It was a glass is half full/half empty kind of week for the Adirondack Thunder as they reached the next to last week of their regular season schedule.
Sure, a 1-2 week is nothing to write home about. But, it was good enough for the Thunder to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. However, where they sit as the playoffs begin is still yet to be determined.
Wednesday, 3/28: Worcester 2, Adirondack 0
The Thunder’s first attempt to get into the playoffs came on Wednesday night. They headed east to Worcester to face the Railers, who were fighting for their postseason lives.
Adirondack would get a surprise addition to the roster. Goaltender Ken Appleby, who had started the season in Glens Falls as one half of the goaltending tandem with Nick Riopel before being recalled to Binghamton and New Jersey after trades and injuries inundated the Devils’ goaltending depth chart, was back with the team. He had been missing time due to injury. He would be given the start in net, with just one point needed to clinch.
Unfortunately, the Railers would have other ideas.
After a scoreless first period in which the Thunder would have three power plays and come up empty, the Railers would be first on the board 8:41 into the second. Nick Saracino’s 11th goal of the season would put Worcester up 1-0. Matt Lane would add an insurance goal with 3:05 remaining in regulation to double the Railer lead. The Thunder put up 27 shots on goaltender Mitch Gillam, but for the third time this season, and second in the last five days, they were unable to score. This put the playoff clinching celebration on hold.
Appleby took the loss in his first Thunder start of the season, stopping 28 of 30 shots.
3. Jake Randolph (WOR) 1 assist
2. Nick Saracino (WOR) 1 goal
1. Mitch Gillam (WOR) 27 saves
Friday, 3/30: CLINCH!
As the Thunder were enjoying a rare Friday night off, they also had to do a little scoreboard watching. Worcester played host to Brampton, while fourth place Wheeling headed to Toledo to face the Walleye. All that needed to happen was a loss from either Worcester or Wheeling and the Thunder were in. The Railers would win, but the Nailers would lose. Which means...
Saturday, 3/31: Adirondack 6, Reading 2
Back on home ice for the first time since St. Patrick’s Day, the Thunder would square off against the third place Royals. The Royals had also clinched a playoff spot the night before with a shootout win over Manchester, and, in part, to the Wheeling loss.
The Thunder would receive the services of defenseman Matthew Spencer, down from Syracuse for a planned brief stint.
Before the game, the team honored defenseman Mathieu Brodeur for 500 career professional games.
The #ADKThunder honored defenseman @mbrods62 prior to last night's game with a special, framed jersey in honor of him reaching the 500-game milestone last weekend. Congrats Brods! pic.twitter.com/MWinT5zJRN— x - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 1, 2018
Also before the game, a v. good pupper would drop the ceremonial first puck in honor of Pucks and Paws Night in Glens Falls. 13/10 approved.
Appleby would be back in the net for his second straight start.
The Royals would get on the board 2:01 into the contest on a goal by Steven Swavely. But Adirondack would get to work in a big way after that, scoring the next four goals.
On the first Thunder power play of the night, Ryan Schmelzer would score his second goal since coming to Adirondack to tie the game at 1.
Bourke ➡️ Schmelzer ➡️ Top Shelf! pic.twitter.com/IvrVXowpCQ— x - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) March 31, 2018
In a span of 48 seconds midway through the period, Troy Bourke (9th) and Brian Ward (29th) would put the Thunder up 3-1.
Finally, to finish out the opening period, the pregame honoree gets a goal of his own. Brodeur would pick up his 4th on a power play with 1.4 seconds remaining in the period for a 4-1 Thunder lead.
We interrupt this game recap for highlights of the first annual Thunder Wiener Dog Race!
WIENER DOG RACE! It was pretty much no contest. pic.twitter.com/kS9lNC4UFp— Tracey Lake (@trace_1114) March 31, 2018
Early in the second, the Royals would cut the Thunder lead to 4-2 on a goal by Nolan Zajac. Adirondack would respond eight seconds later, as Shane Conacher scored his 18th of the season for a 5-2 lead.
Conacher was not done scoring, however. He would get his second of the game, and 19th of the season, with 4:18 remaining in the period, putting Adirondack up 6-2 and chasing Royals goaltender Mark Dekanich in favor of Branden Komm.
We've got a sixth sense about this one pic.twitter.com/3zy4iJLvNG— x - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 1, 2018
After that, the rest of the night was very, well, uneventful. No goals, no penalties called. With the Thunder win, and a regulation loss by Manchester, Adirondack drew back to within a point of the Monarchs for first place in the North.
