Returning home to Glens Falls after taking a 2-1 lead in their first round series against the Worcester Railers, the Adirondack Thunder hoped to avoid a return trip to central Massachusetts by taking games 4 and 5.
After pushing Worcester to the brink of elimination on Wednesday, the Thunder allowed the Railers to jump back into the series on Saturday after blowing what looked like an insurmountable three goal lead. But, the “Red Army” would get back into formation, and finally finish off the first round in 6 games.
Game 4, Wednesday, April 18th: Adirondack 2, Worcester 1
Back on home ice, the Thunder looked to take a 3 to 1 lead in Game 4 of the series.
One Adirondack lineup change from Game 3: defenseman Colton White returned from Binghamton, who finished their season on Sunday. He would take over for Blake Thompson, who joined the reserve list.
The goaltending matchup would be the same as Game 3: Mackenzie Blackwood vs. Eamon McAdam.
The Thunder would get off to a good start in the opening period, taking a 1-0 lead 8:07 into the contest. A shot off the stick of Ryan Schmelzer from the corner would take a bounce off the skate of Worcester’s Matt Gaudreau and into the net, resulting in the second goal of the postseason for the rookie forward.
But the question is......did he call bank?— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 18, 2018
Schmelzer's shot redirects off of a Worcester defenseman and in for the game's first goal! pic.twitter.com/vyC9QJS8YJ
Worcester would tie the game up 11:12 into the second period. On their second power play of the night, Barry Almeida would score his second goal of the series to make it a 1-1 game. The Thunder would quickly respond, as Brian Ward scored his third goal 1:32 later to put Adirondack up 2-1.
The Thunder had a chance to extend their lead in the third with 1:42 of 5 on 3 time but were unable to get any offense going. As it turned out, with Blackwood on his game once again, it wasn’t needed. He would stop 28 of 29 Railer shots, pushing the first-year expansion team one game away from elimination. Thunder captain Mike Bergin would assist on both Thunder goals.
3. Mike Bergin (ADK) 2 assists
2. Dylan Olsen (ADK) ???
1. Brian Ward (ADK) 1 goal
Game 5, Saturday, April 21st: Worcester 6, Adirondack 5
Back on home ice for Game 5, the Thunder hoped to finish off the Railers and prepare for the Division Finals against Manchester, who finished off a four game sweep of the Reading Royals on Wednesday.
Blackwood would again get the start for Adirondack, while Mitch Gillam returned to the Railers net after backing up Eamon McAdam for the last two games.
Apparently, the Railers were not ready to end their season just yet.
Just 35 seconds after opening puck drop, Josh Holmstrom would put the Railers ahead 1-0 with his first goal of the postseason. Over a minute later, Kellen Jones would crash the net and bowl over Blackwood, who was shaken up on the play. He was forced to leave the game in favor of Olivier Mantha, and would not return.
The sudden goaltender switch seemed to wake up the Thunder, who scored twice in a 1:03 span to take the lead. Schmelzer (3rd goal, on a power play) and Mike Bergin (1st all season long) both scored for a 2-1 advantage.
Game 5 of the #KellyCupPlayoffs when your team is leading the series 3-1 is a pretty good time to get your first goal of the season....just ask @ECHLThunder Captain Mike Bergin pic.twitter.com/whq1SYrKG5— ECHL (@ECHL) April 21, 2018
Shane Conacher would then get his first postseason goal with 7:46 remaining in the period for a 3-1 Thunder lead.
Adirondack continued to back Worcester into a corner as the second period got underway. Tim Harrison scored his 2nd postseason goal 5:49 in for a commanding 4-1 lead. That goal chased Gillam in favor of McAdam.
Yes, folks, it was 4-1. Sound familiar? Because that’s exactly where this game story is going.
In a span of 5:57 midway through the second, the Railers, needing a miracle to save their season, would get it. Goals by Nick Saracino, Gaudreau, and Matt Lane turned a 4-1 game into a 4-4 tie going into the final period.
The Thunder looked like they were going to recover from a disastrous second with a quick goal to start the third. Brian Ward scored his team leading fourth postseason goal to put Adirondack back up 5-4.
Once again, the Railers would answer and re-tie the game, as Saracino scored his second of the night to make it a 5-5 contest. Finally, with 5:58 remaining in regulation, and with Desmond Bergin sitting in the penalty box thanks to a phantom holding call, Saracino completed the hat trick on the ensuing power play. That also completed the Railers rally and the Thunder collapse. Adirondack tried late to re-tie the game, but to no avail. Worcester would live to see another day.
Working without a virtual safety net, Mantha would finish with 20 saves on 25 shots in about 57 minutes. Blackwood only had faced Holmstrom’s shot before his injury, believed to be his knee.
3. Brian Ward (ADK) 1 goal
2. Josh Holmstrom (WOR) 1 goal, 2 assists
1. Nick Saracino (WOR) 3 goals, 1 assist
Game 6, Monday, April 23rd: Adirondack 3, Worcester 1
Back east on the Mass Pike, the Thunder made their second attempt to close out the first round on Monday.
With Blackwood sidelined, Drew Fielding, who had spent the first five games playing assistant coach, would be activated from the reserve list. Pierre Luc Mercier would get back in the lineup, taking over for Miller. Mantha would get the start with hopes of redemption after his unexpected appearance on Saturday.
Unlike Game 5, Adirondack would get off to a good first period start. With Riley in the penalty box, Paul Rodrigues would get a shorthanded goal, his second of the postseason, 8:27 in for a 1-0 lead.
Forty-two seconds later, Worcester would answer and tie the game up at 1 on Almeida’s 3rd of the series. However, Adirondack wound finish the opening period on a positive note. With two seconds remaining, a shot off the stick of Desmond Bergin would bounce on the crossbar and just cross the goal line quick enough to count, putting the Thunder ahead 2-1.
After a relatively uneventful second period, Mantha and the Thunder would lock it down in the third. Mike Szmatula would add the empty netter with 45 seconds remaining to finish off the first round win for Adirondack.
Mantha had quite the turnaround compared to Saturday’s performance, as he stopped 27 of 28 shots. Ah, the feeling of redemption...
3. Olivier Mantha (ADK) 27 saves
2. Barry Almeida (WOR) 1 goal
1. Desmond Bergin (ADK) 1 goal
ADD: D Colton White, reassigned from Binghamton 4/17
Adirondack will now face Manchester in the North Division Finals, and hot off the press, here’s your schedule:
Game 1: Friday, April 27th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 2: Saturday, April 28th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 3: Tuesday, May 1st @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 4: Thursday, May 3rd @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM
Game 5: Sunday, May 6th @ Manchester, 6:00 PM*
Game 6: Monday, May 7th @ Manchester, 7:00 PM*
Game 7: Wednesday, May 9th @ Adirondack, 7:00 PM*
So I’m sure you’re wondering, how is it that the Thunder get 5 out of 7 home games, with the remote chance the series may never even make it to New Hampshire? The Monarchs’ home building, SNHU Arena, has Monster Jam scheduled for the last weekend in April, then Jim Gaffigan comes in on May 5th. Manchester had the same problem last season when they faced the Thunder in the first round—due to the circus, they only played Game 1 in New Hampshire, with the rest of the series in Glens Falls.