After suffering a third-period breakdown on the road Friday night, the Augusta RiverHawks didn’t need any extra motivation upon returning home Saturday.
“We were all so fired up after last night,” forward Neil Graham said. “Fire up and angry and frustrated.”
Graham scored two first-period goals and Peter Skoggard stopped 25 of 26 shots in a 4-1 win over the Pensacola Ice Flyers. The victory, which came in front of more than 2,000 fans on Pink in the Rink’s Breast Cancer Awareness Night, kept the RiverHawks (23-8-2) atop the Southern Professional Hockey League standings with a three-point lead over Knoxville (22-7-1).
Augusta, which has lost its past five road games, got its fourth consecutive win at home. Head coach Brad Ralph said taking advantage of the team’s home games has been a priority considering the daunting schedule that looms over the next three and a half weeks.
James Brown Arena will play host to the Augusta Futurity, sending the RiverHawks away for five consecutive road games.
“We’re happy to win two out of three (this weekend), but we know we’ve got to be more consistent on the road,” Ralph said. “We didn’t play well from start to finish yesterday. We didn’t follow the game plan. Tonight the guys bought into the game plan and our leaders led.”
The team’s veteran forward line of Graham, Matt Auffrey and Egor Mironov supplied most of the offense. After Graham’s efforts gave the RiverHawks a 2-0 lead through one period, Auffrey beat backup goalie Jeff Rose for his 15th goal.
Rose took over in the second period for starting goalie Adam Ward, who was injured in the second after Kyle Watson knocked him over skating through the crease.
Augusta took more shots in the first period (12) than the last two combined (11) but didn’t need any extra offense. Shane Ferguson gave Pensacola (15-10-2) its only score early in the third period.
Branden Kosolofsky added an empty-net goal with a minute left.