RiverHawks turn back Knoxville

Augusta 6, Knoxville 5

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When team owner Bob Kerzner brought minor league hockey back to Augusta, this was the type of atmosphere he had in mind.

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Augusta's Jason Price (center) tries to steer the puck past Knoxville goalie Matt Hache in the RiverHawks' 6-5 victory.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Augusta's Jason Price (center) tries to steer the puck past Knoxville goalie Matt Hache in the RiverHawks' 6-5 victory.

Energized by the roars of more than 3,000 fans at James Brown Arena, the first-place Augusta RiverHawks held off a frenzied comeback from archrival and second-place Knoxville to claim a key 6-5 win Sunday.

On the same weekend that Kerzner officially announced he would bring the team back for another season, the RiverHawks extended their lead in the Southern Professional Hockey League to a season-high nine points.

A tired RiverHawks team – skating in its third game in three nights – enjoyed the help of the third-largest home crowd in franchise history, spurred by hundreds of soldiers from Fort Gordon attending on Military Appreciation Night.

“There was a real electricity in the building tonight,” Kerzner said. “I don’t think there was a person in here tonight – whether they were a hockey enthusiast or just coming for the first time – that didn’t walk out of here going, ‘Wow.’ ”

Rookie Brendan Taylor turned in his first professional hat trick, helping the RiverHawks (30-9-5) beat Knoxville (26-12-4) for the first time in six meetings this season.

“To be honest I think today I felt more tired than the last two games,” Taylor said. “But the fans were chanting and they were unbelievable. I’ve never heard our rink that loud.”

The home crowd was rewarded early with a strong first period that saw the RiverHawks take a 3-0 lead. Taylor scored two of the goals and Egor Mironov netted the other.

But the high-quality first period was followed by a sluggish second that allowed Knoxville to tie the game.

“It was a typical third game in three nights,” Augusta coach Brad Ralph said. “It was sloppy both ways, and when you’re tired you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You hope your leaders are going to make smart plays and lead by example and we didn’t have that tonight, but at the same time our leaders did show a lot of heart and guts. To me that means more than always making the right decisions.”

League leading scorer Jim Gehring answered Bremner’s game-tying score with a goal of his own 40 seconds later to send the RiverHawks into the second intermission with a 4-3 lead.

Olauson and Segal each scored within six minutes of the third to give Knoxville its only lead of the game. Neil Graham scored on a breakaway and the game-tying goal with 13:46 left.

Taylor’s game-winning score came on the rebound of a Matt Auffrey shot with just 2:49 remaining.

AUGUSTA 6, KNOXVILLE 5

PLAY OF THE GAME: Matt Auffrey took the puck directly to the net as usual and rookie Branden Taylor was there for the rebound to complete a hat trick and net the game-winning goal.

Star of the Game: Taylor recorded his first career hat trick in just his 16th pro game.

NEXT: Augusta RiverHawks at Fayetteville FireAntz, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

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hockeymann
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hockeymann 02/20/12 - 12:51 pm
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Certainly electric in the JB

Certainly electric in the JB Arena Sunday...An outstanding game...A great
crowd...Hope this will bring back even more former Lynx fans to RHawks'
hockey...The team is now in 1st place by nine points...This is far better
hockey than we ever got with the Lynx before, and that's saying something
because there was lots of good hockey in those years too...First place is
something the Lynx never enjoyed. We're lucky to have the RiverHawks!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/12 - 12:53 pm
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You certainly are,

You certainly are, Hockeymann, with the low attendance figures they rack up.

CarlA
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CarlA 02/20/12 - 04:57 pm
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How many of the 3,000 in

How many of the 3,000 in attendance were paying customers?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/12 - 05:02 pm
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On the TV news last night,

On the TV news last night, they said there was a special promotion for Ft. Gordon soldiers. They were there in uniform. The TV didn't say it, but I was surmising that perhaps the Riverhawks sent some shuttlebuses out to the fort. The TV coverage spent more time on the soldiers than on the game.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/20/12 - 05:07 pm
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LL, now don't be messing up

LL, now don't be messing up the story of the big crowd. I figured that early on. Y'all hush and take the crowd for the excitement it created. Heck, it's the beer sales anyway where the money is made and GI's can put away some beer. I know.

Iwannakno
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Iwannakno 02/20/12 - 10:26 pm
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No the soldiers tickets were
Unpublished

No the soldiers tickets were paid for by fans that wanted to sponser a soldier. It's a good product and a fun time. If you haven't been you don't know what you are missing!!

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 02/20/12 - 11:12 pm
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Well, for those of you who

Well, for those of you who would try and deflate the enthusiasm, I have to ask why? Do you have a vested interest? I do. I own season tickets; so what do the naysayers bring to the table? Unless you have any skin in the game, it is probably best to reserve any negative comment since the presence of hockey in this town is a positive for all who live in the area.

coryholly94
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coryholly94 02/21/12 - 02:55 pm
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all of the tickets where paid

all of the tickets where paid for but donations where accepted to pay for the soldiers to come as a appreciation night thing almost a thousand soldiers where paid for by others who attend the games

pommom38
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pommom38 02/21/12 - 10:45 pm
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More attention was paid to

More attention was paid to the soldiers because the night was ABOUT the soldiers.
If you aren't into hockey, then comment elsewhere.

akmoose
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akmoose 02/23/12 - 09:53 am
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Ditto. And we are season

Ditto. And we are season ticket holders as well and my husband was one of the honorary puck droppers since it was his last game until 2013 season due to deployment. But I am STILL buying his season ticket. As far as the negative comments about attendance - I guess numbers don't matter when it comes to heart, our guys play just as strong for a crowd of 1000 or 3000 as evidenced by our number one spot for the SECOND season in a row.

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