Mark Richards faced a tough task in his first game as interim coach.
Facing the first-place Fayetteville FireAntz, the Augusta RiverHawks entered Thursday night with a new coach against a 10-win team. After two quiet periods, the RiverHawks found a spark that almost got them over the hump.
Augusta responded to Taylor McReynolds dropping his gloves and fighting early in the third period by scoring two goals to tie the game. However, the FireAntz went ahead with 3:56 left in the game on a Josh McQuade goal and eventually won 4-2.
“(McReynolds) gave us tremendous momentum,” Richards said. “It was loud and electric after that. We hoped to finish the comeback, but it was an unfortunate goal that beat us.”
McQuade put Fayetteville (11-1) on the board first with almost 11 minutes remaining in the first period. McQuade found the puck after a face off and fired it over the shoulder of goalie Robert Moss, hitting the post and bouncing in.
The FireAntz added their second goal just as the second period was starting when Kyle Frieday found the net on a slap shot.
Down 2-0 in the third, McReynolds went to the penalty box for 15 minutes for fighting and misconduct. Augusta (1-10-1) scored 22 seconds later on a slap shot by Pat Schafer. Less than 1 minute later, the RiverHawks tied the game on a Drew Baker goal.
“We played with passion for 18 minutes there in the third,” Richards said. “We showed great character in coming back against a team like that. We just need to piece more of those together.”
McQuade found the net with less than 4 minutes to go, giving Fayetteville the eventual winning goal. He added a goal on a 5-on-3 with less than a minute left in the game.
Moss started as goalie for the RiverHawks after starting the previous two contests against the FireAntz this season, giving him three starts against Fayetteville and only one against a different opponent. He has allowed 11 goals in the three games against the FireAntz.
Augusta and Fayetteville both came up empty in power-play opportunities. The RiverHawks matched the FireAntz’s intensity in shot attempts and provided more aggressive play on the boards.
“We showed improvement,” Richards said. “We’ve played good games. It’s just tough to win when you’re scoring two goals a game.”