Facing the daunting challenge of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Augusta RiverHawks coach Brad Ralph chose forwards Brendan Taylor and Tyler Fernandez to take the first shift. Though the two linemates brought speed and offensive intensity to the ice, they both were headed off for a shift change when the real offensive hero of the night came through.
Veteran defenseman Ed Snetsinger ripped a wrister past goalie Mike Brown a minute into overtime for a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Fayetteville FireAntz. Ralph said his three-man lineup to start the extra period included Snetsinger because of his offensive potential.
“I went all puck possession with the first three guys. They’re probably our best players with the puck in terms of holding onto it and making plays,” Ralph said. “Eddie’s an offensive player, and I think players like that thrive when there’s more ice for them. He made a great shot.”
Snetsinger’s fifth goal gave Augusta its fifth consecutive home win but first in a month. The RiverHawks just wrapped up their longest stretch away from home, and their return to James Brown Arena didn’t see a strong start.
Last-place Fayetteville (12-24-5) took an early lead with a Chris Leveille score on Augusta goalie Jon Olthuis four minutes in.
The RiverHawks’ veteran forward line of Matt Auffrey, Egor Mironov and Neil Graham produced all of Augusta’s offense in regulation with goals in the first and second periods.
The RiverHawks were leading 2-1 when Branden Kosolofsky took a five-minute major for boarding with eight minutes left. Rob Sich tied the game during the power play to force overtime.
“I don’t think tonight was our best,” Snetsinger said. “We gave up the puck a lot more than we’d like to.”
Augusta got its two points thanks to Snetsinger, who skated from the blue line to the faceoff circle untouched before ripping the unassisted game winner.
“I know the guys were changing and I was just going to dump it in, but then I had two guys behind me so I figured I might as well give it a try,” he said.
Olthuis saved 22 of 24 shots for his 11th win. The first-place RiverHawks (27-8-4) won for the fourth time in five games and maintained their seven-point lead in the SPHL standings.