It was a wild...and long...night at the Snake Pit, but the Snakes prevailed and now it's on to round 2. Talk about ups and downs. Better start at the beginning so I don't leave anything out.
I decided to go straight to the horse's mouth to find out what in the world has been going on with Brett Hammond and commisioner Jim Combs was in attendance tonight.
To recap: Brett was waived in early March. Daniel Amesbury was put on IR late and all of a sudden a new guy, James Durham, appears in time for the playoffs. I understood why Daniel wouldn't need to be on the playoff roster as the need for an enforcer diminishes in postseason play, but the Snakes needed to keep Daniel on board until the regular-season finale with Augusta was over so their opponents didn't try to shove their scorers around. That part I understood, but then the IR situation?
Well, come to find out, Daniel sustained a slight concussion when he took a puck to the face. Hence, the IR move. Now on to Brett...
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Brett was picked up by the MSRK and then by Huntsville and failed to report to both. Then he was picked up by Louisiana, coincidentally (or not) the Snakes' first-round opponent in the playoffs. According to the commish, the team and Brett were negotiating and there was a question whether or not Brett was negotiating in good faith and whether he really intended to go there.
So the league decided that Brett was now a free agent, his rights not owned by anybody and not protected by anybody. Next season he can come back and play for the Snakes or anybody else. But he was not eligible for the playoffs.
I asked Jim why none of this drama played out on Pointstreak. The original transaction by MSRK was there, but then disappeared. Pointstreak showed Brett signed by MSRK, put on team suspension and finally waived. Jim said that there is another transaction sheet that is provided to the league's coaches and it was on this but not on Pointstreak. He admitted that there should have been better communication and all of this should have played out on Pointstreak.
A special guess at the Pit tonight was our old pal, Jesse Cole. Jesse is in town to hang out with his former teammates for about a week. Then he'll head home to Canada, arriving in time for Easter. It was great catching up with Jesse. His experience in Fayetteville could be described, in general, as disappointing. I hate it for him.
Now, about the game...
Two John Sullivan goals gave the Cottonmouths a 2-0 lead after two periods, but it was a pretty uncomfortable lead. This game was the poster child for the old adage that a two-goal lead is the worst in hockey. Two being the operative number here, as the two-goal lead was squandered in just two minutes.
When the Snakes came out in the third, the strategists on the senior citizen/handicapped row, Miss Flit, Joe and I, decided that what the home team needed to do what put up a quick goal, preferably in the opening minute. A three-goal lead in the third would make everyone breathe a little easier. Didn't happen. Shows why the NHL and Versus haven't called any of us to analyze their games.
Instead, a crucial double minor given to Pete MacDougall near the end of the second was costly. The original hooking call was a good one. It was right in front of us and I had a clear view. Remember, the whistle stays pretty silent on the blood-free, tacky little calls like hooking, but this one was obvious, so the ref raised his arm. After the fact, Pete exchanged pleasantries with Eric Tallent. I thought for a minute, Pete was going to drop the gloves, but a look and shake of the head from his captain, Will Barlow, had Pete rethinking that idea. But, apparently, Pete did enough to warrant the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, so the Snakes had four whole minutes to kill.
And they almost made it. Just 10 seconds remained in the penalty when the IceGators scored the first one. Then disaster struck on the second one. You'll read the details in my story, but suffice to say that Sam Bowles made a decision he'd like to take back. He owned up to his mistake and told me he'd like to be able to do it all over again. But, as is so often the case, mistakes end up in the back of the net and this one tied the score 2-2.
The Snakes turned up the heat late in the period and had several good chances, but we were headed to OT and I was sunk. In playoff hockey, there is a full 18-minute intermission after regulation, then a sudden-death, 20-minute period. With my 10:45 deadline looming, I was in trouble.
The beginning of OT didn't start well, unless you were a LA fan. The Gators fired 5 shots on net before the Snakes got a single one. When the Snakes finally mustered some offense, Derek Pallardy fired one way wide, but the goal light went on anyway. Wishful thinking by the goal judge and everybody else.
Finally, Sam ended it, but not sure exactly when. Poinstreak had issues tonight, one of them being the time of Sam's game winner: 0:00. Pretty sure that's not it. Assists went to Greg Beller and Orrin Hergott.
John led the way with two goals, but Greg had the distinction of assisting on all three goals.
Ian Vigier was...Ian Vigier. Excellent, especially with the glove, cool and unflappable. He's a man of steel out there. He wrapped Sammy in a big bear hug after the game. Who was thanking whom?
Now it's on to play...who? The teams are re-seeded after the first round plays out. The Snakes, as second seed, will enjoy home ice advantage against everybody but Augusta. I have no idea what ice availability issues any team has for the next round. No time to talk about that tonight. As soon as I know, I'll pass that info on to you.
A final, personal thought, though I doubt he reads this blog. I appreciate Sam for stepping up tonight. He knows what I mean. Thanks, Sammy.