A goaltending issue arose before the exhibition games. Adam Chalifoux came to camp ready to play, but he aggravated a previous injury that may have required surgery had he stayed here. We already had stumbled upon another goalie, Sylvain Michaud, who was supposed to be pretty good. Michaud's presence allowed us to send Chalifoux home, with the hopes of him returning next year in better health. But as soon as we did, Michaud decided he had to leave due to unspecified personal issues. So, in the span of a day, we went from three goalies to one and our old pal Barney was called upon to suit up for the weekend as our EBUG.
After the weekend, we picked up Andrew Loewen to fill the goalie position and added Brett Hammond and Zeanan Ziemer (no, that's not a typo) to bring us up to 19.
I spent much of the week working on last minute details (such as sewing names on new jerseys that came in on Wednesday afternoon) to get ready for opening weekend. We had the same schedule for opening weekend as we did for the preseason...hosting Pensacola on Friday night and then heading to Biloxi to play the Surge on Saturday.
Friday night started off pretty well for us. We jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and held a 3-1 lead at the midway point. That was when the wheels came off. Thirty minutes and six goals later, we were licking our wounds and wondering just what the hell happened. I'm still not really sure. It was like we had the media timeout midway through the second and when nobody was looking our guys left the ice and the high school team replaced them. Suddenly, we couldn't make a pass, we couldn't take a pass, we could barely muster a shot on goal and couldn't get a rebound...everything went wrong. We stopped hitting, we stopped skating, we stopped shooting...we would have been just as well off if we hadn't come back out for the third.
Saturday we headed for Mississippi to play the Surge, who won the regular season title last year and look like early contenders to repeat. They brought back most of their best players, and could be the team to beat this year. We came out with a much better effort than we showed in the last half of Friday's game, but we still couldn't generate much offense. Andrew Loewen looked good in his first professional start, but the high-powered Surge offense was just too much for him. We played the Surge fairly evenly for most of the game, with a couple of let-downs leading to three Surge goals. Overall, it was a better effort than the night before, but still a loss.
So, after the first weekend of the regular season, it seems we have our work cut out for us. While it's too early to push the panic button, it does show us we have a ways to go before we're ready to run with the big dogs. We've got a full week of practice ahead and then, thankfully, we play two different opponents this weekend. Unfortunately, one of those teams is the defending champion Huntsville Havoc and the other one is the 3-time champion Knoxville Ice Bears. Neither team promises to be a pushover, but could provide us with a further test of where we stand in the league right now. I certainly think we're a better team than we showed last Friday. Now we just have to prove it. I just hope we start proving it sooner rather than later.
But then...that's just me.