Appleby would finish with just 19 saves on 21 shots for his first win. The latest top line combination of Bourke, Conacher, and Schmelzer would combine for 10 points. Dylan Olsen would also add two assists.
3. Ryan Schmelzer (ADK) 1 goal, 2 assists
2. Shane Conacher (ADK) 2 goals, 1 assist
1. Troy Bourke (ADK) 1 goal, 3 assists
Sunday, 4/1: Worcester 4, Adirondack 1
There were a few storylines in play as the calendar turned to April on Easter Sunday. First, Adirondack had a chance to take over first place in the North once again with a win. Their opponent, Worcester, came in on a three game winning streak, and a win would push the Railers into fourth place in the North, one point ahead of Wheeling.
Another Devil goaltender would be between the pipes for this one. With Appleby heading back to Binghamton after two starts, Mackenzie Blackwood would return from the Southern Tier and get the start, his first in a Thunder uniform since early January.
On Worcester’s first power play of the day, Frankie DiChiara would score his 8th goal for a 1-0 Railers lead. The Thunder would answer 6:17 into the second period with their own power play goal, off the stick of Bourke, to tie the game at 1.
Worcester would take the lead back on another power play goal, as T.J. Syner would get his 9th with 4:05 to go in the middle period to go back up 2-1.
The Railers would put the game away for good in the third. DiChiara would get his second goal with 6:47 to go in regulation to give the Railers a two goal cushion, then Mike Cornell would add the empty netter with 10 seconds remaining to wrap up the win. The Thunder again blew a chance to take over first place.
Blackwood stopped 21 of 24 shots. Schmelzer and Conacher would have the only assists.
3. Mitch Gillam (WOR) 27 saves
2. Troy Bourke (ADK) 1 goal
1. Frankie DiChiara (WOR) 2 goals
ADD: G Ken Appleby, reassigned from Binghamton 3/28
DELETE: D Stephen Johnson, released 3/29
ADD: D Matthew Spencer, reassigned from Syracuse 3/31
DELETE: D Adam Larkin, released 3/31
ADD: G Mackenzie Blackwood, reassigned from Binghamton 3/31
DELETE: G Ken Appleby, recalled to Binghamton 4/1
DELETE: F Bo Pieper, released 4/1
ADD: D Aaron Titcomb, signed to ATO 4/1
DELETE: D Matthew Spencer, recalled to Syracuse 4/2
Goals: Brian Ward, 29
Assists: Shane Conacher, 43
Points: Shane Conacher, 62
Plus/Minus: Shane Conacher, +21
Penalty Minutes: Mike Bergin, 109
Wins: Drew Fielding, 17
Goals Against Average: Mackenzie Blackwood, 2.65
Save Percentage: Olivier Mantha, .907
ECHL North Division Standings:
(as of 4/1/18)
- x-Manchester: 69 GP, 40-23-3-3, 86 points
- x-Adirondack: 70 GP, 39-24-3-4, 85 points
- x-Reading: 69 GP, 37-24-8-0, 82 points
- Worcester: 69 GP, 35-26-4-4, 78 points
- Wheeling: 70 GP, 34-27-8-1, 77 points
- Brampton: 69 GP, 26-33-6-4, 62 points
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
With 10 days to go until the postseason begins, there are just five spots left in the playoff field. The entire South field is set: Florida, South Carolina, Orlando, and Atlanta are in. One spot remains in the North, which is currently occupied by Worcester, who have three games left. Wheeling, who sits one point behind, have two games left.
In the Central, Toledo (who have already clinched the division) and Fort Wayne have secured spots. Cincinnati sits in third, while Kalamazoo holds a one point lead over Indy for the fourth spot. The Fuel have four games remaining, the Wings 3.
Finally in the Mountain Division, Colorado and Idaho are in. There is a 3 point spread between teams 3-5—Allen, Wichita, and Tulsa—and while the Americans and Thunder each have three games left, the Oilers have four.
There are quite a few storylines to watch around the ECHL as the final week of the regular season gets underway.
As for Adirondack, just two games remain to determine what position they will be in come postseason.
It starts Friday night for the regular season home finale, as the Thunder take on Manchester with another chance to take over first place. Then, they travel to Brampton for the regular season finale against the Beast on Sunday afternoon.