Columbus Cottonmouths

Four out of Five

    First of all, I apologize for not writing this last night. I must confess...I came home and watched the second half of the Falcons game...YAY! Then I watched part of the memorial service for the innocents slaughtered in Newtown. Then I did...nothing. 

    As you know, I'm a retired teacher who lived through the aftermath of a number of school shootings, the sudden death of a beloved principal and, of course, Sept. 11th. I will always think of myself as a teacher, so this has affected me deeply. The heroes in this terrible tragedy have my admiration and thanks. The first responders prevented a tragedy of epic proportions.

    Never was I so happy to have hockey as the ultimate distraction. I love all sports...have since I was a child. I'm pretty passionate about my teams...Go Dawgs and RISE UP!!. Ya'all know how I feel about my team...uh, I mean Jerome's team. I love hockey and consider it a privilege to be able to cover the Snakes. But it's just sports...not life and death. It's a job for the guys, a living for the coaches, a passion for all of us. But the massacre of 6-year-olds is life and death, not winning a hockey game. That said...

    Hockey is such a fast-paced game and I'm so consumed with doing my job, I had about six hours this weekend where I wasn't thinking about the Newtown community, families, teachers...and children. I was focused on Biff McNally, John Sullivan, Andrew Loewen and goals, shutouts and wins and losses. It was an oasis in a tragic weekend.

    With the big W over Huntsville, which certainly appears to be a team in turmoil, the Snakes have now won 4 of 5 and 4 straight at home. The latter is significant to me because I get to see the happy thrill-of-victory faces rather than the glum agony-of-defeat. I like 'happy' better. 

     The most encouraging thing about this weekend if you're a Snakes fan is how they rebounded so well from the loss in Augusta. After a solid weekend sweep of Fayetteville, I was disappointed in Thursday's I know the guys were. But the key to building a championship team, as we all saw last season, is what I call the Bobby Cox theory of managing a group of young men:

     You never get too high or too low. Smooth out all those peaks and valleys and go about your business. That's what the SPHL champs did a year ago, never losing more than 2 straight. This year has started off the same way. They were able to stop every losing streak at 3, which is definitely manageable. On the other hand, a winning streak of 8-10 would be just fine...haha.

     A big issue this year is the parity in the league. Take a look at the standings. Fayetteville is on a bit of a slide but the first place FireAntz have 26 points. Huntsville is still trying to find its way. The last-place Havoc have 11 points. That's NINE teams bunched in a 15-point span. This year's race for the Cup will sure be interesting!

     Back to last night. Andrew rebounded nicely from Augusta, where he let in 5 goals. He told me after the game that he was comfortable, felt good, etc but the goals kept going in the net! haha. You know Andrew. Always a smile on his face. Wait, I take that back. After a couple of really tough losses in the past few years, Andrew raced (can you race wearing goalie gear? I could barely stand up) to the locker room, eyes down. But that is RARE.

     Goalies are gifted with amnesia. They have to be. They put a tough or disappointing loss aside...right after they talk to me. UGH.

     Last night, Andrew was definitely smiling. Named the Warrior of the Game by his teammates, Andrew came out to talk to me wearing that hat, some type of Viking helmet thing. Very distinctive to say the least. When I asked about the shutout, only 1:23 away, Andrew started ragging on his pal Pete MacDougall, who was in a nearby dressing room with his fellow ref and linesmen. With an oh-so-slightly raised voice, Andrew suggested that I ask Pete about the shutout. Awkward. :)

      I didn't even see the goal actually. I was on my way down my rickety steps with my personal goal of not doing a faceplant at the bottom of them. I'd stopped to talk to one of my favorite people at the rink, Barney and Pedro Slayton's mom, then grabbed the rail, glanced up and saw the red light. UGH.

     As I said in the story, John took the blame for falling asleep. If that's the case, it's the only significant goof I can think of that John's made lately. He has been absolutely on fire, picking up where he left off at the end of last season and the playoffs. If you remember, John had a tough season injury-wise last year.

     He was hurt in camp when he hit one of the unforgiving boards in the ice rink. The boards won. Then he spent 30 days on IR with a significant concussion. Well, suffice to say that John is making up for lost time this season. I know Debbie and John Sr. are proud of his achievements.

     Only two more games before the guys get a rare Christmas break. They head to Knoxville on Thursday night and play at home against the Surge. Then they'll scatter to celebrate the holidays. Who's going where? Check out Friday's story and I'll tell you. :)

      Enjoying my position of power right now. After I called out Dave and Danny, president and VP of the Kevin Kessler fan club, both made the trek from the other side of the rink to say hello. Sad that it came to that, but it had to be done. :)

     Dave and Danny sat in the lower level on the penalty box side last season. This year I noticed Dave is down by the glass. We all have our favorite vantage points for different reasons. It took me 2 years to get the Hendricks family over to my side. Now Mary Beth, Harlan, Sarah and Nathan sit right in front of my family. Success!!

     Dave said that he has a clear view of the entire ice surface from his current location and he loves it! Being a defenseman's dad, he definitely gets an up close and personal view of the action right in front of the net. I told Dave I used to sit way up high which gave me the advantage of seeing the whole ice surface. But my current perch beside Miss Flit and Joe, in the handicapped section gives me a better feel for the game. I can see the guys' faces, unfortunately can also hear and read lips. But it works for me and I love it there.

     Time to get a little something done around this house. Already looking forward to Friday night!

     Stay tuned.