The second-seeded Snakes briefly yielded home advantage to the IceGators by playing game 1 at the Cajundome on Tuesday night. A couple of hours later, thanks to a huge night by several obvious heroes and others who played a less visible role, the Cottonmouths are heading home with a 4-2 win and a 1-0 series advantage.
True confession: I was not sure how it was going to work putting Sam Bowles on the line with Mitch Wall and Pete MacDougall. The red line has undergone extreme makeovers a couple of times this season due to injuries and reassignments. Pete was hurt and Derek Pallardy stepped in. Greg Beller was hurt, then rejoined the team. Sam was gone for 30 days. It's been a revolving door.
This combination is really clicking. Trying to think how to say this diplomatically...Sam is really fast. I didn't think of Pete and Mitch as speedsters, but now they almost have to be to keep up with Sammy...haha. I think placing Sam on the line with Pete and Mitch has improved not only the line's speed but the team's overall speed as well. Pete and Mitch create space. That's always been their main job, but it's not their only job. Remember who scored a key goal vs Huntsville in game one last year on a breakaway? Mitch. Pete has scored some pretty goals and had some big games this season, but none as big as tonight. A three-point game and first star...good job, Pete!
Huge night for Kevin Kessler and Andrew Krelove. Not that this is my favorite stat. A lot of times +/- is meaningless. But when not just one player, but TWO, are +4, that's noteworthy. Four Snakes goals and Andrew K and Kevin were on the ice for all 4. I believe that's called being in the right place at the right time.
Funny story about the All-SPHL's First Team goaltender...If you watched AmericaOne, you heard Mike Vee tell how Ian Vigier put the net back on its moorings himself, in the middle of a LA power play. I asked Ian about it after the game.
"I knocked it off, clearly. I wanted to keep the clock moving. We got it out of the zone and on their second rush, they scored."
Ian said that sometimes the ref tells the goalie to put the net back on himself. I didn't realize that.
One second after the PP expired, LA scored on a shot from the slot. All of a sudden it's a one-goal lead with LOTS of time left...almost 9 minutes. After the goal, the Snakes kicked it up a notch physically. More hitting, more bodies flying. The good thing was that it was very controlled. No undisciplined penalties. No tough PKs.
Credit Greg Beller for giving the Snakes a little breathing room. A pretty backhander with almost 7 minutes to play pretty much put the Gators away.
Mike Vee said that he spoke to Louisiana coach Kevin Kaminski before the game and the coach was realistic about the task his team faced. He told Mike that they would have to pretty much "play perfect hockey" to beat the Snakes.
A couple of other notes: former Snake Ryan Pearson was in the starting lineup for LA. Also, a new guy joined the team on the road. James Durham, straight out of college and on a talented pro playoff team, wore number 26. Welcome, James!
I know all of you are wondering what happened with Brett Hammond. I'll be honest with you and say I don't know. I know a couple of teams were sniffing around, wanting to sign Brett for the playoffs. I'm assuming Brett wouldn't report. As I said earlier, the team who signed him can then either waive him or suspend him. Brett was waived on March 7 when Sammy came off IR. He was picked up, suspended and waived by the RiverKings, but then those transactions mysteriously disappeared off Pointstreak. Why? I have no idea.
Since then, I heard rumors that a couple of other teams were interested, but that Brett wasn't. I haven't been able to speak to Brett or Jerome, but will still try to get to the bottom of it.
In the meantime, game two is coming up on Thursday night. I hope there will be a good crowd and lots of energy in the Snake Pit. It should be a great game!
One of my favorite all-time stories and photo galleries is on top for Thursday. Hope ya'all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.