An overtime loss Friday and poor night Saturday was enough to bring down the mighty Augusta RiverHawks.
The top seed in the Southern Professional Hockey League playoffs was knocked off its throne by eighth-seeded Huntsville with Saturday night’s 6-2 Havoc win in Game 3 of the best-of-three series.
After a record-breaking regular season, the RiverHawks put themselves in the record books one last time. Augusta became the first No. 1 seed in the history of the SPHL to lose in the first round.
“It was just one of those freak games,” head coach Brad Ralph said. “Usually you have one or maybe two of those games a year. You certainly don’t expect to have one in the playoffs. Everything they touched turned to gold, and every mistake we made ended up in the back of our net.”
Huntsville overcame a heart-breaking overtime loss in Game 1 with a similar overtime win in Game 2 and a dominating performance in the deciding Game 3. The Havoc chased Augusta goalie Peter Skoggard within the first seven minutes, scoring three times on just five shots for a 3-0 first-period lead.
Jon Olthuis stepped in goal for Augusta and slowed the bleeding, giving up just one second-period goal. But the RiverHawks
offense managed just 18 fruitless shots through the first two periods.
Augusta finally showed some life with a pair of third-period goals. Brendan Taylor scored on a pass from Branden Kosolofsky a minute into the period, and Jim Gehring sent in a wrister with nine minutes left.
Huntsville answered each time. Colin Reddin and Justin Fox worked a give-and-go on a 2-on-1 break after Taylor’s score, and a Drew Baker penalty led to a Havoc power play goal for a 6-2 lead with seven minutes left.
Huntsville goalie Mark Sibbald made 25 saves to beat Augusta for the second time in the series.
The series win was a first for rookie head coach Glenn Detulleo, who was a Huntsville player before head coach Randy Murphy stepped down less than a month ago. Detulleo immediately retired as a player and stepped in as interim coach with just six regular season games remaining and 13 rookies on the roster.
“When I took over my job really was to find the confidence,” Detulleo said. “I knew we had the ability in the locker room. It was just a lack of confidence, and game by game you could see every game the confidence was coming, and once they believed you could see everything start changing.”
The Havoc advance to the SPHL semifinals for the second time in three years.