In the middle of a stretch of seven games in 10 days, the Augusta RiverHawks managed to find an extra level of energy their opponent didn't have Sunday night at James Brown Arena.
The result was a four-goal third period and a 7-4 victory over Pensacola to snap a three-game losing streak.
"They're a good, hard-working team, and that's what I expect from (Pensacola)," RiverHawks head coach Brad Ralph said. "For us to keep answering the bell, it was the first time I've been proud of the guys in a couple of weeks."
The team was playing its third game in four nights and will continue the frantic pace with four games in five nights starting tonight in Knoxville, Tenn. But Ralph said he won't lower his expectations when it comes to effort from his young squad.
"That is what I expect. I do expect that effort and that desire every game, and when it's not there, I'm not happy," he said. "I'm pretty sure the guys got the message (before Sunday's game) that I expected their best, and they came through."
Jason Weeks had a career-high three goals, one in each period, and Matt Auffrey matched the league's season-high for assists in a game with four as the RiverHawks posted their second-largest offensive output of the season.
"That was obviously the best game he's played," Ralph said of Weeks. "We need that out of him every night. I really thought his motivation and his drive was there. He's got the talent, I just hadn't seen it as much as I was hoping until I saw his drive tonight."
Weeks said he and his teammates didn't think about the high numbers of games they've played in a short amount of time or the equally daunting task that lies ahead.
"The good thing is we know the other teams are playing just as many games," he said. "We could use the fatigue factor as an excuse, but we're not an excuse team right now."
STREAK SURVIVES: Forward Neil Graham picked up two assists in the win over Pensacola to boost his streak of at least one assist per game to five, the longest active streak in the league. Graham still leads the team with 13 goals in 21 games and is tied with Auffrey with 28 points.
PLAYING THROUGH: Tonight's RiverHawks' opponent released a statement Monday announcing that the in-game entertainment during the first intermission in Knoxville will include an attempt to break a world golfing record.
David "Ogie" Ogron hit 51 golf balls in 30 seconds at Sunday's game in Knoxville, a world record, according to the team, and is planning to break the record tonight.
HOLIDAY DISCOUNTS: The RiverHawks will play at home on both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and general manager Mark Richards said the team will ring in the new year with a special ticket offer for fans.
Upper bowl tickets to either game, normally $11 at the box office, will sell in a pack of four for $20.11 in honor of the new year. The games will also be a part of the RiverHawks' Pucks, Bucks and Brews series, featuring dollar beer.
WEATHER WOES: The puck dropped for Sunday night's game with fewer than 500 fans in their seats. The game's official attendance, 873, marked the first time the Southern Professional Hockey League expansion team played in front of fewer than 1,000 fans.
Icy road conditions and the Christmas weekend date might have prevented many fans from attending. Team owners Bob and Diane Kerzner didn't make the trip from their home in Florence, S.C., because of the weather conditions, missing a home game for the first time this season.
Augusta has been at the bottom of the Southern Professional Hockey League's attendance rankings since drawing just 2,500 fans to its season opener in October. The RiverHawks have averaged 1,433 fans per game through their first 14 home contests, more than 300 fans behind seventh-place Louisiana and less than half the average attendance of first-place Huntsville at 3,103 fans per game.