By By NATHAN DEENDecember 15, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- With its reserves depleted due to injuries and the loss of one of its best players to the Central Hockey League, the Columbus Cottonmouths called on Fort Benning's Ken Porter to fill the void.
Porter, a captain with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, played three seasons of collegiate hockey at Army from 2004-2007.
Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard said he signed Porter Dec. 1 to a three-game tryout because of injuries to Pete MacDougall and Greg Beller and the loss of Levi Lind to CHL's Rapid City. After Bechard put MacDougall on the 30-day injured reserve list, he signed Porter to a contract.
"I want him to be around as much as he possibly can," Bechard said. "It's nice to have a guy who can help out in a pinch if you need him."
However, Bechard said Porter's time on the ice will be definite.
"If everyone comes back healthy, chances are he won't be playing, but at the same time I'd love for him to stick around and keep practicing with us so if we get into another jam he can step in," he said.
After going three years without scoring a goal at West Point, Porter took advantage of a 2-on-1 matchup in his first game Dec. 2 against the Pensacola Ice Flyers and scored a goal that brought fans to their feet. Columbus won the game 2-0.
"The defender left me alone to walk in on the goalie," Porter said. "I shot it and it went in. I was just excited to get a goal. I was just trying to not make mistakes … and trying not to get scored on."
The goal, Bechard said, was an added bonus. Porter averages about nine minutes per period of playing time.
"He's a very smart hockey player," he said. "He's not in game shape … but he kept things very simple and made some very nice plays and was in the right spot at the right time."
Porter said adjusting to the game he hasn't played in four years has been challenging, especially getting back into shape.
"The endurance isn't there anymore as it was when I was playing day in and day out," he said. "It's starting to come back with the practices. I'm just trying to get timing and the flow of the game down.
"I do PT in the Army and that's more geared toward running. You're in a generally good fitness shape. With hockey, I'm using muscles that I haven't used in a while because the dynamics of skating and running are different."
Though uncertain about how much playing time he'll see, Porter said his personal goals for the remainder of the season include finishing in the plus/minus in the score column. For every goal scored for the Snakes, each player on the ice earns a plus. For every goal scored against the Snakes, each player earns a minus. Porter said he also hopes to add a few more goals and assists to his stat sheet.
"I never really thought I'd be able to play again," he said. "I'm really glad that the Cottonmouths think I'm good enough to actually play with them."