Burden on RiverHawks' offense with top goalie out

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With an average of more than three goals per game and leading the league by a wide margin in penalty minutes, the Augusta RiverHawks took the Southern Professional Hockey League by storm over the first two weeks of the season.

Keeping their spot atop the league standings through the weekend will most likely require even more offense.

Most of the RiverHawks will take the ice tonight and Saturday for a pair of home games. But goalie Peter Skoggard, who has yet to lose a regular-season game in an Augusta jersey, won’t be in goal.

The 23-year-old Swede had to leave the team because of immigration issues. As the RiverHawks headed for Huntsville, Ala., and a Thursday night road game, Skoggard spent the day looking up flights back to Sweden.

The paperwork problems produced a void where Skoggard’s league-leading 2.00 goals against average once anchored the defense. Coach Brad Ralph had just expressed his pleasure in the team’s play in its own zone.

“We made a lot of strides in getting where we need to be in terms of our defensive zone coverage, so I was pleased with that,” he said after last weekend’s three-game sweep.

Backup David Wilson was the lone goalie on the roster until B.J. O’Brien was signed Wednesday. Wilson has allowed seven goals in two starts. O’Brien, a rookie out of St. Norbert College, gave up five goals in his only professional start, a loss with the Central Hockey League’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.

Both goalies could see action this weekend as the RiverHawks play three games in three days, but the pressure will be on the offense to produce. Jim Gehring, the team’s leading goal scorer after posting four goals in two games last weekend, said the team is capable of scoring.

“Right now we’re still trying to figure out who’s good in certain situations and finding everybody’s roles,” he said. “It’s going to take time. I think by the end of November we should see it all come together.”

Last weekend’s three games in three days saw Augusta sweep to claim sole possession of first place heading into Thursday’s game.

The Havoc will hit the road with Augusta and both teams will meet again tonight at James Brown Arena. The Fayetteville FireAntz will come to town Saturday.


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