With apologies to Willie Nelson, I usually CAN wait to get on the road again. We were just in Fayetteville last weekend, and now here we are again...and a day early, to boot. We played here last Friday night, bookended by home games on Thursday and Saturday. Coupled with two 7-hour bus rides to and from Fayetteville in between, that made for a long weekend. Sunday couldn't come quickly enough for me, and I spent most of the day trying to catch up on my sleep. Now, here we are again. We left at midnight last night (Wednesday night) and got to the arena just before 7am. We practiced from about 8-9:30am, then went to breakfast while we waited for our hotel rooms to be readied for our (early) arrival. We got to the hotel at around 11:30am and got checked in and made our way upstairs. Several guys made plans to go to the movie theater down the street, while some made their way to the mall near the IHOP where we stopped. We usually don't get much free time in opposing cities; we usually just go to the rink and the hotel, then back to the rink. It's nice when you have an opportunity like that to just hang out and relax for a little while. I myself spent the majority of the afternoon in my room trying to follow up on some orders (and checking in on my Facebook). I still may check out a movie (either at the theater or in my room), but other than that there's not much going on here.
I should apologize for the lack of posts here recently (just in case anybody's actually reading this). We've had a busy schedule recently and I just haven't made time to post on here like I originally intended. Let me catch you up:
We went on our first road trip of the season to Huntsville and Pensacola on the 6th and 7th of November. We came out sluggish in Huntsville and dug ourselves a hole. We battled back and made a game of it but ultimately fell short, losing to the Havoc 4-2. After the game, we boarded the bus and headed for Pensacola, arriving there at around 5am. We dropped the gear off and headed to the hotel to get some much needed rest, having spent 10 of the previous 16 hours on the bus. The sticks came alive on Saturday night and the Snakes cruised to a 7-4 victory. We built up a 6-1 lead, then held on through a 3-goal onslaught before icing the game with and empty netter in the closing seconds. I've got to hand it to the Ice Flyers; they never gave up and put up quite a fight in the end.
Before the game, we had the chance to visit with former Cottonmouth Lorne Misita. He's one of the guys that got squeezed out by the veteran rule last season after a 5-year tenure with the team. He's a good player and I'm sure that letting him go was a very tough decision for Jerome. It's one of those times that I'm glad I'm not the Head Coach.
Our practice schedule the following week was a little off-kilter because of events in the Civic Center, and we found ourselves leaving a day early for Mississippi because we had no practice ice. We left early on the morning of November 12th and arrived at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum just as the Fayetteville Fireantz were loading up the bus to leave. They were already in town to play the Surge that night, so we ended up dressing for practice in an open hallway, amid a couple dozen busy construction workers trying desperately to get the place ready for the game that night. We waited around for nearly an hour while a crew worked on the center-ice scoreboard, then finally got on and had our practice. It was a beautiful, balmy Gulf Coast day and most of the guys were in shorts and t-shirts for this trip. After practice, we loaded the gear back onto the trailer and headed for the hotel. We checked in and the guys scattered like dust in the wind. Some, no doubt, headed for the casinos. Many headed for the beach (right across the street from the hotel). Some of us hung out in the hotel until dinnertime.
After dinner, a bunch of us made our way back to the arena for the game. It's not often we get to sit in the stands and enjoy a game as spectators. It's a nice change of pace. We got to see our old friend, "Dynamite" Daryl Moor, suit up against the Fireantz. In typical Moorsy fashion, he had a pretty good game. He recorded an assist in the second period, and later managed to slash a Fayetteville player in the back of the legs and punch the goalie in the head without getting called for either infraction. Classic Moorsy. I miss that guy. After the game, we waited for the Fireantz to clear out of the visitors' locker room so we could move our stuff in. We set up for the next morning, then cabbed it back to the hotel.
The next morning, the usual gameday routine was in effect. I headed down to the rink early to set up and finish sharpening skates, then the bus followed along later with the players. We took to the ice in our customary 11am-noon visitors' time slot, had a light skate and then loaded up for the ride back to the hotel and our team lunch. After lunch, I packed my bag and caught a cab back to the rink to get ready for the game. We played a decent game, and Vigier played a pretty good game (stopping 34 of 35 shots), but we lost the game 1-0 on a power play goal by Matt Zultek (who leads the league in that category). The offense got their chances, but just couldn't connect on them (being foiled by former Snake Ryan Senft). It's a tough way to lose a game.
