Knights make a little hockey history

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On a night where American hockey history was relived, the Vegas Golden Knights decided to make some history of their own.

Gage Quinney became the first native-born Nevadan to play in the NHL as the 24-year-old Las Vegan was on the ice for the Knights in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Florida in front of 18,480.

The win gave Vegas a sweep of its five-game homestand and kept the Knights atop the Pacific Division with 74 points. 

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Quinney, whose dad Ken had played for the Las Vegas Thunder of the old International Hockey League, had been playing for the Knights’ AHL affiliate in Chicago when he got called up Friday after the Knights traded Cody Eakin to Winnipeg for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021. 

Quinney was there to see the pregame ceremony for the 40th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice when the United States came back to beat the Soviet Union 4-3 on Feb. 22, 1980 in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Americans won the gold medal two days later, defeating Finland, 4-2.

“The nerves weren’t too bad,” Quinney said afterward amid a phalanx of reporters in front of his locker. “I think I had a taste of it in the preseason games so I kinda knew what to expect. 

“My dad said to enjoy every second because you don’t know how long it’s going to be. I think it hit me during the (national) anthem that I’m here (in the NHL) and I’m the first Nevada-born plays to play for my hometown team. That’s kinda cool.”

Quinney had two shots in 9:06 of ice time Saturday. His best scoring attempt came in the second period when Nate Schmidt hit him in stride and he got free in the Florida zone. But his close-in attempt sailed wide. But he didn’t appear to be overwhelmed by the speed of physicality of the NHL and Knights coach Peter DeBoer was complementary of Quinney.

“I was real happy for him,” DeBoer said of Quinney, who drew two Florida penalties. “What a night. The first Nevada-born player to play in the NHL and for his hometown team. It’s an amazing story. 

“I thought he did a great job. He drew a couple of penalties and he had some real good shifts.”

The Knights got a pair of third-period goals from Reilly Smith, including an empty-net tally with 1:17 left after the Panthers had cut a 4-2 deficit to one on Aleksi Saarela’s goal 5:11 into the final period. The Knights challenged the goal, claiming goaltender interference, but the call stood and then the Knights had to kill off the delay of game penalty they were assessed for the unsuccessful challenge.

But they tightened up defensively when they had to and Smith, who now has 25 goals this season and is playing some of the best hockey of his career, said it’s all about everyone buying in to DeBoer’s system.

“We’re battling more, defending better, blocking shots, doing all those little things you need to do to win,” he said. “I think this homestead has given us more confidence. We played some very good teams and to go 5-0 is big.” 

How long will Quinney stay in the NHL? He acquitted himself well and if you’re a kid living in Las Vegas, you have a pretty good role model to emulate. 

“It took a long time and a lot of hard work to get here,” Quinney said. “I’m just going to keep playing and whatever happens happens. You can’t be bitter when guys go up. You’re happy for them and hope that everything works out when it’s your turn.”

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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