Fatigue overcome on long road trip

Augusta Lynx head coach John Marks and his team arrived back in town Monday morning from a 700-mile, overnight road trip after playing three games over three nights.

The team will be able to enjoy a well-deserved four-day break before their next game this weekend, but there was no time for a nap for the first-year Lynx coach.

"After all that, I'm out here (at The River Club in North Augusta) for a charity golf tournament for Camp Rainbow," Marks said. "I'm like how my players were last night -- running on fumes."

In his wearied state, Marks said he and the rest of his foursome of Lynx executives -- Jim Burton , Dan Troutman and Jan Hodges Burch -- still managed five birdies in the windy conditions.

The Lynx, exhausted the previous night while completing their fourth road game in six days, hit what equated to a hole-in-one.

"The guys emptied their tanks this weekend, and I'm proud of their efforts," Marks said.

The Lynx (3-2-1) earned more than their coach's appreciation after playing two games in Elmira, N.Y., and one in Reading, Pa., last weekend. They also grabbed sole possession of first place in the ECHL South Division.

After starting the season 0-2, the Lynx earned a 3-2 shootout win at Gwinnett last Tuesday; split a pair of games against Elmira with an overtime loss Friday and 5-3 win Saturday; and finished up with a 3-2 win over Reading. The seven points in four games allowed the Lynx to leapfrog all five division opponents.

"We can't read too much into the first handful of games, but we're heading in the right direction," Lynx captain Aaron Slattengren said. "Anytime you play that many games, you're going to be a little worn down.

"We were definitely running on fumes," he added. "But the coaches have done a good job at practices and even in training camp of dealing with that."

NEVER GIVE UP : In all four of those road games, the Lynx found themselves trailing early. The team hadn't played with a lead until the third period of Saturday night's game against Elmira. The Lynx fell behind 3-0, but they responded with five consecutive goals for their second victory of the season.

GOALTENDING: The play of the Augusta goaltenders last week was better than it was during the season-opening weekend.

Joel Martin , who suffered losses in the team's first two games, made 31 saves on 34 shots in Saturday's win over Elmira. Rookie goaltender Riku Helenius blanked the Gwinnett Gladiators in a shootout for a 3-2 victory last Tuesday. He gave up the game-winning goal in overtime Friday but came back to make 29 saves in a 3-2 win Sunday.

"They played hard," Marks said. "But I think both of them will tell you there were some shots they'd like to have back."

INJURIES : On top of the back-to-back-to-back scheduling that exhausted the Lynx over the weekend, the team had to play with only 15 on the roster Sunday night after a series of injuries.

Forward Justin Keller , who totaled three goals Friday and Saturday after being sent down from the Norfolk Admirals early last week, missed Sunday's game with a bruised hip. Defenseman Tim Branham injured his knee on the first shift of Saturday's game, and Jamie McKinven was unavailable Sunday because an injury.

Marks said Keller's and McKinven's injuries probably aren't serious enough to keep them off the ice for Friday's game in Charlotte. However, Branham's status is questionable.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

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