After a month on the road, the Augusta RiverHawks will finally be in front of a home crowd.
The RiverHawks return to James Brown Arena with games tonight and Sunday. The two games mark the first weekend at home for Augusta since Jan. 12.
Various events kept the RiverHawks on the road, including the Augusta Futurity held Jan. 20-26. The ice was melted at one point for the events, and the hockey team has had to practice in a different location between road trips.
Coach Mark Richards said the RiverHawks played hard over perhaps the toughest three-game stretch of the trip this past weekend, when they played two games in Mississippi before playing a Sunday afternoon game in Columbus.
However, fatigue might have set in by Sunday, when they lost 3-0 to the Cottonmouths.
“Anytime you are playing three games in less than three days in different towns, it is a challenge,” Richards said. “After a month-plus on the road, the guys are extremely excited to be back on home ice.”
Despite the tough road trip, the RiverHawks enter the home weekend winning two of their past three games, sitting four points behind Huntsville for eighth place.
Augusta plays host to Pensacola at 7:35 tonight. The Ice Flyers are second in the SPHL with 52 points, just two behind Louisiana. Pensacola is 6-2 in its past eight games, relying on the strong play of goaltender Ross MacKinnon, who ranks second in the league with a .939 save percentage. The RiverHawks have yet to beat the Ice Flyers in three games this season.
The Fayetteville FireAntz come to Augusta on Sunday at 4:35 for the 10th meeting between the two teams this season. The RiverHawks are 2-7 in the previous matchups. Fayetteville enters the weekend in third place in the league.
“We hope to gain extra motivation and adrenaline from the energy that we anticipate the fans will provide for us,” Richards said. “It is great to be back home, finally.”