East Coast Hockey League commissioner emeritus Pat Kelly, one of the league's founding fathers and a 50-year veteran of professional hockey, sang the praises of the Augusta Lynx and general manager Paul Gamsby prior to Game 3 of their Southern Conference semifinals series against the Greenville Grrrowl.
"Hockey has really taken off in Augusta, and the Lynx have certainly been one of the most successful franchises in the league the past two years," said Kelly, who was ECHL commissioner from 1988-96.
"Paul Gamsby is one of the most innovative general managers in the league. I've been in hockey for a long time, and I've seen Paul do things I've never seen done anywhere else."
While impressed with how the Lynx turned their season around on the ice and made the playoffs after a miserable start, Kelly said the club has been a model franchise with regard to promotions and corporate sales. The Lynx have finished top two in the league in sponsorships in their first two seasons in Augusta.
FTOREKS IN THE HOUSE:
The family of Lynx forward Sam Ftorek, including father Robbie, the former New Jersey Devils coach, were in attendance for Game 3.
Ftorek gave them reason to cheer early in the first period, when he scored his fourth goal of the playoffs 8:57 into the contest to give the Lynx a 1-0 lead. It was the first time in the series the Lynx had a lead.
The elder Ftorek, who played several seasons in the NHL, was fired by the Devils in mid-March. New Jersey opened their second-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Thursday.
The extended Ftorek family also made the trip to Greenville for Game 2 on Tuesday.
ANDERSSON IN LINEUP:
Defenseman Likit Andersson made his playoff debut for the Lynx on Thursday at forward after he was a healthy scratch in the team's first 10 postseason games.
Andersson made an immediate impact, recording his first playoff assist on Sandy Lamarre's goal with 1:01 left in the second period that tied the game at 2.
After the Lynx defeated Florida in the Southern Conference quarterfinals last week, Gamsby was told by Civic Center officials that there would be no available dates to play home games if the team advanced to the conference finals, which will begin next week.
But if Augusta can rally and win their conference semifinal series against Greenville, Civic Center general manager Reggie Williams assured Gamsby that the scheduling conflicts would be worked out.
"He was very cooperative," Gamsby said. "We will play our games at home if we advance."
The winner of the Augusta-Greenville series will advance to face Louisiana in the best-of-seven Southern Conference finals. The series is set to begin May 3 at the Cajundome in Lafayette, La.
If the Lynx complete a miracle comeback against Greenville, they would play host to Games 3, 4 and 5 sometime during the week of May 7.
The three-time ECHL champion Hampton Roads Admirals announced on Wednesday that they must delay their move to the American Hockey League.
The club was slated to join the AHL beginning next season and serve as an affiliate of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, but Admirals owners and the Blackhawks say they now will wait another year.
The Admirals, a charter member of the ECHL in 1988-89, were thought to have played their final game Monday night, when they were eliminated by the Trenton Titans in Game 5 of their Northern Conference semifinal series. The game was played at a 500-seat practice arena because Scope arena was not available.
The ECHL Admirals were slated to cease operations next season, then begin play in 2001-2002 in Atlantic City, N.J., but according to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., the team might return next year to play one more season in Norfolk.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.