The Twin City Thunder are developing resiliency.

After letting a two-goal lead slip in the final five minutes of regulation, a goal by captain Nick Rashkovsky and an empty net goal by Hunter Schmitz gave the Thunder a 5-3 victory over the Utica Jr. Comets in a USPHL National Collegiate Development Conference contest at the Advent Health Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida, on Tuesday.

“I thought we played a solid 60 minutes. I think we got into some penalty trouble late in the game and kind of gave them some life, but we found to pull out the two points,” Twin City Thunder assistant coach Alex Drulia said.

Drulia, who is also the head coach of the Thunder’s Premier team, ran the NCDC squad’s bench in Tuesday’s game in place of head coach Dan Hodge, who wasn’t available.

The Thunder (9-12-1, 19 points) took a 3-1 advantage deep into the third period. Then Utica erased the lead with a pair of power play goals. Sam Techel scored off assists by Ryan Brandt and Max Techel, and, with about three minutes remaining in the contest, John Gutt scored his seventh goal of the season to tie the game up at 3-3.

“We had some mental lapses there on the (penalty kill) and it led to two goals against,” Drulia said. “You have to give Utica credit, they rely on their power play a lot and they do a good job moving the puck and hitting the middle guy. At the end of the day, it came down to mental mistakes from killing five (previous penalties), which is a lot.”

Utica (8-11-2, 18 points) went 2-for-7 on the power play, while the Thunder were scoreless on their two chances.

After its two-goal lead vanished, Twin City composed itself and finished strong. Rashkovsky, who has committed to play at Williams College, notched his 10th goal of the season, set up by Troy Ladka, with about two minutes remaining in the game.

“I got a good pass from Troy Ladka, and prior to that Hunter Schmitz did a good job getting it into the zone,” Rashkovsky said. “I had a couple of good chances throughout the game, and I figured there was not much time left, why not get (the puck) and shoot it right away? I was fortunate to put it in.”

Schmitz’s empty-netter is his third goal of the season.

The Thunder started to build their lead with two goals in 17 seconds midway through the second period. Valeri Rykov’s fifth goal of the season tied the contest at 1-1 at the 9:41 mark. Bowdoin commit Jack Galligan and University of New England commit Noah Furman had the assists.

Then, Nathan Chickering scored his first goal of the year at the 9:58 into the second. Ben Charboneau and Ryan Antonakis notched the helpers.

Furman stretched the Thunder’s lead to 3-1 with less than five minutes remaining in the second period. Rykov also picked up his second point of the day with an assist. Gabe Potyk also earned an assist on the goal.

Peyton Kimball opened the scoring early in the first period for the Jr. Comets.

The Thunder fired 17 shots at Jr. Comets goalie Cameron Whitehead in the first, but Whitehead stopped them all.

Whitehead made 35 saves, while Thunder goal Devon Bobak made 21 saves.

The Thunder return to the ice in Wesley Chapel on Friday to take on the Islanders Hockey Club.

THUNDER SIGN DOHENY

Twin City announced the signing of defenseman Eamon Doheny before Tuesday’s game, and he made his Thunder debut during the win over Utica.

The 20-year-old from Lunenburg, Massachusetts, was a 2019 NCDC draft pick of the Thunder. He attended the Thunder’s training camp in 2019 but ended up returning to Deerfield Academy for his senior season.

“He played really well today,” Drulia said. “He was a big addition to our lineup and added some depth on the back end. I think he added some life on the bench, too. He controlled the game a lot. He’s a really good player, he’s going to help us down the road here.”

Doheny signed with the Langley Riverman of the British Columbia Hockey League in the offseason, but the BCHL season hasn’t started yet. He joined the Odessa Jackalopes — goalie Connor Hasley, another 2019 Thunder draft pick, also is on Odessa roster — of the North American Hockey League in October and recirded six assists in 23 games recording.


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