Every weekend series for the Adirondack Thunder is a big one, and this past weekend’s final 3 in 3 of the season was no exception. With 10 games left, the Thunder was sitting two points out of first place in the North Division. They would have luck on their side, winning all three by a similar 3-2 score and setting up a first place battle with Manchester starting on Friday.
Before we get started, the ECHL had a few announcements regarding the 2018-19 season on Tuesday:
-The Quad City Mallards, who currently sit in last place in the Central Division, will cease operations at the end of the season. A former opponent of the Adirondack IceHawks in the United Hockey League era, Quad City joined the ECHL in 2014 after the Central Hockey League, consisting of other former United league cities, folded.
-Two new teams, both former AHL cities, will join the league in 2018-19. Portland, who was without a league after the Pirates relocated to Springfield following the 2015-16 season, will be home to the Maine Mariners. St. John’s will field a team after losing their AHL franchise, the IceCaps, following the 2016-17 season. It is believed they will be affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently use Orlando as their ECHL affiliate.
-With one team leaving and two new franchises joining, realignment of divisions was in order. Here are the 2018-19 divisional setups:
North: Adirondack, Brampton, Maine, Manchester, Reading, St. John’s, Worcester.
South: Atlanta, Florida, Greenville, Jacksonville, Norfolk, Orlando, South Carolina.
Central: Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, Indy, Kalamazoo, Toledo, Wheeling.
Mountain: Allen, Idaho, Kansas City, Rapid City, Tulsa, Utah, Wichita
Friday, 3/16: Adirondack 3, Fort Wayne 2 (OT)
The weekend began Friday night on home ice, as the Komets made their only trip to Glens Falls this season.
The Thunder added two more amateur tryouts to the roster: forward John Edwardh from UMass-Lowell, and Merrimack College forward Alfred Larsson. Also, defenseman Adam Larkin had his amateur agreement turn into a standard player contract.
Larkin would celebrate accordingly in the first period, scoring his first professional goal 11:13 into the contest for a 1-0 Thunder lead.
Fort Wayne would jump ahead by a goal early in the second period, as Bobby Shea and Russell Jordan scored 1:08 apart on Thunder goaltender Olivier Mantha to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
Adirondack would respond early in the third, as Brian Ward scored his 26th goal 3:44 in to tie the game at 2.
It was off to overtime again for the Thunder. With less than a minute remaining, Shane Conacher would send everyone home happy with his 15th goal for a 3-2 win.
Oooooooooh that hesitation for the game winner pic.twitter.com/VaGS8Yc8Yo— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 17, 2018
Mantha survived a shaky second period and finished with 25 saves for his second win since arriving in Glens Falls. Troy Bourke assisted on all three Thunder tallies.
3. Bobby Shea (FTW) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Adam Larkin (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Shane Conacher (ADK) GWG
Saturday, 3/17: Adirondack 3, Wheeling 2 (OT)
Less than 24 hours later, the Thunder were back at it for a special St. Patrick’s Day afternoon matchup against the Nailers. Drew Fielding would get the start in net, while Tim Harrison sat in favor of Austin Orszulak.
Wheeling would take a 1-0 lead with 3:37 remaining in the opening period on a goal by Reid Gardiner. However, Adirondack would answer with the tying goal 3:08 into the second on Ward’s 27th of the season.
Brian Ward scored 27 goals last season. He taps this one in for his 27th this season to tie the game at one! pic.twitter.com/tvxAWnw6eH— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 17, 2018
Early in the third, Troy Josephs would put the Nailers ahead 2-1 with his 13th goal. The Thunder would again answer less than two minutes later, as Ward scored his second of the day to re-tie the game at 2.
But that celly though...
For the third straight game, the Thunder had to work overtime. And it only took Desmond Bergin 20 seconds to end it with his 14th goal for another come from behind win.
Fielding would finish with 31 saves for his team leading 16th win of the season. Five Adirondack skaters would each have an assist.
3. Troy Josephs (WHL) 1 goal
2. Desmond Bergin (ADK) GWG
1. Brian Ward (ADK) 2 goals
Sunday, 3/18: Adirondack 3, Brampton 2
It was back to Canada on Sunday afternoon, as the Thunder squared off against the Beast.
Only one lineup change from Saturday: Mantha was back in the net.
In the opening period, Brampton’s Brandon Marino would put the home team on the board 4:22 in. But just 11 seconds later, Orszulak would score his 5th to tie the game at 1.
Brampton led for 11 seconds.......and then this happened pic.twitter.com/g52uER9Ds6— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 18, 2018
The Thunder would jump ahead 2-1 late in the period on Kenton Miller’s 23rd goal of the season on a power play.
Big Blast from Brods and we've got the lead! pic.twitter.com/hzF2IogTir— Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 18, 2018
After a scoreless second period, the Thunder picked up an important goal midway through the third. Bergin would score for the second straight day, on the man advantage, to give Adirondack a 3-1 lead.
Brampton would pull to within 3-2 with 3:44 left in regulation, but the Thunder would shut the Beast down the rest of the way to finish off a perfect 3-0 weekend, and pull into a first place tie with Manchester in the division.
Mantha won his second start of the weekend with 32 saves on 34 shots. Similar to Saturday, five skaters would each pick up an assist.
3. Olivier Mantha (ADK) 32 saves
2. Brandon MacLean (BRM) 1 goal
1. Brandon Marino (BRM) 1 goal
Goals: Brian Ward, 28
Assists: Shane Conacher, 40
Points: Shane Conacher, 55
Plus/Minus: Shane Conacher, +20
Penalty Minutes: Mike Bergin, 88
Wins: Drew Fielding, 16
Goals Against Average: Olivier Mantha, 2.34
Save Percentage: Olivier Mantha, .925
ECHL North Division Standings:
(as of 3/18/18)
- Manchester: 63 GP, 38-20-3-2, 81 points
- Adirondack: 65 GP, 37-21-3-4, 81 points
- Reading: 63 GP, 34-21-8-0, 76 points
- Wheeling: 64 GP, 31-25-7-1, 70 points
- Worcester: 62 GP, 30-25-4-3, 67 points
- Brampton: 64 GP, 24-30-6-4, 58 points
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
Since the last update, Fort Wayne and Colorado have clinched playoff spots in the west. After Sunday’s action, here are the North magic numbers:
Manchester: 7 with 9 games remaining
Adirondack: 7 with 7 games remaining
Reading: 12 with 9 games remaining
Wheeling: 18 with 8 games remaining
Worcester’s elimination number is 18 with 10 games to go, and Brampton’s is 5 with 8 games remaining.
Manchester burns off one game Wednesday night when they host Reading, then it’s a first place showdown between the Thunder and Monarchs in New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday. By the end of next week, depending on what happens, at least one of these teams may have their playoff ticket punched.