From highways to hotel rooms to hostile arenas, long road swings can bring out a hockey team's true colors.
With five straight, and nine of their next 10 games away from the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, the Augusta Lynx likely will return home with a heightened sense of self-awareness.
"The road can be a good indicator for evaluating people because I think a player shows his true colors on a road trip," Lynx coach Dan Wiebe said. "Some players feel comfortable at home and you go on the road and they don't show up."
The Lynx open with three games in three nights, beginning Thursday night in Birmingham, Ala. They then head to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and get five days off before picking up again Nov. 6-7 vs. Jacksonville and Pee Dee (Florence, S.C.).
After a home game vs. Jacksonville on Nov. 10, the realfun begins with four games in five nights -- at Pensacola, Mississippi, Louisiana and Mobile on Nov. 13-17.
Though the players realize the importance of faring well on the road, it's especially being stressed by the returning Raleigh IceCaps players from last year who posted one of the worst road marks in the ECHL (11-23-1).
"Last year we did well on our home ice and really struggled on the road, and we missed the playoffs," defenseman Dan Kopec said earlier this season. "We've definitely got to win quite a few more road games than we did last year."
SHARING THE CREASE: Although Joaquin Gage and Judd Lambert are both deserving of being No. 1 goaltenders, they will continue to share the duties, Wiebe said.
Gage, who opened the season in camp with the Washington Capitals and has 18 games of NHL experience with Edmonton, started the first two games, going 2-0 with a 3.50 goals-against average. Lambert posted a shutout victory in his Lynx debut last Saturday vs. Baton Rouge before allowing five goals in a loss to Miami on Thursday.
But even if the 25-year-old Gage was to get hot, Wiebe is committed to giving Lambert equal time in net. The 24-year-old Lambert is under contract with New Jersey, and the Devils brass expects him to play regularly.
Wiebe is pleased that both goalies have accepted the platoon situation.
"There's a healthy competition between them and they both seem to push each other," Wiebe said. "Joaquin is a knowledgeable guy who understands how it works at this level. We're here to develop players and they both need to play as much as they can."
ICE CAPADES: The Lynx will skate for the final time on the civic center's original ice on Wednesday, as they kick off their five-game road stretch on Thursday in Birmingham.
In preparation for the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships to be held at the civic center during the first week of November, the ice will be removed. Once the NBHA event concludes on Nov. 7, civic center workers will have only around 48 hours to rebuild the rink from scratch in time for the Lynx's Nov. 10 contest vs. Jacksonville.
The ice will remain intact when events such as concerts come to town, but must be melted for events such as the NBHA and the Augusta Futurity, where dirt is used.
The changeover also will complicate the team's practice schedule for several days. After three road games in consecutive nights Oct. 29-31, the Lynx will be idle until Nov. 6, when they travel to face Jacksonville. Wiebe has been looking into booking ice time in Macon and at the Atlanta IceForum, where training camp was held earlier this month.
Rob Mueller covers hockey for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
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