IceDogs double Storm
Akil Thomas. PHOTO BY: OHL IMAGES
Akil Thomas appears to be right on track in his sophomore season.
The talented centre is averaging more than a point per game and should easily surpass his points total of last season.
Thomas netted his 11th of the season as the Niagara IceDogs doubled the Guelph Storm 6-3 in Ontario Hockey League action Thursday at the Meridian Centre.
It was the fourth straight victory for the IceDogs, who improved to 20-11-3-2 and have yet to lose since returning from the Christmas break.
The Storm drop to 18-15-1-3.
Thomas now has 37 points in 36 games after netting 48 points in his rookie season.
“I have no issues with him,” Niagara coach Billy Burke said, when asked about Thomas. “I feel very confident in him. I know maybe the pucks haven’t been going in but it’s good to see him score today. The goals are starting to come for him and he’s too good of a player and too smart of a player to be snake bit for long.”
Thomas, who was selected to play in the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph on Thursday, Jan. 25, is a gifted offensive player who also takes pride in his defence.
“He’s unbelievably responsible and unbelievably smart,” Burke said. “He’s not shy — he’d throw his body in front of a puck for the team.”
Thomas is wearing an assistant’s A this season.
“He’s a leader and I treat him like he’s 19, like he’s in his fourth season in the league,” Thomas said. “To think he’s only in his second year and he’s only 17 is very exciting.
“Even if he’s not scoring he’s doing so many other things for us.”
Niagara built a 2-1 lead after one period on goals from Thomas and Willy Lochead sandwiched around a goal by James McEwan for the Storm. Niagara held a 16-12 edge in shots but the Storm had a handful of point-blank chances.
The Storm outshot the IceDogs 17-9 in the second period and netted the lone goal of the frame when Dmitri Samorukov beat Stephen Dhillon at the 14:32 mark. The IceDogs started slowly and at one point were being outshot 9-2 in the period.
Each team scored early in the third before the IceDogs roared back with three straight goals.
“Not one of our strongest games for sure, especially the second period. That was one of our worst of the season,” Burke said. “Stevie (Dhillon) was there for us and you have to give credit to the guys. They were able to rally and realize if we didn’t start getting some push back and compete with some urgency, we were going to let this one slip away.
“It was a bad period and I thought they took the play to us for long stretches. We wanted to score more than we wanted to limit their chances.”
The IceDogs collected a goal on the power play and also netted a short-handed marker. It is the third straight game they have scored while killing a penalty.
“We want to kill the penalties first and foremost but it’s been a little bit of a philosophy we have talked to the guys about. If we have full control and can stretch them and push it, then we want to do it,” Burke said. “The best way to kill penalties is up ice.”
Ice cubes: Joshua Dame, Drew Hunter and Bradey Johnson were scratched for the IceDogs . . . Former IceDog 50-goal scorer Luca Caputi is an assistant coach for the Storm. Guelph is coached by former Niagara Falls Thunder bench boss George Burnett . . . Ex-IceDogs forward Freddie Hamilton is on the move from Calgary to Arizona on a waiver claim . . . The Storm feature seven NHL draft picks . . . Niagara forward Kyle Langdon was playing in his 150th OHL game . . . Ben Jones and Liam Hamm collected two assists each for Niagara . . . Lochead left the game in the third period with an upper body injury and is expected to be out about two weeks.
IceDogs 6 Storm 3
BPSN Star of the Game: Niagara goaltender Stephen Dhillon with 32 saves.
For the Niagara IceDogs: Danial Singer 2 (17, 18); Kirill Maksimov (24); Akil Thomas (11); Oliver Castleman (8); William Lochead (2).
For the Guelph Storm: James McEwan (9): Dmitri Samorukov (5); Liam Hawel (5).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Nico Daws (35), by Guelph on Stephen Dhillon (35); Power plays: Niagara 1-for-2, Guelph 0-for-3; Penalty minutes: Niagara 10, Guelph 12.
Up next: Home to Sudbury Saturday at 7 p.m. and Kingston Sunday at 2 p.m.