Originally created 02/19/03

Augusta forward looks to make most of chance



It's been nearly three seasons since Ryan Lauzon got his first and only taste of life in the National Hockey League.

As a rookie, he appeared in five exhibition games for the Phoenix Coyotes, and scored a pair of goals - one against Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars and one against Miikka Kiprusoff of the San Jose Sharks.

For reasons unknown, Lauzon has spent the past three years toiling in the minors as a third-liner. Only recently has he been given a chance to play an offensive role, and the 22-year-old Augusta Lynx forward is doing his best to seize the opportunity.

"I've always felt I could be an offensive player if given the chance, and the coaching staff here has given me more of an opportunity to create offensively," said Lauzon, a fourth-round draft pick by the Coyotes in 1999.

"It's the last year of my contract (with Phoenix), so I know I need to put up better numbers if I want a chance to re-sign. Hopefully, I can keep it going like the game the other night."

That game the other night was the finest of his pro career, as Lauzon notched his first pro hat trick and Augusta's first this season in a 5-1 win over the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday.

Entering Tuesday's game at Greensboro, Lauzon was fourth on the club in scoring with 29 points on 14 goals and 15 assists in 51 games - all career highs.

For a Lynx club that's been searching for offense all season, Lynx coach David Wilkie hoped the speedy Lauzon would contribute.

Lauzon averaged more than a point a game in his final three seasons of junior hockey with Hull of the Quebec League, and Wilkie figured with his speed and past history as a scorer, he could be a consistent point producer in the ECHL if given the chance.

Wilkie moved Lauzon from left wing to center on the No. 2 line and has given him significant minutes on the power play of late.

The move is beginning to pay off.

"I think Lazer's made a lot of strides," said Wilkie, whose Lynx return home Thursday to face the Columbia Inferno.

"He's been a penalty killer and third-line guy his whole career, and now that's he's been given more of an offensive role, he's starting to gain confidence and fill that role. I think he's always had the potential to be offensive. But he had to be in an offensive situation to see what he could do."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.