A rare three-in-three at home for the Snakes and an unusual night it was all the way around!!
Earlier in the day, I heard the bad news about Tory Allan. Bad, but not entirely unexpected. Tory underwent surgery on Wednesday for a torn ACL and meniscus. :( That's the bad news. The worse news is that it's Tory's second problem with the same knee. A tough way to end a great rookie season. Hopefully, Tory will be back next season!
The Snakes skated with 18 guys today...YAY. However, mathematically speaking, things could get a little tense next week. Chris Bailer is eligible to come off the 30-day IR in time for next Saturday's game. Will he be able to play is another question altogether. Chris' injury is the kind that he could tweak in the first 10 minutes of the first game he's back...or it could last the rest of the season and playoffs. No way to tell.
If/when Chris comes back, that adds up to 19 on the Snakes roster. To complicate things, there could be a major roster announcement coming as soon as tomorrow. It's flying around twitter already, but I can tell you straight from the horse's mouth...nothing is final. As soon as I know, you will! One player would come and one would go in this case, but that still leaves 19.
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Before I type one more word, let me correct something I wrote in the horribly rushed story on tonight's game: Alex Gallant was NOT cut and didn't have stitches. His opponent, Ryan Hand, did. Alex confirmed both of these facts with a little smile. It was definitely a heavyweight matchup, with both Alex and Hand landing some good shots. Hand was bleeding from the face and had to change jerseys, so I assume no. 44 was bloody. Hand wore 28 for the rest of the game.
Hand came to the Antz from Wichita where he was on IR, team suspension and then waived. He just completed game 3 of his three-gamer. Both Alex and Hand got five for fighting and a minor for equipment violation as both players dramatically removed their helmets in preparation for their tilt. A no-no...costing each of them the two extra minutes.
This game was pretty ugly. It was filled with turnovers and plagued with penalties...those that were called and those that were overlooked. The Antz are desperately fighting for a playoff spot and the Snakes were equally desperate for two points as they jockey for playoff positioning.
The game was tied 3-3 late in the second, still anybody's game. At the 16:29 mark of the second, Hand ran goalie Curtis Martinu. When I say ran, I mean the man charged full-speed-ahead into Curtis, making no effort to stop. Curtis was none too pleased and came up swinging. Hand was slapped with a charging major and a gamer. His night was done.
With Hand getting a major in a tie game, here was a huge opportunity for the Snakes to put up a goal...or two. But a roughing minor on Kyle Johnson and a hooking call on Levi Lind negated a good chunk of the penalty.
The wheels came off for Fayetteville when the Antz were whistled for three penalties within less than a minute. Minors to Justin Barr and Nick Craven 41 seconds apart were followed by a meltdown by Brandon Richardson only three seconds later. Richardson slashed Neilsson Arcibal, and was given a two, a 10 and a gamer. Richardson will probably draw the attention of the league office as he made a lovely gesture to referee Mike Sheehan during his tirade. He was also given the gate, so the Antz finished two men short, not including their coach.
The Snakes capitalized on their 4.5-on-three (two Antz plus one with no stick) for a PPG. It was act 1 of the Preston Shupe show. Preston scored a rare pure hat trick within a span of 2:53 in the third.
Fayetteville's day started and ended badly. Bus troubles en route caused the Antz to arrive at the rink late, warmups to start late, and the game to begin 21 minutes late...and me to know I was going to have deadline problems before the first puck dropped!
I had a measly 15 minutes to write, which is ridiculous. Hence no quotes in the story. But a rookie scoring a pure hat trick doesn't happen every day of the week, so after I filed the story, I went in search of Preston. Chris went into the lockerroom to search for Preston and relay the message that I was waiting. Thanks, Chris.
"I think neither team is happy with this game. It was pretty sloppy. These points are critical. We wanted to win in regulation."
"We put the puck on net from everywhere. We didn't pass up on any shot. There is so much parity in this league. We need those points and have to find a way to win those games."
Preston was responding to a question I posed about teams they should beat....the teams below them. The Snakes have a golden opportunity this weekend to put six points on the board. Two down, four to go. They are playing the ninth-place team once and the last-place team twice. All of these games are at home. All are games they should win.
"The schedule worked out nicely for us here at the end. It's great to play in front of our home fans. We have such great support from them. The schedule was heavy with road games earlier....well, it was for them. I wasn't here." haha...true, Preston. You missed a lot of those fun trips.
Fayetteville coach Emery Olauson took over on Feb. 5 and is now 3-7-2 as Antz coach. His frustration with Sheehan's calls boiled over after the Snakes scored the empty netter to seal the win. Olauson started heaving water bottles and was tossed. At the final horn, assistant Sean Edwards gave Sheehan an earful and was also given a gamer.
Line of the day: when Olauson saw Jerome in the hallway about a half hour after the game ended, he was shaking his head, telling JB: "I don't know how you've done this so long". Jerome: nearly 10 years. Olauson: 12 games.
To be fair, Olauson has made changes to try to improve the Antz' fortunes. This is a team he inherited, not built. I'm sure Fayetteville management will give him a fresh start in October.
A doubleheader with Bloomington is on the horizon. Games and points the Snakes need. Games they should win.