With only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, it’s time for the Adirondack Thunder to get into playoff position.
After tasting first place for a few hours last weekend, the team looked to jump back into the penthouse with three big weekend games.
Three points out of six later, the Thunder find themselves again in that familiar runner up position—but closer to getting that postseason invite.
Friday, 3/9: Manchester 5, Adirondack 4
First place in the North Division was once again on the line to start the weekend slate, as the Thunder and Monarchs would clash for the third straight game. This time, the contest would shift to Glens Falls. After a successful professional debut last Saturday in New Hampshire, Olivier Mantha would get the starting nod in net.
A few lineup changes since the last week:
-After a two game stint with Providence, Brian Ward returned to Adirondack on Tuesday.
-At the ECHL trade deadline on Thursday, forward Andrew Radjenovic was traded to Rapid City for forward Kenton Miller.
-Yale University defenseman Adam Larkin, a cousin of Dylan Larkin, was signed to an amateur tryout on Friday.
Ward celebrated his return to the Thunder with two goals in the first 8:54 of the contest, his second coming on a power play, for a quick 2-0 Thunder lead.
The only thing better than an early Brian Ward goal is a SECOND early Brian Ward goal! pic.twitter.com/5ek6FR2FJX— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 10, 2018
Manchester would cut the Thunder lead in half with 7:34 remaining in the first on a Michael Doherty goal. However, the top line would respond just under three minutes later, as Troy Bourke’s 7th goal would restore the two goal cushion.
Manchester would again cut the Adirondack lead to one early in the second period thanks to a shorthanded goal by Matt Schmalz. Then, in a span of 27 seconds late in the period, both sides would trade power play goals. Paul Rodrigues would again restore a two goal Thunder lead with his 10th of the season.
Within 27 seconds, the Thunder would end up shorthanded, and Rob Hamilton would score quickly on the ensuing power play to make it 4-3 Adirondack heading into the third.
The Monarchs would continue on the comeback trail in the final period. Cory Ward’s 6th goal of the season came at 6:34 and would tie the game up at 4. Schmalz would finish off the rally with his second goal of the night with 7:39 remaining in regulation for the Monarchs’ first lead of the night. Adirondack tried for the equalizer late, but were unable to re-tie it, and would again fall three points out of first place.
Mantha did well despite the score, finishing with 26 saves. Mathieu Brodeur and Dylan Olsen would each have two assists.
3. Rob Hamilton (MAN) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Brian Ward (ADK) 2 goals
1. Matt Schmalz (MAN) 2 goals
Saturday, 3/10: Adirondack 4, Norfolk 1
With Manchester idle, the Thunder had a golden opportunity to get back to within one point of the Monarchs as they played host to the Admirals.
It was another specialty jersey game for Adirondack, this time in honor of Law Enforcement Appreciation Night.
It's Law Enforcement Appreciation Night! Join us tonight at the CIA as we honor all of our officers that serve our community with these special Law Enforcement Appreciation jerseys, that will be auctioned off after the game - All jersey proceeds will benefit Special Olympics NY! pic.twitter.com/UKunBcEAQX— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 10, 2018
As is the custom, all jerseys were auctioned off postgame, with the proceeds going to Special Olympics NY.
Only one lineup change for Adirondack: Drew Fielding would get the start in net.
It didn’t take long for the Thunder to jump ahead in the opening period. Olsen would score his 5th of the season 6:57 in for a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Shane Conacher would pick up goal #13, doubling the Thunder lead 3:25 in.
Tim Harrison would then add his 8th goal on a power play for a 3-0 Adirondack advantage.
Not so tiny Tim with his eighth of the season to put us ahead by three! pic.twitter.com/HQB9PQ9FN1— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 11, 2018
Norfolk would finally get on the board midway through the third, cutting the Thunder lead to 3-1 with a Christian Horn goal. But, Conacher would seal the win with a late empty netter, and Adirondack would again sit one point behind Manchester for first place.
Lost in all the offense was an outstanding night in goal for Fielding. He picked up his 15th win of the season, and stopped a season high 45 shots, including this one:
Drewwwwwwwwwww with the right toe as we take a 3-0 lead into the third! pic.twitter.com/FsOsly2vbE— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 11, 2018
Six different Thunder skaters would have at least one assist.
