Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths look for way to break out of slump

With victories coming few and far between, the slumping Columbus Cottonmouths enter the weekend hoping to grab points against teams they have had their most recent success against.

It's been a rough start to the new year for the Snakes, who have won just twice in 10 tries, including three straight losses, the last of which was a 9-3 loss at Fayetteville on Tuesday. The Snakes are in eighth place in the nine-team SPHL with 28 points, one point ahead of last-place Louisiana and one point behind Knoxville and Macon.

But a potential bright spot is that more than half of the Cottonmouths' 11 wins this season have come against this weekend's opponents, Knoxville and Pensacola. Columbus is a combined 6-2 this season against those two teams.

Surprisingly, winning at home has proven to be the biggest challenge for Columbus with its last home win coming in a 4-3 victory against Pensacola on Dec.27. Since then they have dropped four straight in the Columbus Civic Center, including back-to-back losses to first-place Peoria last weekend.

"Even though we lost (to Peoria), we went from playing two of our best hockey games of the year to coming out flat in Fayetteville," Columbus coach Jerome Bechard said. "Combined with some bus troubles and an early start, things snowballed for us in a bad way Tuesday."

Following that blistering 9-3 loss in Fayetteville, a game against Knoxville couldn't have come at a better time. Columbus has beaten Knoxville four straight.

"No particular reason why we match up well against those guys (Knoxville)," Bechard said. "We've built some confidence against particular teams that needs to transcend into all our opponents."

Columbus will have to transcend without former Olympic goaltender Shannon Szabados. Shannon is expected to miss the weekend after sustaining a lower body injury in the Snakes' 9-3 loss on Tuesday. Defen

seman Rusty Hafner will be out of tonight's lineup serving a one-game suspension.

Columbus caps off the weekend with a Saturday home date against Pensacola, which makes just its second visit to Columbus this season.

Columbus has won 2 of 3 against the Ice Flyers. Despite dropping a pair of home games against Macon last weekend, the Ice Flyers are still tied for second place in the nine-team league with 36 points.

"We need to take a step back and refocus on the things we do really well," Bechard said. "We don't need to hit the panic button just quite yet, but we need to show some more urgency in making sure we beat the guy laced up against us on every play."

Note: Saturday's game against Pensacola is game that was moved up from Feb. 25.

Tickets purchased for that date will be honored on Saturday.

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