By David Lee, Augusta Chronicle
Knoxville Ice Bears defenseman Mark Van Vliet doubled his season total in goals, including the eventual game-winner, in a close loss for the Augusta RiverHawks.
Van Vliet scored early in the third period for the deciding blow in a 3-2 Knoxville win over Augusta on Saturday at James Brown Arena.
Augusta (5-14-3) came out flat defensively, allowing Knoxville (11-9) to have open looks at the goal and score twice within the first 11 minutes of the game. Van Vliet found the net 5 minutes into the first period on a slap shot, while Jon Higgins did the same 6 minutes later.
Van Vliet’s goal marked the third consecutive game that Augusta’s opponent had scored first.
“That’s how the first half has been going,” captain Matt Auffrey said. “We’ve had to climb uphill. The defensive game has to pick up.”
The RiverHawks scored their 11th power-play goal of the season with 4 minutes left in the first period, as Ian Watters hit a slap shot past former Augusta goalie Peter Skoggard to bring them back to within one.