Now that my breathing has returned to normal, I'll say this:
If you didn't see the Snakes vs Ice Bears game tonight, you missed quite a spectacle. Period one was a draw. Period two---advantage, Snakes. Period three---Ice Bears strike fir two quick goals. Tie game at the end of regulation.
These two teams came into this game in a dead heat for second place with three games left. They both played like champions, neither blinking when things didn't go their way.
The wily Ian Vigier and rookie Kyle Rank made save after save, with the sheer numbers giving the nod to Ian. Both teams missed painfully easy chances and both made incredible plays. There was hitting, they were missed calls both ways. There was a little bit of everything.
There was a wide differential in shots on goal. The final tally was 42-24, but after one period it was 15-3 in favor of Knoxville. The Snakes took more shots than that, but the Ice Bears blocked a lot of them.
There were huge hits on both sides. Kevin Kessler was elbowed in the head by Mike Towns, a dangerous play. Kevin wasn't hurt, but certainly could've been. Will Barlow was leveled by a Brett Valliquette hit. Valliquette left his skates to make it...no call. As I said earlier, many no-calls on both sides. The way the game turned out, the Cottonmouths won't be complaining too much about the officiating.
Great game by Tom Maldonado and Dave Cianfrini on defense. For whatever reason, the Ice Bears decided to target Dave all night. His response was to dish it right back. He made some great defensive plays and big hits.
Same with Tom, on the heels of a tough night in Augusta. Tom actually made a save, batting the puck out of the air, which I don't think was added to Ian's totals...haha. He and Ian were also caught in a three-on-one during a line change that went awry. They teamed up to make that save.
Two defining moments in OT. Kevin Swider, perenniel league MVP, veteran, scoring machine, whiffed on a shot into a wide open net. I've watched Swider play for 7 years and he doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes like that one. This one was a sheer gift to the Snakes. Knoxville took timeout right afterward, with 1:44 left in OT.
Now to set the stage for one of the more bizarre endings you'll ever see:
Jordan Braid and Sam Bowles are coming at Rank two-on-one. Jordan takes the puck behind the net and passes it to Sam. Looking at the net..on the left are both Sam and referee Stephen Thomson. Sammy fires the puck in the net, the light goes on, Thomson signals the goal is good and the Snakes raise their sticks in celebration. Then they make the fastest exit off the ice I've ever seen.
Knoxville coach Mike Craigen is going ballistic...for good reason. The Knoxville broadcast has the benefit of instant replay, which is awesome. Love their camera work and replay capability. The replay clearly shows that the net is off its moorings about a FOOT. To make matters worse is that it's off on Thomson's side!!
The Knoxville players are hollering, Craigen is heaving water bottles...and the Snakes are boarding the bus, which began idling when the puck crossed the line. They never came back on the ice and the Ice Bears wouldn't leave the bench. The ref and linesmen conferred with Swider, the Knoxville captain. In the meantime, we're watching the replay over and over...yep, the net is off.
Mike Vee was saying that a Knoxville player knocked it off, so the goal would've still been good. Don't know the rule and wasn't really paying attention to what Mike was saying (sorry, Mike). Was too busy watching the standoff on the ice. Finally, the ref and linesmen left without talking to Craigen. Having witnessed a few similar situations in 8 years, I know that the area outside the refs' locker room was a pretty tense scene tonight.
So, the Snakes leave with the extra point and a controversial win. Are they happy? Sure, they are. Would the Snakes fans be as outraged as the Knoxville fans are if the tables were turned? You bet they would be. All I can say is...wow. What a game, what a finish.
Now the Cottonmouths make the drive to Fayetteville to meet the FireAntz tomorrow night. Sure will be hard to top this game.