Well, friends, we made it to the end of the regular season.
With a postseason spot clinched, the Adirondack Thunder had two games left to determine what position they would be in as the regular season came to an end on Sunday.
With two wins, the Thunder would clinch the division for the second straight season, and now they must prepare to face a tough four seed in the expansion Worcester Railers in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Friday, 4/6: Adirondack 3, Manchester 2
The penultimate regular season game—and also the home regular season finale—featured yet another 1 vs. 2 matchup, as the Thunder once again had a chance to jump back into first place over the visiting Monarchs.
For the occasion, the Thunder sported special black jerseys, to be raffled off to fans postgame.
Before puck drop, the Thunder announced their team awards for 2017-18:
-Defenseman of the Year: Desmond Bergin
-Unsung Hero: Drew Fielding
-Community Service: James Henry
-Fan Favorite: Tim Harrison
-Team MVP: Brian Ward
On to the game!
Mackenzie Blackwood drew his second straight start since returning from Binghamton last weekend, while a few regulars such as Mathieu Brodeur got the night off.
It didn’t take long for the Thunder to get on the board. Shane Conacher would score his 20th goal 7:53 into the first for a 1-0 advantage.
Just taaaaaaaaaaaaap it in! pic.twitter.com/uwukSK3RPN— x - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 6, 2018
The Monarchs would tie the game at 1 with 5:59 left in the opening period on Spencer Watson’s 25th goal of the season.
Adirondack looked to put the game away with a pair of goals in the second period. Matthew Spencer would score his second 6:27 into the middle frame to put the Thunder ahead 2-1. On a power play 1:12 later, Paul Rodrigues picked up his 11th for a 3-1 Adirondack lead.
That wrister and that celly. Both . pic.twitter.com/2MKH7jIlOo— x - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 7, 2018
Manchester was not about to go away quietly in the third period. They would hold the Thunder to just 3 shots on goal, and put up 17 on Blackwood. One of those shots, off the stick of Cory Ward with 1:22 remaining in regulation, would find its way into the goal and cut the Thunder lead to 3-2.
But Adirondack would hang on the rest of the way, and officially clinch home ice for the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs. With the win they would jump back into first place in the North.
Blackwood finished with 37 saves on 39 shots. Aaron Titcomb, the latest amateur tryout to join the Thunder, picked up his first professional point with an assist on Conacher’s goal.
3. Matthew Spencer (ADK) 1 goal
2. Shane Conacher (ADK) 1 goal
1. Mackenzie Blackwood (ADK) 37 saves
The Thunder may have had the day off as they traveled to Brampton, but two notes to pass along:
Apparently en route to Canada, the Thunder bus made a pit stop: forward Troy Bourke was recalled by the Crunch, and made just his second AHL appearance of the season on Saturday in Syracuse’s 1-0 home win over Utica.
Also, the Thunder announced a wonderful initiative to honor the Humboldt Broncos.
We are #HumboldtSTRONG.— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 7, 2018
We're offering Game 1 Tickets - Friday, 4/13 @ 7 PM - for $15 and we will donate 20% of all proceeds raised through this link to the Humboldt Hockey players & families in light of yesterday's tragedy.
TICKETS: https://t.co/ydMZ02AN4o pic.twitter.com/3pIasFv7Cb
Stick taps to the Thunder players themselves, as they put money on the board prior to Sunday’s game.
Sunday, 4/8: Adirondack 6, Brampton 2
The mission in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Beast was an easy one for the Thunder. Win, and they clinch the division. Lose, and hope Manchester dropped their finale to Worcester.
Blackwood was named the starter, but in a creative way to get him his fifth game to make him eligible for the playoff roster, he would be pulled after the first whistle to make way for Olivier Mantha to get some work in. Mantha had not appeared since a 5-0 loss to Manchester back on March 23rd.
The teams would trade goals in the opening period. Vince Dunn would open the scoring 14:29 in with his 9th goal for a 1-0 Brampton lead. Terrence Wallin would become the 4th Adirondack skater to break the 20 goal mark, picking up the tying goal with 49 second remaining in the first.
