Down to their last seven regular season games, the Adirondack Thunder were hoping to build off a 3-0 weekend sweep—and finally take over first place in the North Division—as they headed to Manchester for a two game set against the first place Monarchs.
One series split later, they find themselves in the same exact spot they started. They are still two points out, but they have inched closer to securing an invite to the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Friday, 3/23: Manchester 5, Adirondack 0
Olivier Mantha would get the starting nod as the Thunder and Monarchs would kick off round one on Friday evening.
Adirondack had a couple of new faces making their professional debuts after signing amateur tryout agreements earlier in the week:
-Forward Bo Pieper joins the Thunder after finishing off four years at Quinnipiac. The Minnesota native had 11 goals and 7 assists in 38 appearances this season.
-Also joining the Thunder is forward Ryan Schmelzer, who served as captain for Canisius. In his senior season, the Buffalo native had 13 goals and 17 assists in 32 games for the Golden Griffs.
They take the roster spots of forward John Edwardh, who rejoined Binghamton after two appearances, and forward Alfred Larsson, who was released after not dressing for a single contest.
Manchester would be first on the board midway through the opening period, as goals by Spencer Watson and Matt Schmalz 11 seconds apart would put the Thunder behind 2-0. On the Monarchs’ first power play in the second, Watson would score his second of the day to put the hosts up 3-0.
Manchester was not done pouring it on, adding two more goals in the third. Michael Doherty and Ryan Lough would score 3:17 apart for a commanding 5-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Thunder offense was unable to get anything past Monarchs goaltender Evan Cowley, despite outshooting Manchester 34-24. The loss marked only the second time all season the Thunder were shutout, and taking first place was back on hold for another day.
Mantha would finish with 19 saves on 24 shots.
3. Ryan Lough (MAN) 1 goal
2. Spencer Watson (MAN) 2 goals
1. Evan Cowley (MAN) 34 saves
Saturday, 3/24: Adirondack 5, Manchester 3
For the rematch on Saturday, a few lineup changes:
-Drew Fielding would take over in net.
-Blake Thompson would swap places with rookie Adam Larkin on defense.
-Taking over for Paul Rodrigues was another amateur tryout signing, forward Mike Szmatula from Minnesota. He appeared in 38 games this season for the Golden Gophers, scoring 9 goals and adding 6 assists.
-Also, MILESTONE ALERT:
Now, on to the game action. This time, the tables would be turned.
On the Thunder’s second power play opportunity late in the first, a double milestone: Schmelzer would score his first professional goal, with Szmatula getting his first assist, putting the Thunder up 1-0.
Kenton Miller would double the Thunder lead 3 minutes into the middle frame with his 24th goal overall, and 3rd with Adirondack.
29 seconds later...extracurriculars happened. We’ll let the Monarchs Gameday Twitter crew sort this out.
The answer is 3.— Monarchs Game Day (@MonarchsGameDay) March 24, 2018
Derek Pratt just fed a guy too many punches to count. He goes for fighting.
Iverson and Wood join him for roughing.
*takes a deep breath*
For ADK: 2 goes for roughing and a misconduct. 10 goes for fighting. 12 goes for roughing.
While four of his teammates were in the box (another penalty would be called 59 seconds later), Ashton Rome would cut the Thunder lead in half.
The second half of the middle period would be all Adirondack. Or, should we say, all Shane Conacher and Troy Bourke, as the two linemates combined for 6 points in 4:45. Conacher would score twice in a span of 2:12, assisted by Bourke both times, for a 4-1 Thunder lead.
Bourke would finish off the period with his 8th goal on a power play (assisted, of course, by Conacher) for a 5-1 Thunder lead after 40 minutes.
However, the Monarchs were not about to go away quietly, scoring twice in the third. Jared Kolquist would score his first 6:49 in to make it 5-2. Doherty would score his 18th with 1:53 to play to make it interesting, but the Thunder would hold off the rally the rest of the way. They earned the split and finished the weekend in the same position they started: two points behind Manchester.
Fielding would finish with 35 saves on 38 shots. Desmond Bergin added two assists.
1. Jared Kolquist (MAN) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Troy Bourke (ADK) 1 goal, 2 assists
1. Shane Conacher (ADK) 2 goals, 1 assist
Goals: Brian Ward, 28
Assists: Shane Conacher, 41
Points: Shane Conacher, 58
Plus/Minus: Shane Conacher, +20
Penalty Minutes: Mike Bergin, 109
Wins: Drew Fielding, 17
Goals Against Average: Olivier Mantha, 2.78
Save Percentage: Olivier Mantha, .907
ECHL North Division Standings:
(as of 3/25/18)
- x-Manchester: 66 GP, 40-21-3-2, 85 points
- Adirondack: 67 GP, 38-22-3-4, 83 points
- Reading: 66 GP, 35-23-8-0, 78 points
- Wheeling: 67 GP, 33-25-8-1, 75 points
- Worcester: 65 GP, 31-26-4-4, 70 points
- Brampton: 67 GP, 26-31-6-4, 62 points
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
Since the last update on Tuesday, South Carolina, Orlando, and Idaho have secured their spots. Manchester became the first North team to clinch after Worcester lost in regulation on Saturday to Reading. Adirondack can be next as early as Wednesday: a single point over Worcester will do it.
For the rest of the North Division (author’s note: these are rough estimates):
Reading: 8 with 6 games remaining
Wheeling: 10 with 5 games remaining
Worcester may sit 5 points back of the fourth spot, but with more games left to play than anyone else in the division with 7, there’s still a chance. Brampton kept a slim shot alive with a Sunday afternoon overtime win over Indy, but the Beast will need a miracle at this point.
Three games on tap for the Thunder, as they have reached the penultimate week of the regular season.
Wednesday, they head east to Worcester, with the chance to clinch a playoff spot. After a rare Friday night off, Adirondack returns to the Cool Insuring Arena for a pair of games: Saturday night against Reading, and a special Easter Sunday afternoon tilt against the Railers.