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Playoffs start now for Columbus Cottonmouths

Coming into Friday’s game, the Columbus Cottonmouths badly needed to pick up a win against the Fayetteville Fireantz who sat seven points ahead of them in the standings.

“We have to play every game like it’s our last,” Cottonmouths’ captain Craig Stahl said. “Every game from now on is a playoff game.”

The Snakes (17-20-3) played like it in front of 2,152 fans at the Civic Center beating the Fireantz 4-1.

With the win the Snakes have 37 points and Fayetteville (19-16-4) and Twin City both have 42.

The Snakes got on top early in the first period.

Tim Green and Brad Patterson got off shots on Fireantz’s goalie Chad Collins. Defenseman Mat Ponto was in front of the goal to pick up Green’s rebound and put it in the back of the net for the score.

Later in the first period, the Snakes went up 2-0 on a Patterson goal.

From a few yards out Patterson went top-shelf on Collins. Green and Bowles got the assists.

The only scuffle of the night came with just 13 seconds remaining in the first period.

Fayetteville goalie Collins took exception to Cottonmouths’ forward Ryan McCar-thy spending too much time in front of him. Collins then grabbed McCarthy from behind. Fayetteville’s Craig Geerlinks separated the two before anything more than shoving could happen. Both received roughing penalties.

Fayetteville and Columbus started the second period playing four-on-four hockey from the penalties at the end of the first period.

Only 28 seconds into the period, Michael George and Lorne Misita connected on the prettiest goal of the game.

With George set up on the left blueline, Misita positioned himself to the right of Collins. George’s sharp pass hit Misita right in the stick, and Misita hit it in before Collins could even see him. Kyle Lundale and George earned an assist on the play to give the Snakes a 3-0 lead.

Cottonmouth goalie Ian Vigier was almost flawless for the night with the exception coming about halfway through the second.

Fayetteville’s Dan Buccella caught a rebound of the glass in front of a crowded goal and finally got the puck in the net after several pokes.

Vigier said he wasn’t sure how it got in.

“It bounced around a lot in there,” he said. “I asked the guys and they said it went in but I don’t know if it went in up top or on the bottom.”

The Cottonmouths took the 3-1 lead with them all the way until the 18:50 mark of the third period.

Fayetteville called timeout with 1:43 left and pulled Collins to leave an empty net.

Vigier stuffed the Fireantz only scoring chance after that with a huge glove-side save.

Bowles scored an empty netter while Ponto earned the assist.

Ponto finished the game with one goal and one assist while Green had two assists. Patterson had one goal and one assist.

Vigier, who had been traveling back and forth to the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, said he was glad to be back the home last two weeks for the ‘playoff-style hockey.’

“Our defense cleared the land in front of me tonight,” Vigier said. “Forwards played great. Great all-around game from all of our guys.”

Vigier finished with 29 shots stopped. Collins took the loss despite 31 saves.

Stahl said the team is starting to realize what is at stake.

“When we get to the playoffs, it won’t be a big deal because we’ve been playing like this for a while,” he said. “We’ve had some injuries, but everyone is picking up the slack and that’s what it takes to get going.”

ContactStephanie Pedersen at 706-571-8502

@CO Agate:Fayetteville 0 1 0—1

Columbus Cottonmouths 2 1 1—4

First period: Scoring: 1, Columbus, Ponto (Green, Patterson), 1:56. 2, Columbus, Patterson (Green, Bowles), 15:17. Penalties: Olauson, Fayetteville (tripping) 4:04; Rutz, Columbus (hooking) 11:15; Columbus McCarthy (roughing) 19:47; Collins, Fayetteville (roughing) 19:47.

Second period: Scoring: 3, Columbus, Misita (George, Lundale), 0:28. 1, Fayetteville, Buccella (Colangelo, Olauson), 10:12. Penalties: Hessler, Fayetteville (slashing) 1:11; Leslie, Columbus (roughing) 12:11; McCarthy, Columbus (roughing) 12:11; Snyder, Fayetteville (roughing) 12:11; Ponto, Columbus (hooking) 14:05; Misita, Columbus (cross checking), 18:10.Third period: Scoring: 4, Columbus, Bowles (empty net) (Ponto), 18:50. Penalties: Nattress, Fayetteville (hooking) 3:16; Hessler, Fayetteville (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:13.

Shots on goal: Fayetteville 6 14 10-30. Columbus Cottonmouths 12 10 13-35. Power plays: Fayetteville 0 of4. Columbus 0 of 4.

Goaltenders: Collins (loss): 59:20. 34-31-3. Vigier (win): 60:00. 30-29-1.

Referee: Justin Greene. Lineman: Tony Paradise, Daniel Cohen. Time: 2:17. Attendance: 2,152