Good morning, Snakes fans! Still basking in the glow of witnessing SPHL history last night. Looking back, it still seems a little surreal...
Thanks to L-E chief photog Mike Haskey for his fantastic photo gallery documenting Shannon's entrance into the record books. If you haven't seen it, you can find Mike's gallery on our website's home page. Mike and I exchanged texts and emails earlier in the day so he could plot out his strategy and location. Fortunately, for him, Shannon's net was where the photographers were stationed for two periods. It's also near the players' entrance. Mike was able to get some stunning photos. I appreciate you, Mike! Great job!!
Last night was a little unusual all the way around. Normally I interview players in my "office", which is the equipment table outside the lockerroom. But, this time Jerome talked to the players for a minute before letting the media inside. The game was about average in length, with no fights, no delays, no long intermissions. So I had a decent amount of time to write.
Shannon's locker is in the corner of the room, so the reporters didn't inconvenience the players too badly. Of course, they couldn't shower or change until we all left. They took off skates, tape, sweaters and greeted us in what I fondly call their long black underwear. :) Shannon looked tired, relieved and happy, all at the same time.
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She's a competitor and I know she (and her teammates) wanted to win this game. But, as she pointed out a couple of times, she'd been here two whole days. Her sense of humor came through when she told me that a week would have been nice! When hockey players don't skate and practice for a few days, it's significant. She hadn't been on the ice since Feb. 20!
I have no idea how much media was there, as I arrived at Shannon's locker first. There were folks behind me, but I don't know how many or where they were from. Kudos to the Snakes staff as it was prepared and organized. My biggest worry...dashing down the back stairs while the game was going on and missing a goal...didn't materialize. Taking down my front stairs to accommodate the photographers was a small price to pay for participating in this historic event.
I needed help filing this story from my friend Mary Beth Hendricks, who was up at the jersey auction. I forgot all about the auction (uh...it didn't involve me or my deadline, so why would I remember it? lol) and was reminded when Jerome Bechard was nowhere to be found. Knoxville's coach Mike Craigen and I were able to chat briefly and I needed JB's reaction for the story.
So, when Mary Beth texted me to tell me how much Shannon's jersey went for ($2400! Yikes) I asked her to find Jerome and ask him to call me. Thanks for the save, Mary Beth. Happy Birthday to Harlan, whose birthday gift to himself was Tom Maldonado's blue jersey. :)
After technology and MB saved me, I filed the story and went up to get player reactions. They weren't too happy, believe me. They felt like they'd let Shannon down. "Hanging her out to dry" is the phrase they used. A second-period meltdown cost her and the Snakes three goals...in a span of less than five minutes. UGH.
Kyle Johnson, a young captain who takes his job very seriously, took personal responsibility for the loss, which I wouldn't let him do. (Hey...my interview, my blog, my decision...right?)
"It was one of those games. We stopped doing the little things. We need to learn to play our game, no matter what. That's on me. That's leadership. I need to let them know that. I knew Shannon would play that well. I wish we could've won it for her."
Kyle, a close friend and now both college and pro teammate of Shannon's, took the loss personally as did Jordan Draper, who did manage a smile and to retain his sense of humor.
"Yea, her crowd reaction was louder than (Andrew) Loewen's. She stood up and played well. It was one of those games where one thing goes wrong and everything piles on. Shannon showed she can play. Everybody was confident she can stand in there. Remember, she hasn't faced any guys shots since September."
Tom is the team's only vet and an assistant captain. He echoed the theme of disappointment that they couldn't earn her the W in her first pro start.
"For whatever reason, we didn't keep doing what we were doing. Shannon is a great person and a great goalie and it hurts not to be able to get a win for her. She proved she can play in this league. This is a win for Columbus, the Snakes organization, the league and hockey in general."
The crowd was announced at 4,295. I was disappointed at first, as I'd hoped for much larger. But then I realized how much competition there was in our city last night. The fabulous play Les Miserables concluded at the Springer. Beauty and the Beast was at the RiverCenter. There were a couple of races yesterday as well as Thunder in the Valley, baseball, soccer...When you look at it that way and factor in the short notice, I think Columbus did come out in significant numbers to witness history.
I had to say good-bye, for now, to my pal Mark Atnip. Mark and I were SPHL pioneers, both spending 10 seasons in the league. He's headed to an awesome new job in Texas. I told Mike Craigen that the league will surely fold when Mark and I both leave. Mark does a terrific job with the Ice Bears. He's a true professional and I've enjoyed our working relationship and friendship over the years.
Back to normal today, the Snakes regular season home finale. The big question looms: what will next week bring? The Cottonmouths have lost three in a row, not what you want for the home stretch. Playoff seeding will be decided on Saturday as there are no games scheduled next Sunday. The race is tight and every game and two points count. Pensacola clinched the regular-season title and will enjoy home ice throughout the playoffs and host the eighth seed. As of now, that's literally all we know. Should make for an exciting final week!