5 Goals in a Game…
The list transcends time and reads like a Who’s Who of Hockey Greats:
Phantom Joe Malone, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sergei Fedorov, Newsy Lalonde, Bernie Geoffrion, Reggie Leach, Daryl Sittler – and a few more in an exclusive club.
Those reading the game summary will have a hard time believing it happened, particularly since the game summary at Oakland Ice Center is incorrect (again). But the sole fan in attendance at the War Memorial can attest that you can add Jim Austin to that honor roll.
The much-maligned forward had been reading for weeks that he might be moved at the trade deadline so that the Hellcats could add grit for the playoff run. He’d heard the whispers that the game had passed him by and that his transition to coach was imminent – – thankfully Joe McGrath had prepared him well for the front office. But rather than let the rumors affect his play, the seasoned veteran cranked up the volume on his Swami Baha tapes and provided a night for the ages.
After falling behind 2-0 in the opening minutes of the match, Austin singlehandedly brought the sputtering ‘Cats back to life. A lightning wrist shot fooled the opposing GK to cut the lead to 2-1. Unfortunately, a strike by Gooch made it 3-1. But then Austin countered 21 seconds later from the doorstep to cut the lead back to one.
Meanwhile, ‘Cats Goaltender Matt Kaczkowski, who was five days into his seven-day birthday celebration, kept the ‘Cats buoyant while Austin began tossing the club on his back. Those in the press box noted the generational gap and posited that Kaczkowski was busy shitting his diapers when Austin dominated roller hockey play in the mid 90’s at the original Bladium on 3rd Street in San Francisco playing for such luminary clubs like Comerford’s Red Rhinos and the Arctic Blast.
Early in the 2nd period, Austin tallied again on the PP, making the score Gooch 3 – Austin 3. This seemed to spark the Hellcats as two goals extended the lead to 5-3. Austin then struck again with a 4th goal to make it 6-3. After that goal, a palpable quiet fell over the arena. Would he do what Joe Thornton once promised to do if he ever scored 4 goals in a game? Thankfully, no such threat would be carried out.
With the game seemingly in hand, Austin fired one at the net that that his linemate Steve Welch retrieved and buried to tally one for his own account. When later asked what his role was on a night like this, Welch responded by channeling his inner Tomas Hertl and saying “Hold puck – make some space for Jimbo.”
Austin then toyed with the hapless Gooch, tossing a puck around a defender, then off the goaltender’s pads and parrying the rebound home for his fifth. As the game ended, both teams shook hands in a stunned silence.
Reporters rushed to the Hellcats locker room. Austin’s other linemate Jeff McClure abruptly cut short his post-game interview after being asked “What was it like to be the Pete Best of that unit?” Kaczkowski only offered reporters “Thank you for asking – I’m only here so I don’t get fined.…” Thankfully Austin gave the scribes on press row plenty to write with insightful answers like “we just wanted to get pucks deep and make plays”, “all lines were firing” and “we really wanted to hear ‘Runaround Sue’ tonight”.
Was it a coincidence that it occurred 36 years to the day of the Miracle on Ice? The barn in Lake Placid only held 8,500, but since that wintry night, thousands more have claimed that they were in attendance when the hockey world was turned on its ear. Last night there was a solitary fan in attendance. But sometime in the not too distant future, we can surely expect at least 4 more people to claim that they were in the house on that implausible night in Oakland.
Next Game: The Hellcats 3 do not play again until Monday March 7 against Kool Aid. Good seats are still available.