The machine of a hockey team that is the Alaska Aces rolled into James Brown Arena on Friday night, and there was nothing the Augusta Lynx could do to stop it.
Except fight it - four times in the final minute.
Defending ECHL Kelly Cup champion Alaska - the league's top team again this season - handed Augusta its worst loss of the season, 8-3, in front of one of the largest home crowds this season. But the Aces didn't leave without a fight.
It started when Augusta's Trevor Gillies, just sent down from Portland before the game, aggressively checked Alaska's Olivier Fillion, despite the Lynx trailing by five goals.
Gillies outboxed the Aces player who took him on, then taunted Alaska's bench on his way out of the arena.
Augusta's Joe Pereira, Nathan Saunders and Nick Kuiper followed suit, dropping gloves to make it a four-round finale.
The Lynx, already taxed after seven games in 11 days, wrap up their toughest stretch of the season tonight against the Florida Everblades at home. Florida beat Augusta 4-3 on Thursday.
Things were worse Friday for the Lynx, as the bigger Aces took advantage of a penalty-filled game by jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the teams' only matchup this season. They led 6-2 after the second period.
Alaska (30-11-1), which beat Augusta by a combined 13-1 score in two games last year in Anchorage, now has won five games in a row and 11 of 12.
The Lynx (25-20-1), meanwhile, remained fourth with 51 points in the South Division standings.
In a matchup of the most penalized (Alaska) and least penalized (Augusta) teams in the ECHL, the officials dominated a lengthy first period, whistling the teams for a combined 15 penalties. Ten were called on Augusta, and the Lynx and most of the 3,077 in attendance seemed baffled by several of the calls.
Alaska capitalized, scoring three of its four first-period goals on the power play. Kevin Croxton, Ryan MacMurchy, Barrett Heisten and Kimbi Daniels each scored for the Aces in the period against Augusta goaltender Nathan Marsters, who had his hands full all night.
Mike Erickson's power-play goal on a rebounded Louis Goulet shot at 12:56 of the first was the only goal of the period for the Lynx, who trailed 4-1 after 20 minutes. Augusta pulled to 4-2 when Brian Passmore was awarded a power-play goal for a pile-up in Alaska's net at 7:29 of the second.
The Aces continued their offensive onslaught, however, and sent Marsters out of the game with another score from Heisten.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org