Accountibility in the locker room is expected to help RiverHawks

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Kyle Watson worked by himself around the goal after Wednesday morning’s practice.

After exiting the ice, the Augusta RiverHawks center sounded upbeat about his team, which is looking to shake off its 1-10-2 start.

Augusta opens a three-game, three-day slate with its 7:30 contest tonight at Southern Professional Hockey League leader Fayetteville. The RiverHawks return home to play host to the Mississippi Surge at 7:35 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

“We’re all on the same page right now,” Watson said. “Richy (interin coach Mark Richards) is doing a great job with the day-to-day operations – how he runs practice, how he is on the bench. He’s doing an awesome job.

“We have one focus now. Although it hasn’t translated into wins yet, I think our systems and our style of play is hands down much better than how we were at the start of the year. We’re definitely on the right track.”

Augusta is 0-1-1 since Richards, who is also the team president, took the reins from Rob Miller last week. Richards is running structured practices, and he’s encouraged by what he’s seen this week, especially at Tuesday’s practice.

“I was encouraged by what I saw on the ice and the actions of some of our guys,” Richards said. “I’ve been trying to get accountability throughout the locker room with each other. We had that breakthrough where guys were making sure we were working as hard as we can.”

Under Richards, Augusta was tied at 2 with Fayetteville last Thursday before allowing two goals in the final four minutes. The next night, the RiverHawks lost to Huntsville in a shootout.

Augusta is still trying to improve its offense. The RiverHawks are last in the SPHL, averaging 1.8 goals a game.

“The goals will come,” Richards said. “We’re too skilled not to score all year. We’ve got too many guys who can make plays.”

TALKS TURN POSITIVE

NEW YORK — Negotiations between hockey owners and players are going so well that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says he’s “pleased with the process” – even if he has been left outside the latest rounds of discussions.

Still stuck on the perimeter with players’ association executive director Donald Fehr, Bettman made a brief statement Wednesday on the state of the ongoing lockout after the league’s board of governors met for about two hours.

A ray of hope that a season-saving deal could be made emerged late Tuesday night after about eight hours of bargaining.

“We are pleased with the process that is ongoing, and out of respect for that process I don’t have anything else to say,” Bettman said.

– Associated Press


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