The Augusta RiverHawks have become familiar with close games in December. However, a trend of falling short in those games continued against the top team in the SPHL.
Augusta dropped its fourth consecutive game with a 5-3 loss to the Fayetteville FireAntz on Thursday at James Brown Arena.
Augusta (5-15-3) entered the game with five of its past seven games decided by one goal. Of those games, the RiverHawks were 1-4. They went back and forth with Fayetteville (17-5) before falling to two third-period goals, dropping to 1-5 against Fayetteville this season.
“When it rains, it pours,” interim coach Mark Richards said. “We’ve obviously been on the wrong end of these games. It’s almost unheard of. But we’re in every game.”
The RiverHawks held the lead twice, but the FireAntz responded both times. Chad Ziegler put Augusta ahead 2-1 in the second period, but Fayetteville answered 11 seconds later on a goal by John Clewlow.
After Brian Elser’s goal put the FireAntz ahead late in the second period, the RiverHawks responded early in the third period on a goal by Pat Schafer that tied the score at 3.
The eventual game-winning goal for Fayetteville came 5 minutes later when Brandon Richardson found the net with 14 minutes remaining, putting the first-place FireAntz ahead 4-3. They added a fifth goal after Augusta pulled the goalie late in the game.
Prior to the game, the RiverHawks waived goalie BJ O’Brien and signed goaltender Austin Lee. O’Brien played in 13 games, recording a .901 save percentage, and started in just one of Augusta’s wins.
Lee had played five games for Missouri in the CHL this season. He entered Thursday’s game in the third period.
Also before the game, the SPHL announced Dennis Sicard was suspended five games for fighting after Saturday’s game against Knoxville. Matt Auffrey and Knoxville’s Mark Van Vliet were fined for their actions following the game, as well.