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AHL's Thomas, Byfield, Smith-Pelly form pro hockey's first all-Black line since '40s

Last Updated Mar 22, 2021 at 10:04 am PDT

Akil Thomas scored a hat trick in 3:07 and again in the shootout as the Ontario Reign came back to defeat the Bakersfield Condors 5-4. (Courtesy Sportsnet)
Summary

Akil Thomas, Quinton Byfield, and Devante Smith-Pelly played on the same line in the AHL on Sunday

Last time three Black players played on a single line was during 1948-49 season

The AHL’s Ontario Reign made history in the early goings of their Sunday night contest, and then young Akil Thomas made a bit of his own to close it out.

Heading into Sundays’ meeting with the Bakersfield Condors, the Reign — AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings — sent out a line featuring Thomas, recent second-overall pick Quinton Byfield, and former Stanley Cup champion Devante Smith-Pelly.

Not only a glimpse of L.A.’s promising future, the trio also marked the first time since the late 1940s that pro hockey has seen three Black players suit up together on one line, according to the team. The last such instance came during the 1948-49 season when Herb Carnegie, Ozzie Carnegie and Manny McIntyre played on the same line for Sherbrooke, reuniting after originally joining forces in the early ’40s.

Byfield struck early for the Reign, extending a dominant stretch that’s seen him tally in four straight games.

But it was late in the tilt that the line truly shined, as Thomas put the club on his shoulders and rattled off three straight goals to erase a 4-1 deficit, and a shootout tally for good measure to help seal the comeback win.

It was the first hat trick of Thomas’ professional career, all three goals coming in a span of just two minutes and 43 seconds.

Byfield and Thomas have already linked up on some highlight-reel plays through the early goings of their first season together, most notably in the campaign’s opening month when the duo made waves with a dazzling between-the-legs, one-time tally:

The club added Smith-Pelly to the roster earlier this month, the signing marking the former champ’s return to North America after playing the 2019-20 season with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star.

With Byfield notching the game’s first goal as well as an assist, and Smith-Pelly earning an assist on Thomas’ third goal, the trio finished the night with a combined six points.