3. Shane Conacher (ADK) 2 goals
2. Dylan Olsen (ADK) 1 goal
1. Drew Fielding (ADK) 45 saves
Sunday, 3/11: Worcester 3, Adirondack 2 (SO)
To finish up the weekend, the Thunder headed east to Massachusetts to take on the Railers. Meanwhile, 71 miles to the north in New Hampshire, the Monarchs played host to Norfolk, and first place in the North would again be up for grabs.
Mantha would get the nod in net, while Miller made his Adirondack debut, taking Austin Orszulak’s spot in the lineup.
Apparently driving 30 hours from South Dakota to the East Coast helps your goal scoring capabilities. Miller would get a goal in his debut, scoring 6:14 into the contest for a 1-0 Thunder advantage.
Worcester would tie the game up 1:27 into the middle period on a goal by Jeff Kubiak. But, Ward would answer with his 25th goal just over five minutes later to give Adirondack the lead back.
Tips are always welcomed! pic.twitter.com/47HEBI52OX— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 11, 2018
The Railers would answer once again, tying the game at 2 with 3:16 remaining in the period on Matt Lane’s 10th of the season.
After an uneventful third period and a quiet overtime, it was on to the shootout round. What a shootout round it was.
The first three rounds would not produce a goal on either side. In the fourth round, Worcester’s Frankie DiChiara would connect, but Terrence Wallin would score for the Thunder to keep the game going.
Seven rounds later, Mike Cornell would finally figure out Mantha and score. Mike Bergin had a chance to extend the game even further, but would be denied, giving the Railers the extra point.
Mantha’s third outing was much improved over Friday night. He finished with 34 saves in 65 minutes, plus an additional 10 shootout saves. Four Thunder skaters had one assist each.
And with Manchester winning in overtime...one step up, two steps back yet again.
3. Mitch Gillam (WOR) 28 saves
2. Jeff Kubiak (WOR) 1 goal
1. Mike Cornell (WOR) GW SOG
Goals: Brian Ward, 25
Assists: Shane Conacher, 37
Points: Shane Conacher, 51
Plus/Minus: Shane Conacher, +17
Penalty Minutes: Tim Harrison, 86
Wins: Drew Fielding, 15
Goals Against Average: Olivier Mantha, 2.62
Save Percentage: Olivier Mantha, .918
ECHL North Division Standings:
(as of 3/11/18)
- Manchester: 61 GP, 36-20-3-2, 77 points
- Adirondack: 62 GP, 34-21-3-4, 75 points
- Reading: 61 GP, 33-21-7-0, 73 points
- Wheeling: 62 GP, 31-24-6-1, 69 points
- Worcester: 59 GP, 27-25-4-3, 61 points
- Brampton: 61 GP, 23-28-6-4, 56 points
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
Three teams—Florida, South Carolina, and Toledo—have all clinched playoff spots. Much like the AHL, the top four teams in each division get into the postseason.
Now, looking at the North standings, the teams involved look pretty much set, barring a run by Worcester and/or a slump by Wheeling. If yours truly did the math correctly, the Thunder’s magic number to clinch a spot is 13. Manchester is at 11, Reading 15, and Wheeling 19. Brampton is mathematically still in it, but their elimination number sits at 10. Worcester’s elimination number sits at 19.
It’s another three-in-three weekend for the Thunder, as the team reaches the final 10 games of the regular season.
Friday night, Fort Wayne makes their lone visit to the North Country. Saturday afternoon, the Thunder will host Wheeling for a special St. Patrick’s Day matinee. Then, they hop the bus to Canada for a Sunday afternoon matchup against Brampton.
To give everyone an idea of the remaining Thunder schedule, here’s a quick opponent overview:
Manchester: 3 games remaining, 2 road, 1 home
Reading: 1 remaining at home
Wheeling: 1 remaining at home
Worcester: 2 remaining, 1 home, 1 road
Brampton: 2 remaining on road
Fort Wayne (only non divisional): 1 remaining at home
With half the games against potential playoff opponents, this stretch will show just how ready Adirondack is for a (hopefully) long postseason run.