Cottonmouths announce 2013-14 hockey schedule

The Columbus Cottonmouths announced their 2013-14 SPHL schedule on Monday. The 56-game slate includes 28 home and 28 away contests featuring games against each of the nine opponents in the league.

The Snakes will open the season on the road against the defending SPHL champion Pensacola Ice Flyers on Friday, October 25. The game marks a clash between the previous two President's Cup winners in the building where both teams clinched their respective championships.

Cottonmouths fans will only get one chance to see the Ice Flyers at home, however, as they visit Columbus in a Sunday matinee on January 26. The two teams only meet once more all season on Sunday, February 16 in Pensacola; the three scheduled games against the Ice Flyers are the fewest of all opponents on this season's schedule.

After the game in Pensacola, the Snakes will play three straight at home against two of their oldest rivals who, along with the Snakes, have been members of the SPHL since the league's inaugural season in 2004. The three-time league champion Knoxville Ice Bears, who ousted Columbus from the playoffs in the first round last season, open the Snakes' home schedule on Saturday, October 26.

The longtime rival Huntsville Havoc visit the Snake Pit on Friday, November 1. The Havoc are coming off a remarkable playoff run as they were eighth in the eight-team playoffs last season and beat top-seeded Fayetteville and #2 seed Louisiana before falling to Pensacola in the President's Cup Finals. The Snakes and Havoc will face off eight times this season with three games in Columbus and five at Huntsville's Propst Arena. The Ice Bears return for their second straight Saturday game in Columbus on November 2.

Knoxville will visit the Snake Pit five times this season, the most of any SPHL team, while the nine combined times the Snakes and Ice Bears will face off (including four games in Knoxville) is tied with the Fayetteville FireAntz for the most of any team in the league. The regular season champion 'Antz will play in Columbus three times this season with the Cottonmouths facing them on the road six times, the most of any team in the league.

The Snakes will play ten games against the two new entries in the league, the Bloomington Thunder and the Peoria Rivermen. The two new Illinois rivals will play six games combined in the Snake Pit with Peoria visiting for a back-to-back weekend of games on December 26 and 27 and Bloomington playing in Columbus on two such occasions (January 3 and 4 and March 7 and 8).

Columbus travels to the Prairie State in two pairs of back-to-back weekend dates; they visit Bloomington on November 8 and 9 and will travel to Peoria on February 7 and 8.

The Louisiana IceGators, who tied Fayetteville in points last season atop the SPHL standings but lost the tie-breaker (total wins) to the FireAntz for the regular season title, play the Snakes five times. The 'Gators will visit Columbus four times while the Cottonmouths will visit the Cajundome in Lafayette to face Louisiana on the road only once on Thursday, December 12.

The Snakes will make six trips to the Magnolia State this season, split evenly between the Mississippi RiverKings and Mississippi Surge. The 'Kings will make four trips to Columbus for a total of seven games between the two teams, while the Surge will skate on Snake Pit ice for only two games this season.

The Cottonmouths' home schedule is perhaps the friendliest in their ten seasons in the SPHL. Twenty-one of the Snakes' 28 home games will be played on a Friday (12) or Saturday (9) night with five games on Sunday and two Thursday games. As in past seasons, games not played on a Sunday will have a 7:30 pm ET opening puck drop while Sunday games will start at 4 pm ET.

"As a general manager, I'm really happy with the schedule," said Snakes coach and general manager Jerome Bechard. "Having 21 weekend dates is the most we've ever had. As a coach, there are a couple of stretches that are a little hectic, but all in all a good schedule. It's a couple of good trips to see the Illinois teams as well. We go to Bloomington the third week of the season, and it'll be a good chance to get on the road and hopefully gel with the new guys."