Augusta RiverHawks owner Bob Kerzner couldn't help but smile like a proud father Saturday night after watching his team sweep its weekend games. Goalie Jordan McLaughlin picked up his fourth consecutive win in a 5-3 victory in Knoxville on Friday night, and Jon Olthuis followed with 33 saves in 34 shots for a 3-1 win at home Saturday.
"As I told (coach Brad Ralph ), he can put either one in goal and they give us an equal chance of winning," Kerzner said.
The RiverHawks extended their season-best winning streak to four games, with strong goalie play factoring into each victory. Injuries and the retirement of defenseman Brett Dickinson last week weakened defensive depth, but both McLaughlin and Olthuis proved up for the challenge.
"These guys, they're a great tandem," Ralph said. "It seems like they really want each other to get better. They work with each other after practice and before games."
Olthuis' win Saturday meant both rookies are on winning streaks, helping the RiverHawks climb to two games above .500 and into sole possession of fourth place in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They will enter this weekend's games four points out of first.
"It's a healthy relationship we've got going," Olthuis said of his friendship with McLaughlin. "Obviously each guy wants to play, but if we're winning and everything it's not a big deal. We're just happy to get two points every night."
SHORT STAFFED : Columbus entered Saturday's game as the league's only team without a short-handed goal, but the Cottonmouths started the scoring early when the penalty kill unit scored six minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
"It hurts when you give up a shorty," Olthuis said. "But it put a little chip on our shoulders to fight back in our own rink."
ROAD WARRIORS : Ralph added defensemen Myles Gomes and Drew Baker to the roster just before Friday's game, but signing the free agents was only half the battle. Gomes had been released from Fayetteville and had no means of transportation to join his new team. Baker had been playing for the Akwesasne Warriors of the Federal Hockey League and was more than 1,000 miles away.
Kerzner left his home in Florence, S.C., and picked up Gomes, arriving in Knoxville just in time for the RiverHawks' game. Baker started his road trip from the Ontario/Quebec border and made the 17-hour drive to Knoxville, where he scored a goal in the third period of Augusta's 5-3 win.
SUCCESS EVENTUALLY : Through 16 games, the RiverHawks have the fewest first-period goals scored in the league at seven and the most third-period goals scored at 24.