As John Whitwell emerged from the Augusta Lynx bench Friday night to take a penalty shot, fans at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center rose to their feet and started chanting, "Let's go John."
"It was fun to hear good cheers," said Whitwell, who was a fan favorite in his four seasons with the Lynx. "It kind of brought back a lot of memories."
Whitwell's shot hit the left post and bounced away, but it didn't take anything away from the fan favorite's first home appearance in a Lynx uniform since he retired in 2002. Augusta coaxed Whitwell, who still lives in Augusta, out of retirement for a two-game stint of relief after nine Canadian players were ruled temporarily ineligible Tuesday because of immigration problems.
The franchise leader for games played was released before Saturday's game because he had a family commitment, which the team knew about when he agreed to suit up. Augusta signed forward David Wilson to take his spot.
Whitwell made the most of his time back with his former team, scoring the game-winner in a shootout at Gwinnett.
"When (Lynx coach Bob Ferguson) looked down the bench, he said he heard a rumor that I was pretty good in shootouts, and if it went into extra shooters, I was going," Whitwell said.
After the Lynx and Gladiators were tied with one goal apiece through five rounds, Ferguson sent out Whitwell.
"At that point, though, my legs were pretty cramped," he said. "So the only thing I was thinking was to not fall down when I was skating down the ice."
Whitwell didn't fall down and, unlike the penalty shot, the puck went in, giving the Lynx an unlikely two points.
"I'm glad I could help out," he said.
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.