Ward ➡️ Wallin ties us up heading into the second period! pic.twitter.com/i3QddDVXeG— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 8, 2018
The Adirondack offense would explode for three goals in the second period. While shorthanded, Henry would score his 19th to break the 1-1 tie.
Henry buries the 2-on-1 dish from Mercier and we've got our first lead of the evening! pic.twitter.com/NybsLciWIc— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 8, 2018
With 5:13 to go in the period, franchise history was made: Ward became the first Thunder player in franchise history to break the 30 goal mark. In the process he extended the Thunder lead to two.
Pierre-Luc Mercier would finish off the period with an amazing from his stomach play for his 17th of the year, putting the Thunder up 4-1.
This GIF doesn’t do it justice. Let’s go to the video.
Dunn would score his second of the game 6:46 into the third to cut the Thunder lead to 4-2. Wallin would respond with his second of the night, and 21st of the season, to restore the three goal cushion. Austin Orszulak would finish off the regular season in style, scoring his 6th into an empty net, to finish off the win...and the North Division title.
Mantha picked up his fourth win since joining the Thunder, finishing with 34 saves. Blackwood had one save in 42 seconds. Henry and Wallin both finished with three points each, Mercier and Ward each added assists, and three others had one helper.
3. Terrence Wallin (ADK) 2 goals, 1 assist
2. Vincent Dunn (BRM) 2 goals
1. Alex Foster (BRM)—he didn’t figure in the scoring, so...(shrug emoji)
Meanwhile, a few hours later in Syracuse...Bourke would score his first AHL goal of the season—against his Thunder teammate Ken Appleby. Not awkward at all.
ADD: D Matthew Spencer, reassigned by Syracuse 4/4
DELETE: F Troy Bourke, recalled to Syracuse 4/7
Final Regular Season Team Leaders:
Games: James Henry, 72 (the lone Thunder player to appear in every game)
Goals: Brian Ward, 30
Assists: Shane Conacher, 43
Points: Shane Conacher, 63
Power Play Goals: James Henry/Kenton Miller, 6
Shorthanded Goals: James Henry, 4
Plus/Minus: Shane Conacher, +22
Penalty Minutes: Mike Bergin, 111
Wins: Drew Fielding, 17
Goals Against Average: Mackenzie Blackwood, 2.48
Save Percentage: Mackenzie Blackwood, .920
Shutouts: Drew Fielding, 2
ECHL North Division Standings:
- xy-Adirondack: 41-24-3-4, 89 points
- x-Manchester: 41-25-3-3, 88 points
- x-Reading: 39-24-9-0, 87 points
- x-Worcester: 37-27-4-4, 82 points
- Wheeling: 35-28-8-1, 79 points
- Brampton: 28-34-6-4, 66 points
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
The field of 16 is set for the postseason. Here are the first round matchups:
North: (1) Adirondack vs. (4) Worcester; (2) Manchester vs. (3) Reading
South: (1) Florida vs. (4) Atlanta; (2) South Carolina vs. (3) Orlando
Central: (1) Toledo vs. (4) Indy; (2) Fort Wayne vs. (3) Cincinnati
Mountain: (1) Colorado vs. (4) Wichita; (2) Idaho vs. (3) Allen
First Round Playoff Schedule:
The Thunder will be taking on the red hot Worcester Railers, who took 6 of 7 down the stretch to surpass Wheeling for the final playoff spot. During the regular season, Adirondack finished with a 4-5-0-3 record in the season series, including dropping the last two matchups.
Here is the full first round schedule:
Game 1: Friday, April 13th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 2: Saturday, April 14th @ Worcester, 7:05 PM
Game 3: Sunday, April 15th @ Worcester, 5:05 PM
Game 4: Wednesday, April 18th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 5: Saturday, April 21st @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM*
Game 6: Monday, April 23rd @ Worcester, 7:05 PM*
Game 7: Wednesday, April 25th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM*
The countdown to 16 wins begins Friday night!