After finishing off Worcester in six games in round one, the Adirondack Thunder began their second round of Kelly Cup playoff action on Friday night against the Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs were a team the Thunder battled all season for first place in the North Division. Outside of this season, this is the third straight year the two teams are facing each other in the playoffs. Adirondack took the first round in 2016 and the Monarchs returned the favor last season.
The first two games of this series, which stands at 1-1 entering this week, had a little bit of everything: many goals, spectacular highlight reel plays, and a goalie who wasn’t even expected to see any playing time pulling off a great performance.
Game 1, Friday, April 27th: Manchester 5, Adirondack 3
The second round kicked off Friday night in Glens Falls as the Thunder hosted the first of four straight home games in the series. Yes, four: as mentioned last week, the series will be played in a 4-2-1 format due to a building conflict in New Hampshire that required the ice to be temporarily taken out.
Olivier Mantha, coming off his first win of the postseason on Monday, would get the start for the Thunder, facing off against Manchester’s Charles Williams.
The Monarchs would strike first in the opening period. Forward Sam Kurker would score his fourth of the postseason 4:45 into the game for a 1-0 advantage. Less than two minutes later, he would go flying into Mantha’s net, a near identical situation to how Mackenzie Blackwood was injured in last Saturday’s Game 5 loss. Unlike Blackwood, who is listed as day to day, Mantha would shake it off and stay in the game. On the other side of the coin, the Thunder would put 23 shots on Williams in the first 20 minutes, but nothing to show for it.
The Monarchs took over the first half of the second period. Goals by Zac Lynch and Kevin Morris 1:03 apart midway through the period gave them a commanding 3-0 lead. But Adirondack started chipping away at the lead. Two power play goals by Shane Conacher 3:38 apart brought the Thunder to within one goal.
Conacher with a BOMB for our first of the series! pic.twitter.com/VijLwtRxvN— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 28, 2018
Conacher's second tally of the evening through traffic brings us to within a goal late in the middle stanza! pic.twitter.com/35waGbPmuc— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 28, 2018
Early in the third, Mantha pulled off probably one of the greatest saves you will ever see.
OH MY MANTHA!!!!!!— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 28, 2018
A highlight reel stop as Mantha sprawls across with the glove to keep it out! We're still down by just a goal! pic.twitter.com/1zxOcR2yOZ
How good was this play? It made SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays Saturday. Coming in at #2...
Unfortunately, the Monarchs were not done pouring on the offense. Alexx Privitera and Michael Doherty scored 42 seconds apart midway through the third to put the game away. Mathieu Brodeur scored late to cut the lead to two, but it was all the Thunder could do despite putting up 54 shots.
Mantha finished with 23 saves on 28 Manchester shots. Colton White and James Henry each added two assists.
3. Alexx Privitera (MCH) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Shane Conacher (ADK) 2 goals, 1 assist
1. Charles Williams (MCH) 51 saves
Game 2, Saturday, April 28th: Adirondack 5, Manchester 1
24 hours later, the two teams met again for Game 2 of the series.
The Thunder had a few lineup changes: Austin Orszulak and Kenton Miller rejoined the lineup, replacing Paul Rodrigues and Tim Harrison. Drew Fielding, the Thunder’s third goalie who had not played since late March, and had been helping the coaching staff behind the bench, would get the call between the pipes.
Compared to the night before, it was a completely different looking Thunder team in this one.
Orszulak made the most of his return to the lineup, scoring his first of the postseason 4:15 into the opening period for a 1-0 lead.
Terrence Wallin added to the Thunder lead with two goals in a span of 2:21, the second on a power play, to make it a 3-0 game.
Walllllllyyyyyyyyy pic.twitter.com/Gkj3y5HT7J— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 28, 2018
Adirondack continued the offensive onslaught in the second period. Just six seconds into their third power play of the night, Ryan Schmelzer scored his fourth of the postseason for a 4-0 lead.
A little redirect for goal number four! pic.twitter.com/tfXlgr0Dql— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 29, 2018
Matthew Spencer then got in on the scoring, getting his first postseason tally for a commanding 5-0 Thunder lead.
White ➡️ Spencer and we've got FIVE! pic.twitter.com/K4f8ITifYt— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 29, 2018
That fifth goal would chase Williams, who only stopped 10 of 15 shots, from the Manchester net in favor of Evan Cowley, who was able to stop the bleeding.
Manchester broke up Fielding’s shutout bid with 2:54 remaining in the third on a Joel Lowry power play goal. Other than that, it was an awesome performance for the man they call Drewwwww on every save. He finished with 33 saves on 34 shots. White added two more assists, while Schmelzer and eight others had one assist each.
The Thunder tied the best-of-seven series up at one apiece.
3. Austin Orszulak (ADK) 1 goal
2. Terrence Wallin (ADK) 2 goals
1. Drew Fielding (ADK) 33 saves
Game 3 of the best of seven series is tonight, with Game 4 to follow Thursday, all in Glens Falls. The series finally moves to Manchester for Game 5 on Sunday, and if necessary, Game 6 on Monday.