I said to Miss Flit that my story was already going to write itself, but if Matt were to score the winning goal...wow. Well, Matt had three chances on his first OT shift!! Talk about groaning? Oh, that was me...seeing this storyline slip away.
A beautiful pass by Sammy right on Matt's stick and...BOOM! Game over. It was an incredible performance by Matt. He outscored every other TEAM in the SPHL on Friday night. Congrats to Matt, Curtis and the Snakes for a great win.
Last night, the Mississippi RiverKings came to the Snake Pit with the Snakes seeking their first W of the season over the Kings.
With Tory on the shelf, a familiar face was back in the lineup after being gone two months. Steve Mele arrived in town less than two hours before game time and slid right into Tory's slot in the lineup. He's on the line with his good friend Neilsson, but had never played with Preston. Preston arrived in town a few days after Steve left. You'd never have known it as Steve, a very mature and skilled player, fit right in.
Matt, the slacker, took the night off, as he only assisted on Will Aide's goal...haha. I asked Neilsson if the main goal of the evening was to put that showoff Gingera in his place. Neilsson said he'd told Matt he was gonna score SIX goals vs the Kings...lol. A great game on Saturday night. One of the most complete, possibly THE most complete effort of the season, under adverse conditions.
Down one d-man, Steve the new guy/returning guy hadn't even practiced with the team, a fight-filled second period which saw both Andy Willigar and the temporary d-man Levi Lind in the penalty box. Bet Kyle Johnson, who had an excellent game including one save when he swept the puck out of the crease, Mike Switzer and Jason Gray were tired after the second period!
Another shutout by Andrew Loewen. What can you say about Andrew? He struggled out of the gate and kept telling me this was a work in progress. He was right and is now putting up Andrew-like numbers. Numbers that a #1 goalie puts up. :) Andrew is a leader on this team and it shows.
Speaking of leaders, when the team rushed to congratulate Matt on Friday night, one player made a beeline for Curtis. Good job, Tom. That was a huge moment for that young man and you realized it. Leadership takes many forms and you showed it there.
The boys are enjoying a well-deserved day off today and will be back at practice on Monday. At least some of them will. Others will be seeking medical answers that I hope bring good news.
A rare three straight at home, thanks to the snow makeup game. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the Snake Pit against Fayetteville and Bloomington. These are the two teams below the Snakes. Time to put some serious distance between the top 8 and the two non-playoff teams. Another weekend sweep?