With plenty of news coming away from the arena this week, the Augusta RiverHawks will finally return to their home ice tonight when they play host to Pensacola. But they'll do so without the services of forward Aaron McGill, whose future for the rest of the season has been solidified.
The RiverHawks' appeal to lift or shorten the Southern Professional Hockey League's suspension placed on McGill for the remainder of the season was denied Wednesday night, according to a person close to the team. The league had not released a final decision by Wednesday night, but SPHL president Jim Combs said an announcement can be expected today.
"A decision will probably come by tomorrow afternoon," Combs said Wednesday.
The SPHL front office announced Tuesday that McGill had been suspended for the remainder of the season after he shattered Knoxville defenseman Mark Van Vliet's jaw late in a game last Saturday. Knoxville's David Segal was suspended for three games, Brett Valiquette received an undisclosed fine and Knoxville coach Mike Craigen was also fined in a game that saw the RiverHawks tally a season-high 81 penalty minutes in a 6-1 loss.
Though McGill won't be available for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, the RiverHawks did add another physical player to the lineup Wednesday.
Enforcer Kevin Fukala returned to the team after a month-long stint with the ECHL's Florida Everblades.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound forward tallied 102 penalty minutes in 11 games for the RiverHawks before leaving for his second call up to the ECHL.
Fukala's return comes just as the team prepares for three key games over the next three nights. The RiverHawks are tied for second in the league with Huntsville. Pensacola, Augusta's opponent tonight and Friday night, sits just two points back in fourth place.
The league's top three teams at the end of the regular season receive home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The RiverHawks have 13 games left in regular=season play.
Augusta coach Brad Ralph said a new goalie should arrive in time for tonight's game to replace Jon Olthuis, who left for Dayton in the Central Hockey League on Tuesday. Adam Avramenko, who took over as the team's top goalie during Olthuis' first call up to the CHL, is expected to get the start tonight.