Scott Morrow would be crazy to leave now. After all, only he has the dubious distinction of being the captain of the hottest team in the East Coast Hockey League.
So, worry not Augusta Lynx fans. That short-handed goal Morrow scored wasn't his last in a Lynx uniform. And that emphatic fist pump at center ice after he was announced as the game's No. 2 star wasn't his farewell salute.
Committed to his revitalized hockey club, Morrow declined an offer to sign with the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League, and the 31-year-old veteran had good reason to celebrate his decision to stay.
Sparked by goals from Morrow, Jonas Soling and Dean Tiltgen, and a 43-save performance by Judd Lambert, the Lynx won their franchise-record seventh straight game, a 3-2 victory over the Florida Everblades Sunday before a crowd of 5,397 fans at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
"I really enjoy it here and enjoy everyone in the community, the team, the players," said Morrow, who also assisted on Soling's goal, giving him a club-leading 51 points this season. "Everyone has been great so far, even when we went through tough times at the start of year. It's fun hockey right now, and that's nice to be a part of."
And the fun apparently is just beginning.
Sunday was another foray into new territory for the Lynx. After setting the franchise mark for consecutive wins the night before in a 5-4 win over Mobile, Sunday's victory was Augusta's first regular-season regulation win over the Everblades (25-21-6) in franchise history. It also vaulted them above .500 (24-23-5) since they were 5-4-2 on Nov. 10.
Entering the game, the Lynx were 14-0-2 against Florida since they entered the league together in 1998-99. Twice they scored wins against the Everblades, but both came in the overtime shootout.
"Seven in a row is a lot of fun," said Morrow, who was loaned to Manitoba during the all-star break last week. "It's a nice reward for a group of guys who stayed focused all year."
Morrow, who was the subject of several banners that read "Stay Mo!" and was showered with chants of "Mo don't go' after the game, said he was moved by the fan support.
"This (winning streak) is also a nice reward for the fans who stuck with us," he said. "We've had great support. The banners they hang in the building and what not, that's nice to see. It touches you in different ways."
The Lynx also are moved by the notion that they can win games even when they don't play their best. That was the case Sunday as Florida outshot them 47-27.
"Early in the year we would have found a way to lose this game," said Soling, whose goal was his team-leading 28th, surpassing his career-high total of 27 as a rookie in 1998-99. "We believe we can win now. Every time we go out we think we're going to win. That's the difference, I think."
Playing their third game in less than three days, the Lynx were outshot 15-7 and outplayed in the opening period, but escaped with a 1-1 tie. Lambert made the difference early, and the opportunistic Lynx struck first with Morrow's 21st goal on a short-handed breakaway at 10:25. Florida's Mike Jickling tied it 1-1 with a power-play goal at 16:11.
The second period was a different story. The Lynx came to life after the first intermission and jumped to a 3-2 lead.
Soling made it 2-1 at 8:33 of the second when he took a nice feed from Paul Vincent at the blue line and broke in on a breakaway, beating Florida goalie Marc Magilarditi high glove side. Tiltgen's goal came on a power play with four seconds left in the period when he deflected a Martin Lapointe shot from the point, making it 3-2.
Only a fluke Florida goal sandwiched in between kept the Everblades' hopes alive. Draped with two Lynx defenders and only one hand on his stick, Brent McDonald took a feed in the slot and somehow got a shot off, beating Lambert at 17:08 of the second to make it 2-2.
But Lambert's continued mastery of Florida sealed the win - his fourth in a row and his first against Florida since Augusta's victory in the decisive Game 5 of the Southern Conference semifinals last April in Estero, Fla.
Lambert led the Lynx to the stunning playoff series victory over the Blades, who set league records for wins and points last season.
"Lambert got us in the playoffs last year, and he played well again against us tonight," said Everblades coach Bob Ferguson. "We had a lot of shots, but their defense did a good job letting Lambert see the first shot."
The Lynx began the night five points behind Florida for the 10th and final playoff berth in the Southern Conference. Coach Jim Burton gave the team a much-deserved day off today as they gear up for Tuesday's home contest against the Roanoke Express. They then hit the road for back-to-back games against Florida Friday and Saturday and a Sunday contest at Tallahassee.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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