Optimism runs high for Augusta Lynx season

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October 17, 2006

Right smack dab in the middle of football season is the start of hockey with the Augusta Lynx. Coming Friday night, the James Brown Arena will be jumping with the season opener.

A year ago the Lynx found themselves in unfamiliar territory: the playoffs. This season, don't be surprised if they take the next step and contend for the big prize.

"We have a lot of speed, a lot of skill up front," said Coach Bob Ferguson. "The goaltending has been very solid through the training camp, so I'm very optimistic going into the season."

Coach Ferguson likes what he's seen through the first week and a half in camp. Unlike last year, where they built around size and strength, the team has taken a different avenue.

"You have to use your speed nowadays," said Ryan Lang. "If you're a guy who has slow feet or bad transition kind of player, it's kind of out of your element right now. You have to use your speed, have a good transition game. It's a lot more smart hockey this year."

Probably the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's is something the average fan won't even see: the affiliation with Anaheim, providing this team with perhaps even better talent than last year.

"The affiliation we're going to have with Anaheim and Portland in the American League is a good thing, because you get a good quality player. Players who'll have a chance to play in the National Hockey League some day," Coach Ferguson said. "That's the good thing. The bad thing is players will be coming and going."

With all the youngsters in camp, experience may be lacking. But guys like Jamie Johnson, Louis Golet and Ryan Lang should provide the leadership.

"I've been in their footsteps, and I expect them to work just as hard as the rest of the guys," Lang said. "It's good to have the young guys, because they bring a lot of energy to the rink and the older guys are there to help out."

"Bob (Ferguson) has really stressed being a leader and taking charge and come to the rink ready to practice and making an impression every day," said David McKee.

If some of the youngsters do take charge, hockey fans at the James Brown Arena should feel good.

The Lynx open the season Friday at home against Columbia. Gwinnett is in town Saturday.