Matt Auffrey heating up for RiverHawks

Augusta 6, Pensacola 3

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Big offensive numbers came to the Augusta RiverHawks early in the season despite little production from Matt Auffrey.

Now the reigning Southern Professional Hockey League MVP is getting into the act, and the first-place RiverHawks have remained atop the league standings because of it.

Auffrey gave the league’s top scoring team the game-winning goal on the road Thanksgiving, then added a goal and two assists Friday in a 6-3 win over the Pensacola Ice Flyers.

“We had to change up the lines a little bit, and you know it was just a matter of time before he got going,” coach Brad Ralph said. “Point production comes in spurts sometimes, and it’s nice to see it coming.”

With 50 goals in 13 games, Augusta kept its three-point lead over Knoxville in the SPHL standings.

Auffrey, whose second-period assist to Chris Doyle helped break a tie, scored just once in Augusta’s first seven games but has scored twice this weekend.

The RiverHawks (10-2-1) scored three minutes into the game for an early lead. Defenseman Drew Baker regained possession after his own turnover and flipped the puck into the zone to start the play. Branden Kosolofsky fed to Lucas Labelle, who found Travis Dunstall at the side of the net. Dunstall made the extra pass to Kosolofsky for his third goal of the season.

Pensacola had answers for Augusta’s one-goal leads three different times until Doyle’s second goal of the game gave the RiverHawks the lead for good.

Goalie Jon Olthuis, returning to Augusta for the first time since posting a league-leading 19 wins last season, made 22 saves for his second win in as many nights. He shut out Pensacola in the third period, turning away nine shots, and got help from his defense during a hectic final two minutes when the Ice Flyers pulled their goalie on a power play for a two-man advantage.

“I know I’ve got some work to do, but the boys are making it easy with all the goals we’re scoring,” Olthuis said.

The RiverHawks benefitted from the addition of defenseman Tyson Gimblett, who returned to the ice for the first time since the league slapped him with a season-high six-game suspension for his aggressive play.

RIVERHAWKS 6, ICE FLYERS 3

PLAY OF THE GAME: Matt Auffrey nearly took the puck the length of the ice during a late second period power play before sliding a pass to Chris Doyle, who got his second goal of the game for a 4-3 Augusta lead.

STAR OF THE GAME: Doyle scored twice in the second period and added a third-period assist to move into second in points among the league’s rookies behind only teammate Dustin Cloutier.

NEXT: 8:05 tonight, Augusta at Mississippi Surge


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