Casey Labonte had a goal and two assists, while Clay Janowiak and Linder Kenyon also scored. Thomas Puetz added two assists.

“It felt really good, it’s awesome that we get this many fans to come out, especially on a Sunday afternoon that’s a holiday,” Labonte said. “I want to thank them first, they were very welcoming and very energetic. They got us going as a team.”

Walker Hamilton who scored twice in the victory, believes the team needed a boost, and that’s what the new players have brought.

“It’s nice to have the fresh legs, the fresh energy coming in,” Hamilton said. “For most of them, it’s their first home game. You can tell they were excited, I had chills in warmups skating without our helmets on.”

The Fighting Spirit wasted no time to get on the board. Mason Smith went to the box for the Minutemen a minute into the game for hooking. Brett Bittner found the back of the net for the 16th time this season 48 seconds into the power play on a feed from Austin Siering.

Just past the three-minute mark, Dylan Vrees broke in on a breakaway and slipped the puck past East Coast goaltender Aidan Critchlow for his team-leading 22nd goal of the year.


The new additions got in the act for the Fighting Spirit later in the frame, when Kenyan, a defenseman, recorded his first goal with the team, going end to end to give the Fighting Spirit a 3-0 lead. David Fish and Labonte notched the helpers on the goal with 3:19 remaining in the first period.

“We need 60 minutes of it,” Fighting Spirit coach Rod Simmons said of the first period. “I don’t think our first period was our best, but we did what we had to. Down the stretch, we have to play playoff hockey and play 60 minutes, that’s the key. When we get there, we will know we are there, but we aren’t there yet.”

The victory improves the Fighting Spirit to 26-9-1 for 52 points, one point behind the New England Stars for second place in the Eastern Division

Labonte picked up his second tally since joining the team when he scored the second power play goal of the game on as many chances with 1:33 remaining in the first period. Austin Siering picked up his second assist.

“I am lucky enough I’ve been able to get a week or two of practice in with these guys,” Labonte said. “I have been able to flow well. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to get any of those points. I got to thank those guys first.”

Janowiak ended Critchlow’s night when his seeing-eye shot slipped past the netminder 8:21 into the second. It was also Janowiak’s first goal with the team.


Critchlow stopped 15 shots before getting pulled in favor of Tim Huggins, who stopped 16 shots in relief. Claes Endre made 14 saves in the victory.

Hamilton stretched the Fighting Spirit’s lead to 6-0 just before the second intermission when he unleashed a blistering slap shot.Puetz and Mark Ferullo set the goal up. It was Hamilton’s 11th goal of the season.

Matt Bauchman put the Minutemen on the board with 7:03 remaining in the game on the power play. Kyler Harding had the lone assist on Bauchman’s 13th of the season.

Hamilton scored his second of the night on the power play with 1:53 remaining in the game. Puetz notched another assist.

The Fighting Spirit were 3-for-5 on the man advantage while the Minutemen were 1-for-6.

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