The Augusta RiverHawks face a familiar foe tonight at 7:35 p.m. when they play host to the Columbus Cottonmouths. The RiverHawks defeated the Cottonmouths 4-2 the previous Saturday when goalie Robert Moss held Columbus scoreless in the first and third periods. The RiverHawks held onto a one-goal lead for much of the final period.
The significance of that win was the fact that Columbus has been one of the stingiest teams in giving up goals this season. The Cottonmouths are currently second in the SPHL in goals allowed with 68 (compared to Augusta's 90, while Augusta has played two more games). That amounts to 2.62 goals allowed per game for Columbus, which ranks third in the league.
The Cottonmouths' leading goalie, Andrew Loewen, has a rate of 2.21 goals allowed per game with a .932 save percentage, both ranking second in the league. The RiverHawks faced Ian Vigier this past Saturday, who has a 2.57 goals allowed per game rate, which ranks fifth, and .917 save percentage, which ranks seventh.
Similar to the RiverHawks, the Cottonmouths don't rank in the upper half in goals scored, relying more on goal prevention. Columbus is just ahead of Augusta in goals scored per game at 2.69. The leading goal scorer is Jordan Braid with 12.
The RiverHawks will play host to a more unfamiliar opponent Saturday as the Mississippi RiverKings visit. The RiverKings are fifth in the league with 30 points, sporting a 13-13-4 record. They have lost four of their past five games entering the weekend, including a 1-0 loss to Louisiana on Tuesday.
The RiverKings are nearly the opposite of the Cottonmouths in goal prevention, sitting in last in goals allowed per game at 3.33. Goalies Matthew Krahn and David Wilson are outside the top 10 in major goal prevention categories, with Krahn leading the two at 2.93 goals allowed per game.
Despite their struggles with goal prevention, the RiverKings have four players with 11 or more goals scored. Todd Hosmer and Ian Finnerty lead the team with 12 each.
While anything can happen in the span of a single game, the numbers say the RiverHawks might have to switch up the gameplan between tonight and Saturday. Columbus thrives off goal prevention, while Mississippi gets the majority of its wins on offense.
"When we play simple hockey, we can score goals," RiverHawks interim coach Mark Richards said. "We have guys capable of scoring. When we try to play cute, we get thrown off our entire gameplan of what we’re trying to do. "It's detrimental to winning games. We need to play according to our systems and format."