The 2015-16 Steelheads’ season was a career- year for forward Rob Linsmayer in many respects. Linsmayer played in 70 games and all seven Steelheads playoff games after an injury riddled campaign limited him to just 17 games just two seasons ago. His 21 goals and 36 assists were both career-bests, and his 57 points were 16 more than what he’d collected in his prior two-plus pro seasons combined.
And yet, even in the midst of a breakout season such as this, there are some personal achievements you can never guarantee will ever come to pass. After scoring nine goals and 29 points in 60 USHL junior games, 100 points in four seasons at Holy Cross College, and 90 points 138 professional games, Linsmayer finally experienced that special night when everything goes a goal-scorer’s way- a hat trick.
“I think the last time I scored a hat trick I was 9 years old,” said Linsmayer, who had four multi-goal games during the regular season. “It was pretty unexpected.”
On March 25th at CenturyLink Arena, Linsmayer netted three goals in a back-and-forth battle with the Colorado Eagles, a game that eventually ended on an Adrian Veideman overtime goal for the Eagles. But there was no doubt of who the game’s First Star was, as Linsmayer served as a dominating force throughout the night and staked the Steelheads to an early lead .
At 7:41 of the first period, off an offensive zone face-off win by Jefferson Dahl, Linsmayer scooped up the puck along the boards, drifted down into the corner, and then lowered his shoulder with a power move right to the front of the net. Fighting off a check from defenseman Channing Boe, Linsmayer drove to the top of the crease before lifting a backhander straight up over goaltender Clarke Saunders for an early 1-0 lead.
The goal established a one-goal lead for Idaho, but more importantly set the tone for what kind of an evening it would be for Linsmayer. As he did all season, Linsmayer did his damage by battling in front of the net and finding loose pucks. On this night, the puck found him there as well.
“I think one of my goals coming into the year was to shoot the puck more and take more pucks to the net myself as opposed to always looking to pass it. And I probably still could've done it more, but I think it did help me be more effective,” said Linsmayer.
“Hat tricks are super hard to come by but sometimes the puck just finds you that night. If you get two early there's always that chance.”
Again driving to the net, Linsmayer would get that second goal early in the second period to put himself in great position for his first hatty. Just 3:24 into the second, on a slick feed from Emil Molin off the rush, Linsmayer got a one-timer off on Saunders, found his own rebound for another attempt, and then popped a second rebound over the sprawled goaltender for a 2-1 Steelheads lead.
After a flurry of goals in the middle frame made it a 3-3 game, Linsmayer polished off his hat trick in timely fashion to send the Steelheads to the locker room with a 4-3 lead. After Molin had missed on a chance from the slot, on a dominant offensive zone shift for the Steelheads, Dahl found the puck and zipped it right back to the same area. Linsmayer was waiting for a bang-bang goal.
It was a tremendous outing for the line as a whole, with the trio accounting for all four Steelheads goals on the night that Molin made his return from AHL Texas for the last eight games of the season. Linsmayer’s three-goal performance was just the initial spark, as those three players would combine for nine goals and 23 points over the season’s final eight contests.
“I’m not sure why the chemistry clicked again so fast,” said Linsmayer of the line that was together most of the season prior to Molin’s mid-season recall. “But Molin was definitely a huge difference-maker.” Molin tallied a power play goal and an assist on that night, while Dahl earned a helper on all four goals.
When looking back at season’s end, it would be easy to focus on Linsmayer’s final stat line, or on the game’s final result. But digging deeper, fans know it could have been an even grander night for Linsmayer. In overtime, Linsmayer had a prime opportunity in close on Saunders and the Eagles’ goal, only to be denied a fourth goal and game-winner on Saunders’ best save of the game.
The final score was not what Steelheads fans hoped for, but there was no question that Linsmayer was the best player on either team that night with one of the best statistical games of his pro career.
“Those games definitely happen where the puck just finds you and then there are games where you're in the perfect place and it never finds you,” he said. “You just have to be ready hopefully and take advantage when they come.”
That was as far as the Steelheads’ leading scorer was willing to push his three-goal expertise, deferring all other questions to a different source.
“I've had plenty of two-goal games in my career so I'm not the guy to consult for how to finish the job,” said Linsmayer. “Talk to Carson McMillan for that.”
We certainly will talk to him this summer. After all, McMillan did have two hat tricks this season for Idaho.