Sandy Lamarre and Sam Ftorek spent much of the year trying to find an identity, trying to make their marks with an Augusta Lynx team that spent the final two months of the season scrapping their way into the postseason.
Now that the playoffs are here, they've settled nicely into the role as unlikely heroes.
"That's what playoff hockey's all about," veteran forward Louis Dumont said. "Guys you normally wouldn't expect to come through with the big goal or the big play delivering. That's what Sandy and Sammy are doing for us right now. It's a tribute to their hard work and determination."
With the Lynx facing elimination Wednesday, Lamarre scored the biggest goal in franchise history, netting the game-winner at 3:38 of overtime in a 2-1 victory over the New Orleans Brass in Game 2 of the ECHL Southern Conference wild-card playoff series.
Ftorek, who began the game on the bench and did not take his first shift until the second period, scored his first career playoff goal at 1:21 of the second to make it a 1-1 game, and later assisted on Lamarre's OT goal.
The Lynx will look to write another chapter in their remarkable turnaround tonight, when they take on the Brass in the decisive Game 3 of the series at New Orleans Municipal Auditorium.
The winner advances to the Southern
Conference quarterfinals and will face the Brabham Cup champion Florida Everblades, beginning with Game 1 of the best-of-five series Saturday night in Fort Myers, Fla.
While the top line of Dumont, Lars Pettersen and Dean Tiltgen -- dubbed the Alberta Connection -- sparked the team's turnaround in the second half of the season, it was the outstanding play at both ends of the ice by the "SSS" line (Ftorek, Lamarre and center Stacey Rayan) that lifted the Lynx to their its postseason victory.
"They got both of our goals, but really did a great job defensively, as well," Lynx coach Dan Wiebe said. "You can't say enough about the job they did."
Though Lamarre finished the regular season with decent numbers, scoring 18 goals with 35 points and 184 penalty minutes in 69 games, Wiebe lost confidence in the 23-year-old Montreal native at various times earlier in the year because of his defensive shortcomings.
He was the subject of trade rumors in late December, but ended up earning more and more ice time as the second half progressed. Lamarre has been one of the keys to the Lynx's scrappy third line, with Ftorek and Paul Ferone splitting time at right wing and Stacey Rayan at center.
The overtime goal Wednesday night for Lamarre came on the heels of his game-winner last Saturday night in the Lynx's 2-1 shootout victory over Charlotte that clinched a playoff berth on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
"Our line is supposed to go out and just crash and bang, and if we can chip in with an odd goal here and there, then great," Lamarre said. "I'm just happy to be able to contribute when the games mean so much."
The 25-year-old Ftorek also has experienced his share of highs and lows this season.
After the NHL's New Jersey Devils did not re-sign him last summer, Ftorek began the season in Europe with the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss Elite League.
But he injured his shoulder during an on-ice fight in early November, and when he was ready to return to action six weeks later, he learned that his spot on the team had been taken by another player. European pro leagues typically limit the number of North American players teams can carry.
Ftorek returned to the Lynx in early January, but was obviously not at the top of his game as a result of the long layoff. By mid March, he was virtually out of the mix altogether, and was a healthy scratch in five straight games during the playoff run.
"As long as we were winning, it didn't matter to me if I was on the ice, watching the game from the bench, or watching the game from the stands," Ftorek said. "Sure, I wanted to be out there, but the most important thing is winning hockey games. That's all that ever mattered to me."
Since returning to the lineup on March 25, Ftorek has mattered to the Lynx. He scored the tying goal in the win at Charlotte last Saturday, and again delivered in Game 2 vs. New Orleans on Wednesday.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.