Jim Shepherd came at a heavy price when the Augusta Lynx traded for him two weeks ago.
He cost them a former 100-point scorer in Jeff Bes, whom the Lynx sent to Greensboro in February to complete the three-way trade that brought Shepherd from Johnstown. Technically, he also cost them Jim Baxter and Jonathan Roy, two promising players the Lynx gave up to get Bes from Mississippi in December.
And don't forget veteran enforcer Jessie Rezansoff, whom the Lynx jettisoned to Mobile to clear a veteran spot for the big-ticket Bes, a guy billed as the answer to the team's pre-Christmas funk.
Bes didn't pan out, but Shepherd is making all the wheeling and dealing seem worthwhile. The gritty winger paid big dividends for the Lynx on Friday, scoring his first career hat trick in a 6-2 victory over the Macon Whoopee.
"That was nice; a rarity for me," said Shepherd, who has tallied six goals and three assists in six games with the Lynx. "It helps having Guy (Larose) and Scott (Morrow) playing real hard down low to make things happen, and I was lucky enough to bury my chances."
Shepherd buried his first chance of the night when he banged home a Morrow rebound to open the scoring 4:33 into the game. The inspired Lynx took off from there, storming to a 4-0 lead midway through the second.
David Wilkie scored his first goal in 16 games, Bryce Classen scored his first goal as a Lynx, and Tyson Holly also added a late breakaway goal, his 12th of the yearAugusta (28-22-8) took a significant leap forward in its quest to clinch a playoff spot.
The Lynx began the night seventh in the Southeast Division, four points behind sixth-place Macon (28-23-10) and seven behind fifth-place South Carolina. The top five teams in the division make the postseason.
Friday's win pulled them within two points of the Whoopee with three games in hand and 14 games to play. Macon returns to Augusta for a Sunday matinee that could decide the fate of both clubs.
"This weekend is basically do or die, and it's good to get off to a good start," said Larose, who played Friday despite a sore left knee. "We've been winning lately but don't seem to be gaining any ground, so these games are games we've got to win. We have four left with Macon, including (Friday), and we feel like we have to win them all."
NOTES: Martin Lapointe lost a tooth and spit out a puddle of blood after taking a David Brosseau high stick to the mouth with 1:53 left in the game. ... Wilkie left the game midway through the third period with severe back spasms and is day-to-day. ... As of Friday evening, Burton still had no word on the status of forwards Wes Mason and Patrick Yetman, both on recall to the American Hockey League. Mason has a goal in four games with Grand Rapids, while Yetman has no points and a minus-4 rating in three games with Springfield. ... The Lynx will auction off special Margaritaville jerseys worn this weekend after tonight's game, with a pre-game concert on the Civic Center Plaza by the Rum Punch Bandits at 5:30 p.m. ... In a scheduling quirk, the Whoopee travel across the state to Columbus tonight, then return to Augusta for a 4:05 p.m. start Sunday.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.