Dates and times have been set for the Augusta RiverHawks’ first-round playoff series with the Huntsville Havoc.
RiverHawks general manager Mark Richards confirmed Monday that Game 1 will be played in Augusta on Wednesday, March 28, with a 7:35 p.m. start time. Game 2 will shift the best-of-three series to Huntsville, Ala. on March 30, at 8:30. Game 3, if necessary, would be played in Augusta on March 31 at 7:35.
Richards said a Wednesday night game to open the series wasn’t ideal, but the team had to make decisions based on player comfort and arena availability.
“We didn’t want to play three games in three nights,” he said. “We want to do what we could do to give the team the best chance to win.”
Richards said any future series will most likely hold to the Wednesday-Friday-Saturday format.
The RiverHawks will enter the playoffs as the league’s No. 1 seed and enjoy home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.
REUNITED: Augusta clinched the league’s top seed thanks to Saturday’s 6-2 win over Columbus. Forward Branden Kosolofsky had scored twice in the past three games and followed that up with his second career hat trick.
Kosolofsky said his surge started with the return of teammate Aaron McGill. The physical forward left earlier in the season for the Central Hockey League but came back to Augusta last week. He rejoined Kosolofsky on the same forward line and the two immediately re-established their chemistry.
“Playing with him and (Kyle) Watson the last two and a half games has helped,” Kosolofsky said. “We’re the same type of player. We work hard, get in the corners and we just feed off each other. So we like playing with each other, and that’s what’s doing it.”
McGill assisted on Kosolofsky’s second goal in Saturday’s win and finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-5.
“Last year we started on a line together,” McGill said of Kosolofsky. “He’s pretty much my best buddy on the team, so it’s nice playing together again and having that chemistry. He works hard, and it’s easy to know what he’s going to do.”
MAKING SPACE: McGill didn’t get an assist on Kosolofsky’s third goal, but he created the scoring opportunity without actually touching the puck.
Kosolofsky gained possession in the neutral zone and started a 2-on-2 breakaway. McGill skated ahead and took down both defensemen, giving Kosolofsky plenty of space to complete his hat trick.
“I was just trying to take both of them so he’d get a shot. I wasn’t expecting them both to fall on top of me,” McGill said. “I actually had no idea he scored. I was laying on the ice, and I thought they got a penalty but then he came up and told me he scored. It’s good. He earned it. He’s been working hard lately.”
ALL GREEN: Kosolofsky’s hat trick came on St. Patrick’s Day, when the team wore specially designed green jerseys that were auctioned off for charity after the game.
Forward Neil Graham served as the auctioneer and was amazed when the bidding for Kosolofsky’s jersey surpassed $1,000.
“I’ve never even seen that much money,” Graham said.
RECORD CHECK: With two regular season games remaining, the RiverHawks have already broken a few SPHL records and are approaching a number of others.
Even if it loses its final two games, Augusta (36-11-7) will break the season record for winning percentage (.696) and fewest losses in regulation (14). The team has already tied the SPHL record for points in a season at 79 and is one win away from tying league records for wins (37) and home wins (23).
A win Saturday would also give the RiverHawks the fewest home regulation losses (2). The team’s 87.46 penalty killing percentage is also close to the league record (87.8 percent).