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.
History being made tonight. Not since the Black Aces have we seen an all-Black line in pro hockey. Herb Carnegie, Ozzie Carnegie & and Manny McIntyre are shining down on @SmithPelly23, @Byfield55 & @AkilThomas tonight. The line already has a goal in the 1st. #History #SoulOnIce pic.twitter.com/ChW5IjfICr
— Soul On Ice The Podcast (@SOIThePodcast) March 21, 2021
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.
A hat trick in the final 3:07 of regulation:
Another goal in the shootout:
Akil Thomas tonight:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 22, 2021
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:
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) February 13, 2021
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.