The Pensacola Ice Flyers came out as the more aggressive squad early, but it wasn’t enough to take down the first-place Augusta RiverHawks, who rallied for 6-3 victory Saturday night.
The Ice Flyers couldn’t have started any better.
After winning the faceoff, it took 15 seconds and two passes before Pensacola’s Ryan Ramage fed Andrew Harrison for a slapshot into the top left corner and the 1-0 advantage.
The RiverHawks struggled early, missing on passes and failing to register a shot for five minutes.
“They certainly came at us right off the bat,” RiverHawks coach Brad Ralph said. “We came out a little loose, which is to be expected after an 8-0 win, and they came to play.”
The defense held firm while the offense tried to get back on track. The efforts paid off quickly, as Matt Auffrey’s sixth goal of the season off Jeff Price’s assist tied it late in the first period.
Pensacola pushed ahead when Brian Ouellette poked a rebound past Augusta goalie Jon Olthuis for a 2-1 lead.
“We had a bad bounce on the first goal, and it went right to the slot who has a great shot,” Olthuis said. “But we certainly woke up after taking their punch.”
After a vicious check in front of the Augusta bench that got the crowd roaring, the RiverHawks sprinted into a 3-on-2 breakaway capped by Chris Doyle’s flick through the tight gap on the right side to tie the game at 2.
With 6:50 remaining in the second, it was Augusta’s turn to get the good end of a deflection, as Branden Kosolofsky spun and fired from 10 feet to give the RiverHawks a 3-2 lead. Sixty-six seconds later, Jim Gehring added a goal on a breakaway for Augusta (14-3-1), which improved to 3-0 against Pensacola (5-7-2) this season.
With the win, the RiverHawks maintained a five-point lead in the standings over Knoxville, which defeated Mississippi 4-1.
Olthuis stopped 32 of 35 shots to improve to 3-1 on the year.
“The more you’re tested, the better you feel – I have a better feel for the game after stopping 40 shots rather than 20,” Olthuis said.
Doyle added an assist late in the third, continuing his streaks of 12 consecutive games with an assist and his eighth in a row with a goal. Gehring finished with two goals to increase his team-leading total to 17.