Defenseman Ed Snetsinger netted a pair of power play goals and reigning Southern Professional Hockey League MVP Matt Auffrey proved he’s still one of the league’s elite shooters in the Augusta RiverHawks’ 4-1 win over the Fayetteville FireAntz.
The league’s worst penalty killing team was no match for Augusta’s sharp shooters, who scored three power play goals.
Snetsinger took advantage of quality passes from Jim Gehring and Auffrey for the RiverHawks’ first two scores. Auffrey, who missed on a couple of easier chances in the first period, fired from inside the blue line midway through the second that sailed in untouched for a 3-1 lead.
“Your power play is going to win you games,” Augusta coach Brad Ralph said. “I thought it won us a game today. I think the guys were moving their feet and moving the puck well. Fayetteville’s a little more passive on their penalty kill so it helped us make the plays we were looking to make.”
Jason Price’s shot from the blue line late in the third was redirected by a blind deflection from Gehring for a 4-1 lead. Gehring raised his league-leading goals scored total to 34.
That was more than enough offense for Jon Olthuis. The RiverHawks goalie, playing in front of his brother and family in town from Canada, stopped 24 of 25 shots for his fifth consecutive win and 13th of the season. He’s allowed just eight goals in the past five games.
“This is always the time of year everyone starts to tighten things up,” Olthuis said. “I think it’s just the team getting better and getting in a bit of a groove. All that hard work from practicing all season and working all summer starts to add up.”
Augusta’s sixth win in its past seven home games came at the expense of Fayetteville goalie Mike Brown, who allowed four goals on 36 shots.
The road game was the first for Fayetteville under new leadership. Former coach Sean Gillam was fired Thursday and replaced by Todd Bidner.
Augusta (29-9-5) maintained its seven-point lead atop the SPHL standings. Fayetteville (13-26-5) remained in last place.
RiverHawks defenseman Curtis Megginson returned to the lineup after sitting out for more than a month because of a head injury.
“Megginson was a huge boost for us on the back end,” Ralph said.
The RiverHawks will return to their home ice today for their third game in three days. The team will play host to the second-place Knoxville Ice Bears, who have won all five previous meetings with Augusta this season.