Staring down the ice from his own net, Augusta Lynx goal tender Joaquin Gage knew what was on the line.
Gage realized it would be a battle between himself and Pee Dee net-minder, Sandy Allan, as Saturday's game at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center entered the third period. Gage would get the better of his opponent as the Lynx rebounded from its inaugural loss last Thursday to defeat the Pride 4-3 to take sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division of the ECHL.
Darren Colbourne broke a 2-2 with a power-play goal at the 13:48 mark of the third period. Bob Berg's goal 40 seconds later proved to be the game winner as Pee Dee's Dany Bousquet scored at the 15:53 mark.
Gage got the start for the Lynx and played outstanding between the posts. He made a spectacular save with less than a minute remaining in the game to preserve the win. Gage said the Lynx didn't want to begin their upcoming five-game road swing on a two-game losing skid.
The winning goalie said the Lynx (4-1) worked on their power-play yesterday and it paid off as two of Augusta's goals came with a man advantage.
"We put a lot of emphasis on it," Gage said. "We had one period to find out who was the best. I love challenges like that. I look down at the other goalie and say let's see who's the best."
The Lynx returned to the ice looking more like the team that started the season 3-0 than the one that fell to Miami 5-3 last Thursday. Passes were crisper and shots on goal more frequent in the first period by Augusta than in its inaugural defeat.
Augusta recorded its fourth short-handed goal of the season to take a 1-0 lead at the 6:26 mark of the opening period. Stewart Bodtker found Henry Kuster with a cross-ice pass and the right winger's wrist shot went top shelf. Allan was helpless as the puck crossed the goal line on his stick side.
Kuster's goal came with the Lynx down a man as Dan Kopec was sitting out a roughing call in the sin bin. Augusta added a power-play goal by Bob Berg who slapped a rebound of a missed Jaroslav Obsut shot past Allan. Berg's second-period goal gave the Lynx a 2-0 lead.
The Pride (3-1-1) responded with two power-play goals in the second period to tie the game. Ryan Petz scored his third goal of the season when he cleaned up a Kurt Mallet miss by depositing the puck behind Lynx goalie Joaquin Gage. Petz's goal came at the 9:24 mark in the second and Pee Dee got a Kurt Mallett goal less than three minutes later to even the score at 2-2.
The game became more physical in the second with Pee Dee taking advantage of Augusta's aggressiveness. The Pride got its second goal after a fight between Rod Aldoff and the Lynx's Dan Kopec resulted in a five-minute major for both and a roughing call on Kopec.
Forward Chris Thompson made his Lynx debut a memorable one. The 20-year-old arrived in Augusta on Friday and instantly became a fan-favorite as he displayed his fighting prowess. Thompson tangled with Pee Dee defenseman Cory Peterson at the 12:08 mark in the first period resulting in a five-minute major penalty for both.
Thompson compiled 339 penalty minutes last season in 70 games while playing in the Western Hockey League.
Jimmy DeButts is a sports writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 706-724-0851.