Originally created 01/12/04

Line lifts Lynx to win



Louis Goulet came up with the perfect name for his red-hot line, featuring Jonathan Gagnon and Paul Vincent.

"Call it the Helicopter Line," said Goulet, one of three natural centers on the unit. "Why? Because we have no wings."

No wings, but the Helicopter Line does have a skilled young pilot in Gagnon, who continued his torrid pace Sunday by scoring the game-winning goal with 1:02 left for a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Charlotte Checkers.

After battling for position in front of the net, Gagnon deflected a point shot by defenseman Paul Elliot into the net for Augusta's second win in two days over Charlotte.

Gagnon has scored a goal in six straight games, sparked by the play of Goulet and Vincent on what has been one of the most productive lines in the ECHL the past two weeks.

"It's good now to see some of the bounces going our way," said Gagnon, now second on the club with 11 goals. "Everybody knows it's getting later in the season and we have to fight for that playoff spot. The guys are starting to do what it takes to win now and get into the playoffs."

With the consecutive wins - and three in their past four - the Lynx have chipped away at Pensacola's lead for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

With Sunday's win and Pensacola's 2-0 loss to Louisiana, the Lynx (16-16-3) are within six points of the Ice Pilots for the last playoff berth.

"Those are three great offensive players on that line, but Gags has been the one that's made that line go," Lynx coach Stan Drulia said. "He's been tough on faceoffs, he's crafty with the puck and he's a bit of an agitator out there. Plus, he's starting to go to the net and pay the price. We're all starting to do that now. And when you do that, good things happen."

The Lynx also got great goaltending from Gregg Naumenko, the former NHL netminder who made 24 saves Sunday to improve to 2-0-0.

Augusta held Charlotte to 15 shots through two periods, but the Checkers turned up the pressure in the final five minutes. Naumenko rose to the challenge, stopping all 10 shots he faced in the final period.

Naumenko was also the difference late Saturday in a 6-5 shootout win at Charlotte, Augusta's first win this season when trailing after two periods.

"You play with a lot of confidence when you have a veteran goalie like Naumenko back there," said Goulet, who has an assist on Gagnon's goal. "He talks a lot and calms everyone down, plus he makes the big saves when we need him."

Drulia said it was one of the better team defensive efforts from the Lynx in a while.

"Our enthusiasm is as high as its been in a while, and you see are really getting fired up on the bench, which is great to see," Drulia said. "We're back to playing 60 minutes of hockey again."

NOTES: Vincent's wife, Leslie, gave birth to the couple's first child Wednesday, a girl named Rylie. ... Captain Rob Stanfield and forward Jarrett Thompson were the scratches Sunday. Thompson is still recovering from post-concussion syndrome, while the team did not disclose Stanfield's injury.

GAME REPORT

Lynx 2, Checkers 1

STAR OF THE GAME: Jonathan Gagnon scored the game-winner on a deflection with 1:02 left in regulation to extend his goal-scoring streak to six games.

TURNING POINT: With the game tied at 1, the Lynx defense weathered a late storm with Gregg Naumenko making several big stops in the closing minutes to set up Gagnon's goal.

PLUS: Defenseman John Cronin scored his second goal of the year to tie it at 1 at 4:53 of the first.

PLUS: Naumenko made 24 saves to improve to 2-0-0.

UP NEXT: Lynx at South Carolina Stingrays, Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.