COLUMBIA - Perhaps Judd Lambert isn't a morning person, which would explain why the Augusta Lynx goalie found himself down 5-0 before the clock struck noon Monday in the team's preseason finale against the Columbia Inferno.
"I'm usually on the 13th hole by now," the avid golfer said with a laugh. "I haven't played many 11 a.m. hockey games."
But Lambert made no excuses for his performance in Augusta's 6-4 loss.
Nor did he need to.
By the second period, the 27-year-old netminder found his comfort zone. He finished with 40 saves on 46 shots.
"I think everyone came out really sluggish, but I thought we played well the last two periods," said Lambert, who surrendered five goals on 21 shots in the opening 16:22 of the contest. "After we got down 5-0, it was a different game."
Lynx captain Scott Morrow stopped the bleeding late in the first period with the first of his two goals, while Guy Larose and rookie Josh St. Louis also scored to finish on a high note.
Coach Jim Burton cut his players slack in the wake of an unusual morning.
The team thought the game was scheduled for 11:30 a.m.. They didn't arrive at Carolina Coliseum until about an hour before faceoff.
"After we got blitzed in the first period, we settled down and played well," Burton said. "It was good to see what we need to do in practice this week to get ready for Friday."
Burton hopes the final two periods Monday is a preview of the season-opener at home against Greensboro.
Augusta stood their ground against a physical Inferno club that flexed its muscles before a sparse crowd of mostly school children.
As part of a fire prevention campaign, Columbia coach Scott White addressed the fans after a fight-filled first period, telling the children he hoped the rough stuff would subside the rest of the way.
If anything, it heated up more. Referee Brian Thul assessed 128 minutes in penalties, with Tyler Willis fighting twice and Trevor Gillies and Wes Swinson dropping the gloves once.
"We're not going to fill the net like we did last year and score six goals a night," Lambert said. "But we're going to be a gritty, hard-working defensive-minded hockey team."
After allowing goalies Cris Classen and Craig Hillier to play the first two games, Burton used Monday as a tune-up for Lambert.
"Judd looked like he hadn't played a game there at first, and then he settled in and looked like Judd," Burton said.
Lambert declared himself ready.
"I felt a lot better in the second period," he said. "It's unfortunate they scored five on us there, but I didn't think any of them were bad goals. I'll be ready Friday."
NOTES: Defenseman Martin Lapointe barely escaped serious injury when he was struck in the side of the head by a slapshot in the third period and lay motionless on the ice for several minutes. He suffered a two-inch gash in front of his right ear and took seven stitches. Lapointe is expected to be ready to play Friday. ... Burton said the decision on a backup goalie will be made on Wednesday. Hillier and Classen are battling for the No. 2 spot behind Lambert. Hillier dressed as the backup for Monday's game. ... Gillies received a game misconduct following his first-period fight with Columbia's Scott Wansborough.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com