“It’s definitely a huge weight off my back,” said Christian Thomas after Friday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Manchester, during which the former second-round selection of the New York Rangers recorded his first professional goal, assist and points. “Getting that first one is always nice, but hopefully I can get some more.”
Thomas, 19, wasn’t the only player to register his first pro goal on Friday, as 22-year-old winger Steve Moses beat Thomas to the milestone one period earlier. Moses, who scored twice against the Monarchs, had a similar reaction to the exciting feat.
“It feels good,” he said after game. “The first couple of games I had a lot of chances but couldn’t get a bounce…it was nice to finally get a few bounces tonight and get on the board.”
Moses’ first goal came at 5:25 of the second period, when the 5-foot-9, 170-pound, forward drove Manchester’s net and buried a Casey Wellman rebound. Moses explained after the game that many of his goals generally come in the form of rebounds and by crashing the net.
“I try to get to the front of the net and create some opportunities,” he said. “Casey (Wellman) and Marek (Hrivik) were able to create some good chances tonight and I was able to finish them off.”
About seven minutes later, at 12:46, Moses—a former 20-goal scorer with the University of New Hampshire, who agreed to an Amateur Tryout (ATO) with the Whale on March 23—directed a Pavel Valentenko shot in Manchester’s net for his second goal of the night.
“Casey made a nice pass to (Valentenko) and (the shot) hit off back and in,” said Moses. “The bounces were going my way tonight.”
For Moses, Friday night was his seventh game with the Whale and his first game in the line-up since April 6. As he mentioned after the game, Moses created several opportunities in the first few games that he played, but could not convert any of them into goals. His performance on Friday is definitely one that he hopes to match in the playoffs.
The second player to reach a milestone on Friday was Thomas, who recorded his first career point in the form of an assist on a Kris Newbury goal at 15:35 of the second period. Thomas’ first goal came at 5:27 of period 3, when the speedy winger blasted a shot from the point through a crowded crease and into Manchester’s cage.
“I was just trying to put it on net,” he said after the game. “I think it might have hit someone’s stick and went in, but it was a good feeling.”
Thomas was playing in his fourth contest with the Whale on Friday, and while he admitted after the tilt that it was tough for him to get used to the pro game right away, he now feels like he understands the game plan and says that, “it’s pretty similar to my junior teams (Oshawa Generals), so I’m just trying to go out there and play my game.”
The snipers playing style doesn’t consist of much physical play, but the 5-foot-9, 170-pound, winger finds success through his speed and shooting ability.
“(Thomas) is a guy with a shoot first mentality, and he’s got a great shot,” Whale MVP, Newbury said of his line-mate after the game. “I know with (Thomas) on my line, I am always looking to get him or Marchy (Jonathan Audy-Marchessault) the puck as quick as possible. I think he is coming along well, but obviously it is a learning process this late in the year.”
Thomas enjoys playing on the top-line with Newbury, and he also enjoys playing with Audy-Marchessault, who was on his line during the 2011 Traverse City Prospect Tournament.
“I played last year’s Traverse City Tournament with him, I was on his line a couple of times…he’s a great player to play with, so hopefully I can keep playing with him,” said Thomas.
Whale’ head coach Ken Gernander was happy with the performances that Thomas and Moses had on Friday, and he hopes that the two forwards will continue to contribute on the score-sheet during the post-season.
The Whale also received a goal from Hrivik, 20, on Wednesday during a 2-1 loss to the Portland Pirates. Hrivik scored his first pro goal late in the game, when he banked a shot off the back of Portland’ goaltender Peter Mannino and into the Pirates net.
Shane McColgan, Andrew Yogan (injured) and Peter Ceresnak are the only players on ATO’s that have yet to score this season. Yogan already scored his first pro goal last season with the Whale, and McColgan will have his opportunity to do so against the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday. Ceresnak has not played a game with the Whale yet.
Follow me on twitter for more Whale coverage @NickPerri_SNYRB
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.