Jim Gehring having big second year for RiverHawks

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Jim Gehring anticipated he’d be under higher expectations when he returned to the Augusta RiverHawks for a second season. Not many thought he would exceed them.

The 28-year-old forward turned in his third hat trick of the season with a four-goal effort Saturday night to cap a 3-0 weekend. Gehring, who posted just nine goals in 31 games last season, has 14 goals through 14 games.

“I’m just trying to be a good second-year guy,” he said. “I figured my role would be a little bigger this year, and I’m the kind of guy that’s not very vocal so I lead by example.”

Gehring will enter this weekend’s games tied with Knoxville’s Emery Olauson as the Southern Professional Hockey League’s goal-scoring leaders. The RiverHawks forward also holds a plus-12 plus-minus rating and leads the league in shot percentage with a 31.8 percent success rate.

“I think he was kind of snakebitten last year,” head coach Brad Ralph said. “This year he’s shooting the puck, and it’s great to see. I was kind of hoping this would be a breakout season for him.”

With Gehring setting the pace, the RiverHawks lead the league in wins (11) and goals scored (55).

VETERANS: Gehring isn’t the only returning RiverHawk to contribute. Ed Snetsinger ranks second among the league’s defensemen with 12 assists in 14 games. Aaron McGill is second in the league in penalty minutes.

Ralph said the extra season of experience has helped the team get off to a fast start, which includes an 11-2-1 record and a five-point lead in the standings.

“From our team’s perspective, to bring back some second-year players and then add in the new guys, it just makes us that much stronger,” Ralph said.

EARLY SHOWDOWNS: The RiverHawks’ five-point lead in the standings will either grow or shrink this weekend when the team plays back-to-back home games starting with second-place Knoxville on Thursday.

The Ice Bears have tried to keep up with the RiverHawks by posting a perfect 7-0-0 record at home but are just 2-4-0 on the road. The trip to Augusta will be the first of four this season for Knoxville.

The Mississippi Surge (6-6-0) will come to Augusta Friday night for the first time since losing the league’s season-opening in October.

BOOK IT: Professional baseball player Bobby Haney, a member of the 2011 Augusta GreenJackets and 2010 College World Series Champion South Carolina Gamecocks, will attend Friday night’s RiverHawks game as part of a book tour.

Haney’s newly released autobiography, From Kings Park to Omaha, chronicles his time as a baseball player from Little League to the College World Series. The 23-year-old, first-time author will hold a book signing at James Brown Arena during the game, according to a statement released by the GreenJackets.

“I wrote this book because I wanted to give young athletes all over the world inspiration toward achieving their goals and dreams,” Haney said in the statement. “In addition, I also wanted parents to know how my mother and father guided me throughout my baseball career and made important decisions for me along the way.”

Haney was a starting shortstop for the Gamecocks and was drafted in the 22nd round by the San Francisco Giants in 2010. He hit .236 this past summer in his first full season of professional ball and helped the GreenJackets win a second-half division title to reach the South Atlantic League playoffs.

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