The RiverHawks have won five in a row with three different goalies, including tonight’s 4-2 victory over the Huntsville Havoc with Augusta rookie B.J. O’Brien making his first Southern Professional Hockey League start.
“It was a lot of fun. I was a little nervous at first,” O’Brien said. “Especially in those one-goal, back and forth games you have to stay focused. I felt comfortable.”
Augusta (6-1-0) kept its four-point lead atop the league standings ahead of second-place Knoxville.
RiverHawks star goalie Peter Skoggard, who has yet to lose a regular season game in nine professional starts, was forced off the roster earlier this week and is scheduled to return to his native Sweden next Thursday to resolve immigration paperwork issues. Backup David Wilson made 41 saves in an overtime road victory Thursday night, and O’Brien stopped 29 of 31 shots in tonight's win, which came in front of 2,285 fans at James Brown Arena.
“Obviously, I think David has risen to the occasion, and the guys have played hard with him in there,” head coach Brad Ralph said. “And B.J. stepped in tonight and had a great one. He was solid and gave the guys some confidence.”
Augusta’s defense shutout Huntsville on five power play opportunities and got support from a RiverHawks offense that now leads the league in goals scored.
Defenseman Curtis Megginson got his first goal of the season on a one-timer off a pass from Chris Doyle late in the first period. Dustin Cloutier started the play by beating out a Huntsville defenseman to negate an icing call.
The Havoc responded three minutes later when Omar Pocha’s shot from the side was blocked, but Ryan Kretzer stuffed home the rebound for a tie game after one period.
Jason Price got the lead back by punching a rebound home with fewer than 30 seconds left in the second period.
Huntsville tied the game at 2 midway through the third period when Rick Schrank was left alone at the side of the net and one-timed a shot that beat O’Brien.
RiverHawks team captain and reigning league MVP Matt Auffrey broke the tie with six and a half minutes left in the third period with his first goal of the season.
Cloutier added a late power play goal with two minutes left.
Last year’s starting forward line of Auffrey, Dunstall and Branden Kosolofsky was reunited for the first time this season after Kosolofsky arrived in town from the Central Hockey League and signed with Augusta in time for Friday’s game.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back to that line,” Ralph said. “I’ve been looking for some chemistry, and I thought, aside from that one turnover, Matt had his best game of the year, so it was good to see that live back together.”