The Twin City Thunder ended their stay in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Hub City event on a high note.

The Thunder defeated the Utica Jr. Comets 5-1 on Tuesday morning in a USPHL National Collegiate Development Conference game at the Advent Health Center in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Twin City, which lost 9-2 to the Rockets Hockey Club on Thursday and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Connecticut Jr. Rangers on Sunday. Overall, the Thunder went 7-13 during their six-week stay in Florida.

“It was a good way to end the Florida experience,” Thunder assistant coach Cam Robichaud said. “We started with a big win over the Islanders (Hockey Club) in overtime and finish with a big win over Utica — it was a good way to start and a good way to finish. We had some success in the middle frame and some learning experiences as well. Hopefully it makes us a tighter group coming back to Maine, gearing up for the rest of the season.”

Forward Troy Ladka, who on Monday night committed to play at Suffolk University in Boston, led the Thunder with two goals in Tuesday’s game. He began the day with one goal so far this season.

Hard work has paid off for the 20-year-old Ladka.

“He has been working really hard and has had tremendous growth throughout the season,” Robichaud said. “I think today he was just excited; he was able to make a college commitment and he was playing worry free as an age-out. Once you make that decision and have a home to go to, and this junior experience has paid off for you, I feel like you get to play with a mind at ease and play a little bit more freely.”

After a scoreless first period, the Thunder (12-16-2, 26 points) opened up a 4-0 lead in the second. Tyler Fox opened the scoring 36 seconds into the period with a goal set up by forward Nathan Chickering and defenseman Jack Gilligan.

Fox has been named team captain after the trade of former captain Nick Rashkovsky to the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs earlier this month.

Ladka scored his first goal, an unassisted effort, at midway through the second period.

Then the Thunder’s top-line got in on the scoring act, as University of New England commit Noah Furman scored his seventh goal of the season with just under five minutes remaining in the middle period. Gabe Potyk and Valeri Rykov had the helpers.

Ladka notched the Thunder’s fourth goal with under two minutes remaining in the second period. Defenseman Joey Potter recorded the assists.

John Gutt scored his 12th goal of the season for the Comets (12-16-3, 27 points) in the opening two minutes of the third period.

Hunter Schmitz’s sixth goal of the season capped the scoring and give the Thunder a 5-1 lead.

Goalie Connor Leslie made 21 saves for the Thunder. Cameron Whitehead stopped 24 shots for the Comets in the loss.

TRIGGS ADDED TO ROSTER

Forward Caden Triggs has joined the Thunder for the remainder of the season.

The 19-year-old forward from Moorhead, Minnesota, started the season with the Steinbech Pistons of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, but that league’s season has been put on hold because of coronavirus pandemic. Triggs appeared in eight games, scoring two goals.

For the Moorhead High School Spuds last season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward scored 34 goals and had 22 assists in 29 games.

Triggs also has some grit in his game.

“We wanted to add a little bit more of that toughness, but (someone who) can also find the net,” Robichaud said. “… He has showcased the ability to have skill, but also that compete level.”

ANOTHER TENDER

The Thunder announced Monday that defenseman Jack Anderson signed a NCDC tender for next season.

The 18-year-old from Orono, Minnesota, has six goals and 17 assists in 38 games this season. Last season with Orono High School (Minnesota), he had three goals and nine assists in 14 games.

Earlier this month, the Thunder tendered Anderson’s teammate, Laz Kaebel.

A tender is a contract that gives a team a player’s USPHL NCDC rights, meaning the player cannot be drafted or signed by another NCDC team. The player can, however, sign with another team in another junior league.

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