The personnel changes have been made, the attitude and the outlook supposedly have improved. But for the Augusta Lynx, the results unfortunately remain the same.
The sophomore slump continued Wednesday with a 6-2 loss to the Tallahassee Tiger Shark at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, as the last-place Lynx equaled a franchise mark for futility with their fifth straight defeat and once again found themselves shaking their heads and looking for answers.
"Right now, we're playing to lose games, and we're not playing with the drive to win games," coach Dan Wiebe said after the Lynx fell to 2-9-1 -- the second-worst record in the East Coast Hockey League.
"We're waiting for mistakes to happen so we can lose the game," Wiebe said.
Though earlier mistakes led to the Tiger Sharks' first two goals, it was an unlucky bounce that ultimately cost the Lynx and wasted a valiant effort by goalie Mike Valley.
With the game tied at 2, a pass through the slot deflected off the skate of Lynx defenseman Jon Coe and past a defenseless Valley. The fateful goal was credited to Sharks rookie Brian Urick, who began the night searching for his first professional goal and ended up with two.
Urick's tally was followed 29 seconds later by the first of two third-period goals by J-F Houle, as Tallahassee (5-6-0) pulled away with four unanswered goals in the closing 13 minutes.
The Lynx had battled back from a 2-0 deficit on Mike Schultz's first goal late in the second period to make it 2-1, then tied it when Lars Pettersen scored his fifth on a penalty shot at 1:24 of the third period.
"We were pumped up after tying it up, and a couple of shifts later I'm back on the ice and the puck goes in for them off a defenseman's skate," Pettersen said. "It seems like this year, guys are getting goals against us like that and we never get a lucky goal like that. I thought after the penalty-shot goal that we were going to come back and win, but stuff like that kills you."
With a host of new faces in the lineup following a roster shake-up earlier this week and back in their own building for the first time in almost a month, the Lynx came out and played a solid first period, but still trailed 1-0 on Urick's first professional goal at 14:03.
A former standout at Notre Dame and a fifth-round draft pick by Edmonton in 1996, Urick scooped up the puck in the neutral zone, blew past Constantine on the right wing, and launched a wrister from the faceoff circle over Valley's glove-side shoulder.
Tallahassee went up 2-0 at 9:54 of the second period on Matt Oates' sixth goal of the season.
But the 22-year-old Valley, making his second start since returning from Syracuse last weekend, kept the Lynx in the contest. Augusta was outshot 26-19 through two periods, but Valley made several big saves to keep the Tiger Sharks from pulling away.
Schultz gave Valley and the Lynx a lift with his first goal at 17:55 of the second period to make it 2-1, and the momentum had clearly shifted. With the Lynx on a power play, Pettersen was awarded a penalty shot after a Sharks defender covered a loose puck in the crease, and Pettersen beat Tallahassee goalie Ian Perkins low stick side to tie the game at 1:24 of the third.
The penalty shot was the second in Lynx history. Chris Thompson scored last season on a penalty shot en route to a five-goal game in a win over Miami at home March 26.
But the downtrodden Lynx, last in the Southeast Division, couldn't finish the job, losing for the eighth time in nine games. Urick's second goal at 7:02 gave the Sharks the lead for good and 27 seconds later, Houle followed with the first of his back-to-back tallies.
"We come out and Peetie gets the penalty-shot goal to boost the team and they get a goal off a skate," Schultz said. "It seems like we're not getting those bounces and they are. It's up to us as a team now to just keep going and try to keep battling through."
Goalie Judd Lambert was released by Orlando (IHL) on Wednesday and will rejoin the Lynx today. The 25-year-old signed a 25-game contract with Orlando two weeks ago and was 1-1-0 in two starts for the Solar Bears. With Mike Valley, who rejoined the team last weekend, Lambert and J-F Damphousse, the Lynx are back where they started the season, with three netminders. ... John Coe was Augusta's healthy scratch Wednesday while Bryan Duce was out of the lineup with a knee sprain. ... Wiebe named player/assistant coach Mark Desantis an alternate captain, replacing Jessie Rezansoff. In the ECHL prior to this season, player/assistants were ineligible for the captaincy or alternate captaincy. ... The Lynx sold 4,491 tickets for Wednesday's game, but there were many empty seats in the upper sections.