What an eventful afternoon at the Snake Pit!
When Reese and I arrived, some of the FireAntz were doing a drill with the soccer ball right outside the elevator. I was excited about seeing Jesse Cole again, but no Jesse. Without being too graphic, Jesse was quite ill all day.
Jesse's name was announced as a starter and he, not surprisingly, got a warm ovation from the crowd. As time approached for drop of the first puck, the Civic Center guys were repairing a pane of glass. Miss Flit, Joe and I were looking all over...no Jesse.
I'm the first to admit that I don't watch every line change for the visitors, but I looked often and still no Jesse. He appeared for a couple of shifts, but I don't think he came out of the locker room for the second period. The flu...UGH. He was getting an IV right before the start of the game, probably the first of several.
Jordan Braid capped off a stellar weekend with a goal and an assists...5 points in two key games. Go, Jordan! When I talked to him afterward, he and John Sullivan both praised the teamwork and timing of their line.
With Daniel Amesbury and Andrew Krelove missing, here's the way the lines and defensive pairs went to begin the game:
Jordan Braid-John Sullivan-Brett Hammond; Will Barlow-Bret Tyler
Orrin Hergott-Derek Pallardy-Greg Beller; Dave Cianfrini-Tom Maldonado
Mitch Wall-Ryan Pearson-Pete MacDougall; Kevin Kessler
After the first shift, the d-men revert to a simple rotation...NEXT!!!
Give the Antz credit. They kept battling. Every time the Snakes would get a lead that was even a little comfortable, they narrowed the gap. 2-0 became 2-1; 3-1 became 2-1; 5-2 became 5-3; 6-3 became 6-4.
Two of the Fayetteville goals came on deflections. Their first goal, Ian Vigier was way off balance, sprawled out to his right and all Atkinson had to do was hit an empty net. Ian is still the league's top goalie, but MSS's Kiefer Smiley is only .03 behind him.
So encouraging that, even shorthanded, the Snakes had balanced scoring with 6 different scorers and all 3 lines chipping in. Ryan Pearson was signed to another three-gamer. Look for Levi Lind to be back in town early this week. Sam Bowles is on the shelf for a couple more weeks.
Now, I'm not a math girl, but...
Tough decisions ahead for Jerome. The most likely scenario has Sammy going on the 30-day IR retroactive to January 28. Subtract Sam, add Levi. But what happens when it's time for Sam to come back? Ryan is the new guy. It would seem logical that he would go, but you know as well as I do, it's not all about numbers. It's about filling a very specific need. Only Jerome knows exactly what he needs.
I have to say that Rob Sich never changes. He whines and complains about every call, and then does stuff out there that confirms not only why opposing fans don't like him, but why a number of Fayetteville fans don't either!
Today, Sich got into a third-period scrum in front of the net in which he was waving his stick around. Will Barlow took exception and went after Sich. I heard, but didn't personally see, that Sich squirted some water at the referee. Are you kidding? He got a gamer for physical abuse of official. Personally, I wish he'd have dropped them with Will, but we all know that won't happen. As he left, Sich blew kisses to the crowd.
Other funny moments...team owner Wanda Amos and Andrew Loewen entertaining the crowd at second intermission. Pretty good dance moves, Wanda and Andrew.
The Whitesville Rd chapter of the Loewen fan club was out in full force. Rabid Snakes fan Tami Neese brought a group of 90 folks from Troup County, the large majority being first-time hockey fans. Andrew gave the kids a little preview of what their day would be like when he visited the school on Wednesday.
Finally, in a move that was pretty entertaining, but certainly could've backfired, Whitney's nightly Trash Talk segment featured a guest appearance by Daniel . Daniel pretty much called out Fayetteville's Josh McQuade, calling him the softest guy in the league. Ouch.
An important two points for the Snakes as they continue their quest for home ice advantage in the playoffs. Step one...clinching a playoff spot. Done. Now on to challenging the RiverHawks for first place. Should be an awesome next few weeks!!
Final thought...I did hug Jesse's neck, so if I get the flu, we all know who to blame. :)