The day finally arrived, and Leeor Shtrom seized it.
After watching the Lynx's playoff run from the bench the past two months, the rookie goalie got his first career start Sunday afternoon in the regular-season finale against South Carolina.
And although the Lynx fell 2-1 in a shootout, nothing could take away from the gutsy performance by Shtrom, who recorded 51 saves and stopped nine of 10 Stingrays attempts in the overtime shootout.
"I was just hoping to go out there and play well and help this team win another game to better our position for the playoffs," said Shtrom, who was given the start by coach Dan Wiebe after the Lynx wrapped up a playoff berth with a 2-1 shootout win at Charlotte on Saturday night.
"I was upset that we couldn't pull out the win, but I'm glad I was able to go out there and play well and prove to my teammates and the coaches that I can play."
With the regulation tie on Sunday, the Lynx concluded the regular season 34-31-5, good for 10th place in the Southern Conference, and will face the new Orleans Brass in a best-of-three wild-card playoff series.
Game 1 will be played tonight in New Orleans, with Game 2 in Augusta on Wednesday. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Friday in New Orleans.
With the playoffs set to begin, Shtrom got the call to give No. 1 goalie Judd Lambert -- who made his 32nd consecutive start Saturday night in Charlotte -- a much-needed respite.
All the 24-year-old Shtrom did was give the tired Lynx a chance to win a game they had no right winning.
The Montreal native faced a barrage of Stingrays scoring opportunities, but turned in a valiant performance, playing a smart, technically sound game.
"I knew he could do the job for us if he got a chance," said Lynx captain Dan Kopec, who played junior hockey with Shtrom in Saskatchewan. "I'm happy for him. Plus, it was good to give Judd a bit of a break."
The Stingrays took a 1-0 lead when Greg Schmidt stuffed one past Shtrom for his team-leading 30th goal with 1:53 remaining in the second period.
Augusta tied the game on a power play, as Dean Tiltgen poked a rebound past Rays goalie Jason Saal for his 31st goal of the year with 7:44 left in the third period.
In the shootout, neither goalie allowed a goal until the 10th round, when South Carolina's John Maksymiu, a rookie playing in his third pro game, went top shelf to beat Shtrom.
Defenseman Ken Ruddick then misfired on the Lynx's final chance, as Saal pulled out the win for South Carolina.
"Leeor was freaking awesome," Lynx right winger Louis Dumont said. "He was just unbelievable in net for us today."
Signed on Jan. 29, Shtrom played Division I hockey for Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., the past four years. He appeared in three games in relief for the Toledo Storm earlier this season before being released.
With the Lynx battling to turn their season around after a miserable first half, Shtrom knew he likely would be spending most of his time on the bench.
Teammates say he never complained.
"His attitude has been just great," Dumont said. "He just works hard in practice and stays positive. I was happy to see him get in there and play as well as he did. I only wish we pulled out a win for him, because he definitely deserved it."
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