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New York Islanders’ Thomas Hickey Proving Doubters Wrong

New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey netted another game-winning goal on Sunday night.

It was never supposed to be like this.

Thomas Hickey, the New York Islanders’ undersized second pair defenseman, was supposed to do exactly what Isles fans had wanted him to do: spend the 2015-16 season on the bench in favor of more well-rounded blue-liners such as Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield.

At least those were the thoughts of the fanbase when Isles GM Garth Snow inked the 6’0″, 184 pound defenseman to a three-year deal over the offseason. And while there still remain many skeptical of his play (many, including some of my schoolmates, believe that his back-check and lack of size have plagued him), there’s a bevy of evidence that suggests otherwise.

I know some fans like to cite Hickey’s size (or lack thereof) as a reason why he’s not worth extending. I couldn’t disagree more. For a third pairing defenseman, Hickey provides a ton of value. Not only is he very steady on the blue line, but he can get involved in the rush and score the rogue goal. What more do you really need out of a fifth-sixth defenseman? Hickey is familiar with the system and, very quietly, provides the Islanders quality minutes. I’m very happy to keep him around, especially at an AAV of $2-2.5 million.

Brian Erni, Islanders Point Blank

Hickey netted the biggest goal of his life last night when the Isles defeated the Rink Rats in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead. That came just two weeks after he scored a playoff-clinching goal against the Washington Capitals.

“I’m coming out of my blackout now,” Hickey said less than 10 minutes after scoring. “Hopefully, there are bigger ones to come.”

“There’s not a guy who plays as big as Thomas Hickey,” Isles head coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s always good to see a guy like that get rewarded.”

Brock Nelson set up Hickey for the game-winning goal. Hickey was spotted screaming “BROCK!” after he lit the lamp to give the Isles the 2-1 series lead.

(Skip to the :40 mark for the Hickey goal)

Isles fans created a surreal atmosphere at the team’s new home on Sunday night. While it’s tough to recreate the ambiance of the Ol’ Barn on Hempstead Turnpike, the Barc came pretty close.

“The fans were intense,” rasped Capuano of the Barclay’s Center crowd in Game 3. He admitted the decibel level had caused him to lose his voice a bit through the course of the game.

“In a playoff series like this you’re going to need your fans to be the sixth man and that’s exactly what they were tonight. It was loud.”

The shift in momentum was evident after a disallowed Aaron Ekblad goal early in the second period.

“The turning point was calling that goal back to make it 2-0,” said Islanders forward Shane Prince, who scored his first career Stanley Cup playoff goal during that insane second period. “And then the fans propelled us to a comeback.”

“I think it was amazing,” added Ryan Pulock, who scored shortly after the disallowed goal, unleashing pure euphoria at Barclay’s. “I was able to watch games in (Nassau Coliseum) last year and that was special, but I think today it was pretty darn close to the (Coliseum). They were loud, they were involved from start to finish.

“They definitely helped us get some of the momentum back.”

NEXT: The Decision That Altered The Dynamic Of The New York Islanders-Florida Panthers Series

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.