Saturday, November 5, 2011

Snakes Training Camp - Post Script

Early game action in Knoxville
Hey there.  It's me again. Better late than never, I guess.  When I last posted, we were heading into our preseason games against Knoxville.  As I expected, I was too busy and/or too tired to sit down and write a blog during the progress of the weekend.  What I did not expect, however, was to come down with some sort of bug that just knocked me right on my butt.  It hit me during the day on Sunday, but it kind of snuck up on me.  I was feeling kind of run down, but I just attributed it to being tired from the weekend's games.  After our practice on Sunday, as I was waiting for laundry to finish, I started alternating between shivering chills and burning sweat.  I finally got enough done to be able to call it a day and headed for home and a much-needed rest.  My apologies to the Snakes Booster Club for having to skip their meet the team event on Sunday.  I really needed to get home and get to bed.

Without any further ado, let's talk about the weekend.  The game on Thursday night was the kind of game that many people think is boring.  Those people are wrong.  Most people seem to like scoring in hockey, so they hate to see a game go to overtime with no score.  To some people it's like watching soccer, which is to say it's like watching cement harden.  But if you look beyond the final score of 1-0, it was actually a great game.  One of the most exciting games I ever saw was a game that my New Mexico Scorpions won by a score of 1-0 in Overtime.  Though there was only one goal scored, there were plenty of scoring chances matched by great saves and/or defensive plays.  I wouldn't quite put Thursday night's game on that same level, but I think it was a more exciting game than lots of people would appreciate.  For most people, it may have seemed like evidence that last year's light scoring team was back.  In fact, Knoxville's goalie just had a really good game.  Snakes goalies Ian Vigier and Andrew Loewen split the game and the shutout after Jordan Braid buried a scoring chance early in the Overtime period.  A raucous crowd at the Columbus Ice Rink shook the building in celebration.

After the game, it was time to prepare for our first road trip.  I always hate the first road trip.  I'm always sure I'm going to forget something.  This being a day trip, there wasn't much that needed to be brought so that made things easier.  Still, I worried the whole way there that I had forgotten something.  In the end, everything went off without a hitch.

Well, not everything.  We stopped for lunch in Dalton, Georgia at our usual spot.  It's a good spot because there are several lunch options for the guys to choose from.  After lunch we pulled away and got back on the highway.  Just a few miles down the road, however, Tex could tell something wasn't right.  Suddenly, the bus started overheating.  He pulled over at the next exit (which luckily had a truck stop) and shut the bus down.  When he opened up the engine compartment, he was sprayed with hot water and anti-freeze from the radiator.  After seeing to the burns on his arm, he was able to get assistance from the mechanic at the truck stop and fix what needed to be fixed.  It took a while, but we finally got it running again and in good order so we could get back on the road.  We were looking good timewise before the mishap, but by the time we got rolling again we were scrambling for time.  To paraphrase Jerry Reed we had a long way to go and a short time to get there, but Tex got us there in the nick of time.  We hurriedly unloaded the bus (with help from the IceBears locker room staff and helpers) and got ready to go out for warmups, which started about 15 minutes after we got there.  After the warmup we settled back into the normal gameday routine and the game started without further incident.

Pre-season game 2 in Knoxville was very different from the previous night's pitching duel in Columbus.  For starters, the Knoxville lineup looked very different.  Mark Van Vliet, who had coached the IceBears on Thursday night, was in the lineup on Friday along with Kevin Swider, Emery Olausson and most of the more recognizable IceBears.  The Snakes team looked the same as it had on Thursday night, but something was different...they brought their scoring sticks with them.  Matty Kinnunen notched a couple of goals in the first period as the goals came early and often in a 7-4 victory for the Snakes.  As expected, Swider had a hand in most of the IceBears' scoring.  He scored a couple and assisted on another, but it wasn't enough.  The Snakes filled the IceBears' net in a game we pretty much dominated from beginning to end.  I hope we see a lot more of this type of game this season.  From a spectator's perspective, it was fun to watch.  For the second night in a row, I let Tyler McCrea work the bench and I watched from rinkside.  We claimed our victory and boarded the bus and headed for home.  We had an off day ahead of us, but Jerome had some tough decisions to make.

There were several players "on the bubble".  There were 7 defensemen battling for 6 spots, and 12 forwards vying for 10 spots.  Goaltending was pretty well set, with 2 goalies to fill 2 spots.  In the end, Jerome released Brody Malek on defense and Matt Kinnunen up front.  I must admit I was surprised by the decision on Kinnunen.  I expected Brody to be the odd man out on defense, although he looked better in camp than he did at the end of last season.  The competition on D was just too tough.  As good as he looked, Brody was the 7th man on the depth chart.  With Kinnunen, I thought there were a couple of guys who would go before him.  Kinner was a solid, hard-working player who was willing to do whatever was asked of him and brought a lot of energy to the team. I'm sure Jerome had his reasons for releasing Kinner (he doesn't take these kinds of decisions lightly), but I'm at a loss. What made it tough was that we had one guy in camp who didn't play in either of the pre-season games.  He had a minor injury that hampered him for a few days in practice and it was decided that it was best not to push it in the exhibition games.  It's kind of hard to cut a guy knowing that he didn't have the opportunity to show you what he could really do because he was limited by an injury. At the same time, however, it's hard to KEEP a guy who didn't have a chance to show you what he could do in a game situation. It's even harder to keep such a guy at the expense of somebody who played for you the season before and did show you what he brought to the table.  In the end, Jerome felt he had seen enough of the guy to make that decision. I know that there are lots of factors to consider when putting a roster together.  In addition to the obvious on-ice performance you have to consider veteran status, visa status, salary, compatibility...and probably a dozen other things that I've forgotten about. That's why it's sometimes easy to look at it from the outside and wonder what Coach is thinking when he signs certain players and releases others. I've second-guessed him a couple of times myself. But in the final analysis I think he makes the decision that's best for the team, even if I don't always see it right away.

So, with Malek and Kinnunen out, and Jesse Cole out injured until November 6th, here's what our opening night roster should look like:

Hammond    Bowles    Sullivan
Hergott    Lind    Braid
Moore  MacDougall   Wall

Barlow    Tyler
Cianfrini   Kessler
Maldonado  Krelove

Loewen  Vigier

Or something like that.  Stay tuned...

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