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VICTORY AT HOME
By Todd Rourke
November 30, 2001
The Greensboro Generals, playing their second game of the year in Winston-Salem, hosted the Columbus Cottonmouths with hopes of getting their first home victory of the 2001-2002 season. After having tried various gimmicks to reverse the team's mindset at home, the action leading into this contest happened via roster changes. The new faces seemed to work, and the Generals snatched a 5-3 victory.
Head Coach Graeme Townshend has maintained through the early part of the season that he wanted to stick with the guys he had. That changed this week when the Generals executed two trades and picked up an AHL reassignment. Jarrett Thompson and future considerations were dealt to Roanoke for Bret DeCecco and Steve Chabbert in the first deal, Kevin Knopp was moved to Cincinnati for Andre Lupandin in the second. Goaltender Frederic Henry was reassigned to Greensboro from the AHL Albany River Rats.
The changes were an attempt to bolster both offense and defense, infusing the team with greater speed at both ends of the ice. The results were quickly visible, the Generals skated with more authority and were able to recover from the occasional mistake. More telling was that every line put in a solid effort and the team avoided the sort of collapse that had plagued them at home thus far.
"It's very pleasing to get that under our belts, to get that first win [at home]. It's a great effort by our players, they're really proud of the way they worked today and they deserved to win," said Townshend in his post-game comments.
The Generals did have to work hard to overcome a pesky Columbus team that was quick to take advantage of powerplays and not afraid to get physical from time to time. Henry, in his first Greensboro start, was kept busy during portions of the third period when the game was still up for grabs. He answered with some spectacular saves, demonstrating quick feet and an eagerness to confront shooters head on. Vlad Serov provided what would be the game winner with a terrific shot off a Chris Bell rebound.
"He's in the wrong league," said Townshend of Serov's ability. "He shouldn't be here. We'll work on that and fix that and get him called up. He definitely belongs in the American League." Certainly one has to think that Serov's hot stick and slick skating will be getting a serious look from Lowell of the AHL.
The difference in the game came down to speed and resilience. Unlike in previous games, the Generals played a more wide open brand of hockey, forcing Columbus to pursue more than they would have liked. When the Generals were down or tied, they continued to stick with their aggressive game plan. The new players aided in this change, but Coach Townshend was quick to point out that the other guys really stepped it up as well.
"I think everybody really contributed. We added some speed and some skill back on our blue line with Andre Lupandin," said Townshend. "We added a kid who has potential to score some goals in Bret DeCecco. Of course with Steve Chabbert, we've got a real solid young defenseman. He's got some skating ability and can move the puck. So with those additions and solid goaltending ... everything contributed tonight. It's not just them, I want to point out Casey Kesselring had a great game tonight. Sal Manganaro stepped his up and Brian Loney was leading the way out there with his leadership ability. Those three guys taking charge, our captain [Jason Robinson] taking charge tonight, I think that made the big difference. It comes down to leadership and the older guys, the veterans on this team, really came up tonight and helped us win this game. Our leadership showed tonight and we had those four guys, in particular, who were struggling at one time and now really stepped up and are taking charge of this hockey team."