Dennis Sicard remembers last season’s Augusta RiverHawks squad all too well.
As a member of Huntsville, Sicard watched his eighth-seeded Havoc team bounce Augusta, the No. 1 seed, from the first round of the playoffs.
Now the veteran right winger is playing for Augusta, and so far he likes what he sees.
“From playing against them, I can say they were the best team the past two years,” Sicard said. “Things like that happen in the playoffs. Anything goes.
“They should have that fire under their butt. Everybody’s getting older and we all want to win a championship. I think we can do it with this team here.”
Augusta opens the season at 8:05 tonight at the Mississippi RiverKings; the two teams will square off at the same time and place Saturday.
The RiverHawks are holding a viewing party tonight at Forest Hills Golf Club, the home of the team’s away games this season.
Augusta coach Rob Miller tweaked his Opening Day roster after Wednesday’s practice, adding four new players (centers Patrick Schafer and Matt Puntureri, defenseman William LaCasse and left winger Taylor McReynolds). Puntureri scored 67 points in each of the past two seasons with the Brooklyn Aviators and New Jersey Outlaws. Schafer posted 33 points in 61 games last season.
The new signees were added to a veteran squad that includes captain Matt Auffrey and alternate captains Jason Price and Sicard.
“We’re looking good. We’ve got some skill,” Auffrey said. “I think we can put the puck in the net. We’ve got to commit to defense.”
Last season, Augusta posted the best record in the Southern Professional Hockey League regular season. After losing in the playoffs, the RiverHawks saw plenty of off-season changes. Coach Brad Ralph left to become coach of the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads and was replaced by Miller, a former defensemen who led the Aviators to a successful campaign the past two seasons (58-32-7 combined record).
Augusta also traded for Sicard, who is providing an immediate boost.
“He’s a great teammate,” Auffrey said. “He’s getting under other guys’ skins. He’s working hard. He goes to the net, and he can put the puck in the net, too.”
Auffrey knows how to score as well, with 22 goals and 41 assists last season. Branden Kosolofsky also posted 35 points last season (13 goals, 22 assists), while Drew Baker and Price each had 27 points.
Throw in the mix returning goalie Peter Skoggard, who recorded a 2.65 goals against average in 2011-12.
“We’re going to be a hard-working team,” he said. “We have a lot of talent. We’ve got great goalies. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“I think we fit all the pieces to the puzzle together here. I think we’ve got a good chance to win a championship.”