Hello, Readers. I promised in my last blog (which, admittedly, was posted a couple days later than I had planned) to try and get caught up. Now that we're through the holiday week, I might actually be able to do just that.
In the holiday tradition of expressing thanks, I would like to thank all of those who have been reading my blog, and especially those who have given me feedback. If it weren't for you people reading it and enjoying it, there wouldn't be much point in writing it...and I've enjoyed writing it.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to once again thank all the guys that help me out at the rink. Flip, Barney, Shooter, Ryno, Tyler and Bubba make it possible for me to do the best job I can to take care of our guys. All of them have gone above and beyond the call of duty at some point, sometimes spending the night at the rink to meet an incoming team or help set up for a morning game (as Bubba did before the Kids' Day game this season). I consider myself very fortunate to have them here to help. Words can't possibly express how much I appreciate their efforts. Thanks, guys!
I'd also like to thank the Cottonmouths organization as a whole. I've worked for a lot of hockey organizations, but none has been to me as this one. Everybody gets along very well and is always willing to go out of their way to help each other out. I know it sounds cliche' to throw the word "family" around to describe people with whom you're not related, but it really does apply here. From the top to the bottom, everyone really is as close as family. And for those of us who are far from our native homes and our nuclear families, that really means a lot. Thanks to all of you.
Now that that's taken care of, we can dive right into the games from the Thanksgiving weekend. We kicked the weekend off by kicking the hell out of the Augusta Riverhawks. We owed them one after the way they treated us last week when we went there. Not only did they win the game, but they took a few liberties with our guys. They are a very yappy team. I'm surprised any of them can keep their mouthguards in when their lips are always flapping. They have several of the softest guys who talk the most crap I've ever heard. I hate guys like that. They chirp and chirp, but won't back it up. You try to fight them, but they just turtle. It's very frustrating.
But tonight was our night. Kyle Lundale opened the scoring with a couple of minutes left in a very evenly played first period, and the Snakes closed the frame with a 1-0 lead. For the second game in a row we came alive in the second, with Sammy scoring at about the midway point and Daryl Moore adding two late goals to give the Snakes a 4-0 lead. Greg Holt broke up the shutout in the last 2 minutes, but the game was already decided. It was one of the few total effort games we've had this season where everything seemed to be working as it should. We outplayed, outworked, outhit, outshot and (most importantly) outscored the Hawks. It was nice to get a win like that at home. And, to quote "Major League" Indians Manager Lou Brown, "We win one tomorrow...that's called a winning streak. It HAS happened before."
The next day we were back on the bus, heading for Knoxville. We've had bad luck in this barn in recent years (I think we've only won 2 games in Knoxville since I came to Columbus), but we won the last time we were here. We rolled into Knoxvegas feeling pretty good about ourselves. We were in for a tough game, though. The Ice Bears certainly weren't going to make it easy on us. But then, they never do. David Segal and Matt Kinnunen started things off with a bang, dropping the mitts and mixing it up off the opening faceoff. Kinner didn't do as well this time as he did the first time he fought Segal, but he did all right. Segal is a tough customer and Kinner held his own. After that, it was down to business. The Snakes got on the board just a couple of minutes into the game on a goal by Brent Clarke. Emery Olauson countered for the Bears a couple of minutes later. Each team had several good scoring opportunities, but the goalies were equal to the task and the score remained tied at one apiece after one.
The second period saw more of the same. After a few rushes back and forth, Bears Captain Mike Bulawka was awarded a penalty shot at 3:43 of the second. We were almost relieved that it was awarded to him. Not to take anything away from Bulawka, but there are a few guys on that team that we would be more afraid of in that situation. Vigier stood his ground and made the save, keeping the tie intact. Once again, the Snakes seized the momentum in the second and outshot and outchanced the Bears but again it was Olauson that found the back of the net late in the second. Ice Bears goalie Bryan Hince earned his paycheck, turning away 13 shots to preserve the Bears' lead going into the third.
Though Knoxville had the better of the chances in the third, Vigier held the fort so that Matt Kinnunen could tie the game for the Snakes. The teams continued to battle down to the wire when something unprecedented happened. Ice Bear Mike Bulawka was awarded another penalty shot with 7 seconds remaining in the third. I'm not sure I've ever seen a game in which 2 penalty shots were awarded...and I'm quite certain I've never seen 2 penalty shots awarded to the same player in the same game. I don't believe this has ever happened before. With the game on the line, Vigier once again closed the door and forced overtime.
Columbus registered the only 3 shots of the overtime period, but couldn't get one past Hince. Sam Bowles and Orrin Hergott scored in the shootout to outweigh Chris Bratina with the Bears' lone shootout goal, securing the victory for the Snakes. Hergott gets credited with the game-winning goal because his shootout goal was the deciding factor, but he couldn't have done it without Bowles...or Vigier, for that matter.
Three in a row! Another big win for the Snakes. That sure makes the bus ride home seem a lot shorter. We get back to the Snakepit and drop off the gear and the guys head home to get some rest before yet another big game...this one against the Mississippi Surge.
We've had trouble with the Surge all season (and most of last season). They're a good team, to be sure, but I don't think they're as good as we've made them look at times. They started quickly, scoring just a minute into the game. The Snakes came alive and played the Surge pretty even for the rest of the period, with the teams exchanging goals midway through the frame.
There was a bizarre incident early in the second period. Orrin Hergott was given a fighting major, even though he never dropped his gloves. He collided with Surge forward Jason Beeman as they were both going after a loose puck. Beeman gave Orrin an elbow, and Orrin responded with a gloved punch. Beeman took exception and jumped Orrin, who was caught completely by surprise. Beeman had the gloves off, pummeling Orrin as he covered up. Somehow, the referee saw this as a fair fight and gave Orrin and Beeman coincidental fighting majors. That's odd, considering Orrin never dropped his gloves or stick and never threw a punch except for the one he threw with his gloves still on. This "fight" seemed to ignite the Snakes. Sam Bowles tied the game at 2 on a power play just a couple of minutes later. But the momentum didn't last. Jeff Grant scored on a power play a few minutes later to regain the lead for good. Beeman added a goal late in the third and Matt Zultek added an empty-net goal to close out the scoring with a final score of 5-2. The streak was over. But it was fun while it lasted.
That closed out our holiday week. The winning streak was fun, but as the saying goes you're only as good as your last game. And we ended the weekend with a loss. So we had to carry that with us into the next weekend.