Afterwards, we boarded the bus and headed for the place we'd all been dreading: Lafayette, Louisiana. Now, this is nothing against the state of Louisiana or the city of Lafayette. Having lived about an hour away from there for 3 years I have a strong affinity for the area. I actually attended numerous Ice Gators games in the Cajundome when they played in the ECHL. The only problem is that this team doesn't play in the Cajundome. They play in a crappy old rodeo barn a couple blocks up the road. I had heard the horror stories about this building and the visiting locker room facilities, and while they were certainly bad, they weren't as bad as I had built them up to be in my mind. I actually had to laugh when I saw the place. It reminds me of some of the old barns in the old WPHL (Western Professional Hockey League). I remember pulling into places like Waco and Abilene and El Paso and San Angelo and just dreading being in there. Those places were miserable. This place made me nostalgic for those days.
We dropped the gear, laid it out to dry as much as possible and headed to the hotel to catch a few Zs before heading back for the morning skate. We slogged through the morning skate, then the guys headed back to the hotel to rest up for the game. I went with the Gators' Equipment Manager, Frank "Rizzo" Jury, to grab some lunch and run a few errands. We hit up the Olive Garden for lunch, then went to a laundromat to do our laundry. There are almost no laundry facilities in the Blackham Coliseum, so whenever Rizzo has a visiting team in town he has to come here to get their laundry done. I've known Rizzo for about 14 years, so this was a nice chance to spend some time with him and catch up on some old stories. It was not the way I would normally spend my afternoon on a gameday, but it was kind of fun.
Rizzo got me and our laundry back to the arena and I began to set up for the game. There wasn't much I could do with this locker room (or should I say "these locker rooms"), but I made do the best I could. The guys showed up and went to work, but again we fell short by a goal...losing 2-1 to the Gators. This made the long bus ride back home even longer, and we all knew it would be a tough week of practice ahead.
Lousiana came to visit us the following week and we made up for lost time, beating them 4-1 on Friday night. Saturday, the Huntsville Havoc paid us a visit and came up with a 5-2 win. I really hate losing to those guys. They're so smug and cocky. It's really annoying. They have a good team, but I don't think they're nearly as good as they seem to think they are. Unfortunately, we haven't played a full 60 minutes either time we've faced them this season. The first meeting, in Huntsville, we started off slow and couldn't dig out of a hole. This time, we pretty much outplayed them for the first 50 minutes or so, then took a 2-minute nap and a 2-2 tie turned into a 5-2 loss.
Last weekend, the Snakes busted out the whoopin' sticks and shot down the Ice Flyers by a score of 8-1, thus spoiling the return of Lorne Misita to Columbus. It was another one of those games where we wished we could save a few goals for the next game. Especially given the fact that through Thursday's game Fayetteville's Guy St. Vincent had run his shutout streak to 126 minutes and change. We thought we might need all the goals we could get against them on Friday. As it turns out, we could have used a couple more. We managed to score 4 goals on Vinny, but allowed Rob Sich to score a hat-trick to lead the Fireantz to a 6-4 victory. Saturday it was back to the Snakepit for another reunion, this time with Daryl Moor, Ryan Senft and the Mississippi Surge. The Snakes built up a 4-0 lead and appeared to be cruising to another big win, but the Surge battled back to force a shootout (as they had done the previous night in Pensacola). "Scorin" Orrin Hergott iced the victory for the Cottonmouths in the shootout, but the blown lead raised some concerns over our killer instinct. When you've got a 4-goal lead against a team, you have to put that game away. You can't let a team up off the mat like that. Basically, we gave the Surge a point. That should never happen.
And now, here we are on the road again. Once again, we had to leave early because we had no ice available in the Civic Center. So, we bussed up here this morning for practice, then pre-game skate tomorrow and prepare to play the game. After the game, we'll head back home with no practice ice for the next few days. That means I should be able to get a couple of days off. Yay for me. But first, I'm hoping to get 2 points at the Crown Coliseum tomorrow night.
But then...that's not just me.