COLUMBUS, GA – After the excitement of Shannon Szabados’ first appearance in the SPHL, the Columbus Cottonmouths still had one more home game to play on Sunday, March 16th. Not wanting to leave the fans on a sour note heading into the playoffs, the Snakes wanted a win in the worst way. It took a big effort from one player to give the fans what they wanted.
Jordan Draper scored four goals including the tying and winning goals in the third period as Columbus edged the Louisians Ice Gators 5-4 at the Columbus Civic Center. Three of Draper’s scores came on the power play as the Cottonmouths netted four man advantage tallies.
The high scoring final certainly was not what anyone was expecting. The first period was a defensive struggle with just one goal scored. It came off the stick of Louisiana’s Jeff Grant who beat Columbus goalie Andrew Loewen with a shot on a power play. Former Cottonmouth Jordan Braid and Shawn McNeil drew the assists on the play.
McNeil scored a man advantage goal of his own off of assists from Adam Stuart and Kirk Byczynski early in the second to put the Ice Gators up by two. Draper then began his assault on Louisiana goalie Kiefer Smiley with a pair of power play scores within 26 seconds. Both came on five-on-three advantage s created by three overlapping Ice Gators penalties. Jason Gray and Sam Bowles had the helpers on both goals.
Tied 2-2 heading into the third period, Louisiana came out fired up in the third. Stuart beat Loewen off of assists from McNeil and Tanner Burton 2:35 into the frame to put the visitors in front. Less than a minute later, Tyler Barr set up Jeremy Boyer who scored to put Louisiana up by two again.
Columbus began its big comeback at the 5:51 mark when Draper and Tom Maldonado set up Matt Gingera for the Cottonmouths third power play goal of the game. It stayed 4-3 until with just under six minutes left, Draper completed his hat trick on the man advantage off a feed from Maldonado. Then off the ensuing face-off, Bowles picked up his third assist of the game when he got the puck to Draper who beat Smiley to give Columbus its first lead of the game. The Cottonmouths defense tightened up down the stretch to keep the Ice Gators from getting the tying score and sending the home fans away happy.
Loewen finished the game with 19 saves to record the victory while Smiley stopped 35 of the 40 shots he faced in suffering the loss.