Matt Auffrey threw down his gloves and unleashed a little pent-up frustration midway through the third period.
With Fayetteville cruising to a 4-1 victory, the Augusta captain took matters into his own hands, mixing it up with FireAntz left winger Anthony Bergin in front of a crowd of 4,878 late in the RiverHawks’ home opener Friday night at James Brown Arena.
“It was a little bit frustration and a little bit about showing the team and the fans we’re not going down without swinging,” said Auffrey. “Our chemistry is amazing. That’s why it’s frustrating we’re not winning.”
Augusta (0-3) had plenty reasons to be flustered. The RiverHawks were out-shot for the third consecutive game, 29-21, and they’ve yet to lead in 180 minutes of action this season.
But with his team trailing late, first-year coach Rob Miller told his players to build on the final period. The RiverHawks showed their spirit, with fight (Auffrey, Curtis Megginson and lTaylor McReynolds all dropped their gloves in the final 12 minutes), and improved offense (Augusta out-shot Faytteville, 7-4) in the final frame.
“You’re building toward the next game,” said Miller. “You’ve got to build off something positive. I thought we had a pretty decent third period.”
Fayetteville’s Derek Elliott, the Southern Professional Hockey League’s leading scorer, recorded a hat trick. Elliott scored two goals in the first 3:24 of the contest and added his third in the second period.
Goalie Robbie Moss, in the final game of a three-game contract, settled down after allowing the two early goals. But 24 seconds after Augusta’s Jason Price scored midway through the second period, Fayetteville’s Brandon Richardson fired a shot past Moss.
One minute later, Elliott lifted a high-arcing shot that escaped Moss, who stopped 21 of 25 shots. Miller said he planned to re-sign Moss, though veteran B.J. O’Brien will get the start tonight.