For a team scrambling to find wins down the stretch, the Augusta RiverHawks have implemented a new line that has proven beneficial through three games.
RiverHawks coach Mark Richards grouped Matt Auffrey, Alex Morton and Kyle Watson for the March 7 game against the Louisiana IceGators. The RiverHawks took the first-place Gators to a shootout, with two third-period goals coming from the new line.
The following night against the Huntsville Havoc, the line produced three goals, as Auffrey scored his third in two games. The RiverHawks recorded another goal from the line in Sunday’s loss to Knoxville.
Since the line switch was made, Auffrey has three goals and two assists for five points in three games. Watson has two goals and three assists for five points. Morton has one goal and three assists for four points.
Augusta has 10 goals in the three games, topping its season-average 2.59 goals per game.
Richards said the line is here to stay for the remaining seven games.
“They’re playing well together,” Richards said. “They’re getting good chances. They seem to have good chemistry together.”
For the season, the recent spark put Auffrey on the front page of the points leaderboard with 32, which ranks 24th in the SPHL. His 14 goals is first on the team, followed by Watson’s 13. Those two are the only active RiverHawks in double figures for goals.
“We’re challenged scoring goals, so we can’t give them up at a high rate,” said Richards after Friday’s five-goal performance against Huntsville. “When you’re averaging 2.5 per game, sometimes getting up to four is a challenge.”
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: With all but two playoff spots determined, the RiverHawks have been given chances to gain ground for the eighth and final spot, but haven’t taken the necessary steps.
Augusta is six points back of Huntsville with seven games left on its schedule, including four at home, but the RiverHawks entered the four-game week seven points back, resulting in one point gained. The RiverHawks went 1-2-1 over the stretch, while the Havoc went 1-3.
The RiverHawks have one more game than the Havoc over the rest of their season, meaning Thursday’s final meeting between the two teams is not officially a must-win for Augusta. However, the overwhelming opinion in the locker room is that it will be treated as such.
“You never know what can happen down the stretch,” Richards said.
Despite eight of their 12 games in March coming at home, the RiverHawks continue to sport a better record on the road. The team holds a 7-13-4 mark at home compared to 10-15 away.