COLUMBUS, GA – Two seasons ago, the Columbus Cottonmouths had to go through the Huntsville Havoc on the way to its second SPHL President’s Cup championship. Thursday night at the Columbus Civic Center, the two teams met again with Columbus needing a win to make it back to the championship series and the Cottonmouths did not let their fans down.
Jordan Draper scored the tie-breaking goal and Matt Gingera added the finishing touch as Columbus skated away with a 4-2 win over its long time rival in front of a crowd of 2,131. The victory gave the Cottonmouths a sweep of the best-of-three semifinal series and a birth in the championship round against the winner of the Pensacola-Knoxville series which Knoxville leads one game to none.
Gingera, who had a goal and two assists in the contest, and Draper who had two points were the key offensive cogs in the win. Goalie Andrew Loewen backed up his brilliant 45 save shutout in Wednesday’s game one with another solid effort, stopping 29 of the 31 Huntsville shots he faced.
The Havoc got on the board first midway through the first period when Stuart Stefan and Nick Lazorko helped to set up Leland Fidler for a power play goal. That lead lasted all of six minutes before Shayne Stockton, who had scored the only goal on Wednesday in Columbus’ 1-0 win, fed Kyle Johnson who beat Huntsville goalie Kevin Genoe to even the contest.
The Cottonmouths controlled much of the play in the middle period, pounding 23 shots on Genoe. Only one of those shots, a drive by Mike Switzer off of assists from Gingera and Tom Maldonado, got past the Havoc netminder.
Huntsville pulled even 5:39 into the third frame when Dominic Osman and Mike Gurtler combined to set up Stefan who found the back of the net. Columbus went back in front for good at the 11:43 mark when Gingera found Draper with a pass and he hit the back of the net. Draper later returned the assist, setting up Gingera for an empty net goal with seven seconds left to secure the win.
Genoe was valliant despite suffering the loss, stopping 51 of the 54 Columbus shots he faced.