Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Christmas, break is over

After a whirlwind week, I find myself once again getting things together for another road trip. As we've done 3 of the last 4 weeks, we'll be leaving the Civic Center early to practice on the road. This time, it's Sesame Street and Elmo that are forcing us out of our home a day early. We'll be leaving at midnight Tuesday night to arrive in Fayetteville somewhere around 7am. We'll probably get on the ice at about 8am, skate until about 9:30, then head to breakfast while we wait to get into our rooms.

This whole last week has been a blur, despite us only playing 2 games. We hosted the Huntsville Havoc on Tuesday, December 22nd. They seem to be the team to beat this season, having lost only 4 games in regulation. They have a sizable lead in the standings, and we have yet to beat them this season (with the exception of one preseason game, with most of their big-name players sitting out). I don't think they're really that great a team, but they work hard and they're steady. They don't make many mistakes. And they have a very good goalie, as well. They've sure had our number this year.

We started off slow, but held them to only a power play goal through 2 periods, largely due to Ian Vigier's acrobatics in goal. Vigier stopped 18 of 19 shots in the first period. We came alive in the second and dominated the play, but only managed one goal to tie it at 1-1 going into the third period. We couldn't get things going for the first half of the third and gave up 3 straight goals to the Havoc. We dominated the play for the last few minutes, but couldn't find the back of the net until the last 2 minutes...too little, too late. The game ended in a 4-2 loss. That seems to be our bugaboo this season...we play 30 or 40 (or 50) minutes of good hockey but can't seem to sustain it for the entire 60 minutes. Sometimes we play well enough during the good times to hold on for the victory, but other times we don't. We let the other team get back into the game, rather than finishing them off. We seem to have no "killer instinct". That's something we need to figure out.
***We got some bittersweet news after the game. Goaltender Ian Vigier was getting called up to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. He's only expected to be gone for about a week, which means he'll miss 4 Cottonmouths games. While it's a good opportunity for him, I kind of like having our 1-2 tandem with Vigier and Rycroft, and having a little insurance in case anything happens to one of them. During Vigier's absence, our old friend Barney Slayton will fill in as EBUG (Emergency Back-Up Goaltender). It's a role he's familiar with, having served in that capacity for a handful of games last season.

After the Huntsville game, we had a few days off before our next game in Knoxville on the 27th. Some players headed home to spend the holidays with their families, but a few stayed in town during the break. It was strange to have Christmas off...in my previous 2 years here we've played a game on Christmas day. We had optional practices on the 23rd and 24th, with a few guys participating each day. Wednesday, we had our team Christmas party at TK's. It was a very nice gathering. Wanda and Shelby really know how to throw a party. It was nice to forget about hockey for a couple of days and let off a little steam...maybe recharge the batteries a little bit.

***Part of our hockey family received a wonderful gift on Christmas Day. Craig and Michelle Stahl welcomed their second child and first daughter. Congratulations, Stahl family!!!

We were back at work on Saturday, taking the ice at 11:30 for practice to prepare for Sunday's game at Knoxville. I stayed after practice to pack up, since we would be leaving at 8:30 Sunday morning for a 5pm game.

We loaded the bus and left for Knoxville right on time and settled in for the ride. As usual, the TVs went right to the NHL network to catch up on the highlights from the previous night's games. Most of the guys retired to their bunks right away and went back to sleep. We arrived in Dalton, GA at about 11:15 and stopped for lunch. A few of the staff went to Five Guys for burgers (fantastic!), while some made the trek to Longhorn Steakhouse, Schlotzky's, or Subway. We boarded the bus and got back on the road at about 12:30pm. We arrived at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum for the first time this season (I can't believe that we're on the verge of New Year's Eve and this is our first trip to Knoxville).

We played another pretty good game, holding a lead for much of it. Once again, we just couldn't seem to bury our chances and finish them off. The Ice Bears battled back and tied the game with a late goal, then went on to win the OT period. We got a point, but not the 2 points we should have had. Chad Rycroft took the loss, despite stopping 41 of 44 shots. He played a good game, and deserved the win. He stopped quite a few point blank shots, inlcuding breakaways to their 2 best players, Swider and Vitek. Once again, we played well enough to win. We just couldn't finish. It's becoming a recurring theme.

Now we're getting ready to get back on the bus, heading into the new year with 3 games in 3 nights in 3 different states. Hopefully we can start the new year on the right foot. Let's go ahead and make that our New Year's resolution. We'll see you soon. Go Snakes!

No comments:

Post a Comment