By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
He had been waiting more than seven weeks to play a game, what with an on-hold junior season, his not yet being ready to play in the NHL and COVID-19 quarantine protocols.
So when Jack Quinn finally got on the ice on Thursday night with the Rochester Americans, he made sure it was well worth the wait.
Quinn, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres, assisted on one goal and scored a sensational shootout goal as the Amerks defeated the Utica Comets 4-3 at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.
“I don’t think he’s going to play here very long,” said Amerks center Jean-Sebastien Dea, who scored one goal plus another in the shootout. “He’s got all the assets to be a great NHL player.”
In avenging an opening loss to the Comets, the Amerks (3-1) ran their winning streak to three while Utica fell to 3-2.
Outshot 38-27, the Amerks weren’t at their best, but did find a way to tie the game on Fogerty’s power-play goal with 5:55 remaining, then win it in the shootout.
“To be a good hockey team you need to find ways to win when you’re not at your best,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said. “I think that wasn’t our best but you have to give the opponent credit. They’re a hard forechecking team. I like the way that team plays.”
He likes the way the 19-year-old Quinn can play as well.
“That wasn’t an easy game to come into,” Appert said of Quinn’s indoctrination to pro hockey. “That was a game for men. It was nasty, it was physical.”
Quinn admitted he was a little tentative early, having not been in game action since winning a silver medal with Canada in the the World Junior Championship on Jan. 5.
“It was a bit of a wakeup call for me having not played,” Quinn said. “There were some big guys out there.”
But he showed some flashes of talent during the second and third period and dazzled in the shootout with a fake shot, fake drag and then tuck into the net on the forehand past goalie Jon Gillies.
“Jon Gillies is a really good goalie and for Jack to handle the moment, the pressure in his first pro game, I thought that said a lot about him,” Appert said.
C.J. Smith and Dea also scored while only Utica’s Sam Anas beat Luukkonen. But while the Sabres know Quinn will crack their lineup in the near future, second-year Amerks winger Brett Murray is showing he may very well have NHL potential.
While scoring has been his thing growing up, his 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame is what is going to get him into the NHL, and he used it well on Thursday by being strong on the wall, barging to the net and delivering a big hit or two.
“We love the way Brett’s playing right now, he’s really growing week by week,” Appert said. “The organization needs him to be a mean, tenacious, tough power forward.
“Physicality and physical intimidation are still important in this game.”
Murray is showing he’s capable of bringing that. Of course, high-end skill is nice too, and Quinn showed he has that.