If the Augusta RiverHawks are going to maintain their spot atop the Southern Professional Hockey League standings, they’ll most likely have to do it without the services of goalie Peter Skoggard.
The 23-year-old Swede, in his second season with Augusta, might have to leave the team because of immigration problems, head coach Brad Ralph confirmed Monday night.
“He’s probably going to be on the shelf for a while,” Ralph said. “Obviously it’s a devastating blow for us.”
Skoggard won all six regular season games in which he started last season and had won three in a row this year with a league-leading 2 goals allowed average. Ralph said paperwork issues are at the root of the immigration problem.
“We’re trying some things. It’s really not anyone’s fault,” Ralph said. “Sometimes the process gets a little jaded and if you don’t have one or two documents or the wrong document it can hurt.”
The immigration issues aren’t the worst in the history of Augusta hockey. Nine Augusta Lynx players were ruled ineligible to play during Thanksgiving weekend in 2005 because of a ruling by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In Skoggard’s absence, the RiverHawks will be left with one goalie on the roster, second-year pro David Wilson. The 26-year-old Canadian is 1-1 this season with
seven goals allowed in two games.
Jon Olthuis, Augusta’s star goalie for much of last season, is on the Tulsa Oilers’ roster in the Central Hockey League but has yet to see playing time through five games.
EARNED REST: A strong, successful effort over a three-game weekend earned the RiverHawks a day off on Monday. The team, which went 3-0 and claimed the outright lead in the SPHL, will return to practice this morning after an extra rest.
“It was a great weekend, and we have another three-in-three coming up this weekend,” Ralph said. “So I thought an extra day would help.”
The RiverHawks will play on the road Thursday before returning to James Brown Arena for home games Friday and Saturday.
GEHRING GOALS: The winning weekend came thanks to an offensive explosion led by forward Jim Gehring, who scored four goals, including a hat trick Friday night.
The 28-year-old forward has five goals through five games and is already more than halfway to his goal total from last season.
Team captain and reigning league MVP Matt Auffrey said the wide variety of scoring threats on the team – eight players have scored at least one goal through five games – has fueled the team’s early-season success.
“We don’t really have first-line guys and second-line and third-line guys,” Auffrey said. “We have good, skilled guys on each line, and that’s what’s made us a top team so far.”
EXCUSED ABSENCE: Auffrey did not travel with the team for their game in Pensacola, Fla., on Saturday night. Instead, he returned to his hometown to play in a charity game for his cousin, who was paralyzed in an accident last year.
Auffrey will be back on the ice this weekend.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216