SPHL Playoffs, First Round, Game 3
No. 1 Augusta RiverHawks vs. No. 8 Huntsville Havoc
PUCK DROPS: 7:35 p.m., James Brown Arena
TICKETS: General admission tickets start at $10.
ONLINE: Live video at America One (subscription required). Live stats at PointStreak.com
IN-GAME UPDATES: Follow @AugChronSports on Twitter
SERIES: Best-of-three, tied at 1.
REGULAR SEASON: RiverHawks (36-13-7, 79 points) 1st place; Havoc (22-28-6, 50 points) 8th place
Game 1 went to Augusta in overtime. Game 2 went to Huntsville in overtime. Game 3, well, who knows? We'll find out tonight.
The beauty of playoff hockey is the desperation and excitement. This best-of-three series has seen it all. Now the No. 1 RiverHawks and No. 8 Havoc will face off one last time to decide whose season will end and who will advance to the SPHL quarterfinals.
The series has held to home-ice advantage, which is good for the RiverHawks. Game 3 will be back at James Brown Arena tonight, where the RiverHawks have a 23-3-3 record this season.
As was demonstrated in the first two playoff games, the SPHL's rules for overtime differ from regular season to postseason and - in head coach Brad Ralph's opinion - for the better. The regular season overtime format calls for a 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period. If no team scores after five minutes, the game is decided on a five-round shootout. It's certainly an exciting format, but determining a winner by removing four players from the ice or in a shootout seems like an inferior way to decide a game. It's almost like ending a tied baseball game with a home run derby or a basketball game with a free throw contest.
So the SPHL has a different rule for the playoffs. At the end of regulation, a tied game has a third intermission and begins a fourth period of 5-on-5 play. So far it's benefitted the home team both times this series. Will another overtime period be needed tonight? I selfishly hope not. An extra intermission and bonus hockey don't help a sportswriter's deadline.
In the other SPHL series, the Knoxville Ice Bears and the Mississippi RiverKings will also go to a third game tonight, and Pensacola has a 1-0 series lead on the Mississippi Surge. The Columbus Cottonmouths have already advanced to the semifinals with a two-game sweep over Louisiana.