Cottonmouths hold first practice after bus crash; former teammate returns to help

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Columbus Cottonmouths held their first practice almost a week after a bus crash in Illinois that left many players injured.

They may have gotten the scare of a lifetime last weekend, but the SPHL season is far from over.

Ten guys suited up for practice Tuesday morning, with others still waiting to be cleared by the team doctor.

Goalie Spencer Bacon was in the net at Tuesday's practice and appears good to go after he was seen in a walking boot this weekend.

After players visit the doctor Wednesday, the team will make the necessary moves to fill the roster by Friday's game against Roanoke.

Players and head coach Jerome Bechard said they were happy to be back on the ice and get moving toward a normal routine.

"The guys were chomping at the bit to get back on the ice and do something," Bechard said. "This isn't a normal practice for us. It's still not kind of normal, but I think it's important to get back into a routine with coming to the rink and getting on the ice and all that stuff."

"It definitely is emotional," added defenseman Craig Simchuk. "Some guys are still pretty banged up, but I think at the end of the day we're lucky that we walked away with just some bumps and bruises mostly, some more than others, but we're just happy to be able to be back on the ice."

"It's obviously an emotional weekend," added center Evan Neugold. "I was lucky enough to be one of the six guys that got back on the ice for the game so it's more about getting back out there and playing for the guys that couldn't so it's pretty awesome."

With so many guys injured and others waiting to be cleared, the Snakes need all the help they can get on the ice, so they turned to a former Cottonmouth.

Tom Maldonado dressed out for the first time since 2015 to help the team practice.

For the former Snake, there was little hesitation when given the chance to come back.

"When I first heard that the bus flipped my immediate thought was to help out in any way I can," Maldonado said. "Some say it's like riding a bike, so I'll do what I can. I'm not going to be as good as these guys, and if I need to play I will, but otherwise I'm just here to help out and provide an extra body. It holds a special place in my heart as well as many other players', so it was an easy choice to reach out and want to help out."

The Cottonmouths host the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. EST at the Civic Center.

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