Jon Olthuis, who led the Southern Professional Hockey League last season with 19 wins as a rookie goalie, will rejoin the team in time for this weekend’s games, head coach Brad Ralph confirmed Monday afternoon.
The 26-year-old goalie, who was released from Tulsa in the Central Hockey League last week, was named to the Southern Professional Hockey League’s All-Rookie Team and All-SPHL Second Team last season.
“Jon’s a competitor and he works very hard,” Ralph said. “He’s a professional on and off the ice. I really think he has what it takes to play at a higher level, but I don’t think they really gave him a chance with just the one game (in the CHL), so we’re glad to have him back. He’s coming back here to win a championship.”
The RiverHawks struggled in net last week in a 5-3 loss Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn. Starter David Wilson was pulled just 48 seconds into the game after giving up two goals on two shots, and backup B.J. O’Brien took the loss after giving up two more goals on 25 shots.
Wilson, who was briefly loaned to Gwinnett in the ECHL after Friday’s game, returned to the SPHL and was traded to the Mississippi RiverKings for cash to make room on the roster for Olthuis.
FAN INTERACTION: Friday’s loss included a postgame incident between Augusta forward Aaron McGill and a Knoxville fan. Ice Bears season ticket holder Chad Farley told the Knoxville News Sentinel that as he heckled McGill after the game, the forward used his stick to jab Farley in the throat as he came off the ice.
The SPHL launched an investigation into the incident, and league president Jim Combs said a punishment is unlikely.
“I’m still looking at some different reports, but it seems to be more smoke than fire. There doesn’t seem to be much substance to the claims. I don’t think there was any contact there,” Combs said Monday afternoon.
“As of right now, I don’t see any fines or suspensions coming out of this.”
Combs said a police officer witnessed most of the incident and filed a report stating he didn’t see McGill’s stick make contact with any fans. Though Farley claims he was hit in the throat, Combs said multiple reports stated that Farley was well enough to attend the team’s postgame jersey auction.
Ralph said McGill endured verbal abuse from players and fans most of the game.
“It was just a verbal confrontation with a fan,” Ralph said. “No one really saw it, and the league has done their part in investigating it.”
The incident came in McGill’s first trip to Knoxville since his punch in a game last season shattered the jaw of Ice Bears defenseman Mark Van Vliet. McGill was suspended for the remainder of the season after the hit.
HOME SWEET HOME: The RiverHawks will play three games in three days this week, starting with a road game Thursday in Fayetteville, N.C.
The team will return to James Brown Arena on Friday night for its first home game in almost three weeks.
The first-place RiverHawks (8-2-1) will play host to Pensacola (3-4-2) on Friday night before Saturday night’s road game against the Mississippi Surge (5-4-0).