A four-goal first period shook the Columbus Cottonmouths from their drought and, in the process, knocked the Augusta RiverHawks from playoff contention.
Mark Thorburn recorded a hat trick to lead Columbus to a 4-1 win over Augusta on Thursday night at Augusta Ice Sports Center.
With the loss, the RiverHawks were eliminated from playoff contention with two games remaining. Huntsville beat Knoxville 3-2 in a shootout to clinch the final playoff spot.
“We needed the game,” coach Mark Richards said. “We needed every game down the stretch. But they played hard to the end, and it showed good character.”
For the second game in a row, Augusta (19-30-5) allowed the opposition to score at least three goals in the first period.
The Cottonmouths exploded for four goals in the first, three in the first half of the period. Thorburn scored two in a four-minute span, with a goal from Matt Gingera in between. Thorburn scored his third goal with 3 minutes left in the period.
The RiverHawks pulled goalie Robert Moss after two goals allowed in seven shot attempts. Brandon Foote replaced him, allowing a goal only three minutes later, and two in the first period.
Columbus (26-24-4) failed to score in the final two periods. The only goal in the two periods came from Augusta’s Jonathan Juliano, short handed early in the third.
“They’re a shut-down team,” Richards said. “You spot them four goals, it’s tough to come back from.”
Cottonmouths goalie Andrew Loewen, ranked first in the SPHL with a 1.76 goals against average, stopped 34 of 35 shots. Columbus won for just the second time in its past 10 games. The team has reached four goals in a game just twice in that span.
After relieving Moss in the first period, Foote stopped 16 of 18 shots. The RiverHawks were 0 for 8 in power plays.
Prior to the game, the RiverHawks signed forward David Lun to a contract. The 26-year-old played 53 games in the Federal Hockey League this season, scoring 10 goals and 36 points. He also had a brief, three-game stint with Fayetteville this year.