Erasmo Saltarelli admits the bounces are going his way lately, but the Augusta Lynx goalie also has been making his own breaks.
With a little luck and a 35-save performance by Saltarelli, the Lynx continued their late-season transformation by holding off the Mississippi Sea Wolves in a 4-3 victory Tuesday night at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
Louis Dumont, Wes Swinson, Martin Lapointe and Dean Tiltgen each scored goals, and Saltarelli came up huge in crunch time to give the Lynx (27-25-5) their 10th win in the past 12 games.
For coach Jim Burton, the win was crucial, because it improved the Lynx to two games over .500 for the first time this season.
"Obviously, we're not going to make the playoffs with a .500 record," said Burton, who is 11-9-1 since taking over the team in early January. "This was real important for us because we didn't want to slip back to .500 again. They're all big games now, obviously, but I think this was especially big for us, and I think the guys all felt that, too."
Despite their recent surge, though, catching up in the playoff race hasn't been easy for the Lynx. They entered the game five points out of the 10th and final playoff spot in the Southern Conference, and haven't been able to gain much ground lately as teams ahead of them continue winning, as well.
"Every point is so important right now," said Saltarelli, who improved to 12-7-1 with the win. "We're getting some breaks, but we're also making our own. We let in one goal, we score two. We let in three, we score four. We're finding ways to score one more than the other team and hold them off."
Seven of the Lynx's past 10 wins have been by one goal.
Goal 1 on Tuesday night was scored by Dumont, who cashed in on a turnover at the blue line just 2:26 into the game with his 17th of the year. Mississippi answered when John Evangelista scored his 16th at 8:16 of the first.
The Lynx finished the first period strong, as Swinson scored a power-play goal with 18 seconds to go in the stanza. The fact that the Lynx broke through with the man-advantage against Mississippi was a feat in itself, given that the Sea Wolves boast the top penalty kill in the ECHL, and recently killed off an unofficial league record 66 straight penalties.
But the hard-working Wolves battled back, tying it at 2 on a goal by Robert Francz at 16:07 of the second period.
While Tiltgen put the Lynx back on top for good at 6:12 of the third, it took a game-breaking save by Saltarelli and a huge break less than a minute later to preserve the lead.
First, a sprawling Saltarelli made a diving glove save to rob Sea Wolves newcomer Chris Brassard, who fought Swinson on the first shift of the game. Brassard then corralled the rebound and had the entire top half of the net at which to shoot, but his putback attempt deflected off Saltarelli's stick and into the crowd.
Lapointe gave the Lynx a big insurance goal on a 3-on-2 with 5:27 left in the contest. The tally proved huge, as Dustin Whitecotton scored his 16th of the year for the Wolves with 1:22 remaining to make it a one-goal game.
Saltarelli's biggest save came with 10 seconds remaining, as he stacked his pads to make a remarkable stop on a blast from the slot by Cody Bowtell.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.