After starting round 2 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a split of the first four games all on home ice, the Adirondack Thunder headed east to Manchester with hopes of taking two straight on the road and finishing off the Monarchs.
Despite missing several key players to injuries, the Red Army would pull it off, thanks in part to a cult hero stopping nearly everything in his crease, and a newly-minted captain finishing off the 9th longest game in ECHL history.
For the first time ever, the Thunder sit just four wins away from the Kelly Cup Finals.
Game 5, Sunday, May 6th: Adirondack 6, Manchester 0
The two teams headed to New Hampshire on Sunday for Game 5, the first home game for Manchester since a 3-2 double overtime win over Reading on April 14th.
Drew Fielding and Evan Cowley again get the starts in their respective nets. Thanks to injuries in Game 4, Thunder captain Mike Bergin and fellow defenseman Conor Riley sat it out, while defenseman Blake Thompson and forward Tim Harrison took their places. Shane Conacher remained out due to a lower body injury. With M. Bergin out, Mathieu Brodeur assumed the captain’s duties.
Despite being outshot 15-8 in the opening period—and having two early penalty kills—Adirondack struck first. Colton White’s second goal of the postseason midway through the period put the Thunder up 1-0.
Snipe High Glove - ✅— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 6, 2018
We lead by one in the first! pic.twitter.com/CVV1qa7FgK
Much like in Game 3, the Thunder’s offense exploded in the middle period. Ryan Schmelzer doubled Adirondack ‘s lead 4 minutes in with his team-leading sixth postseason tally.
In a span of 2:20 later in the second, Thompson and Mike Szmatula both picked up goals—first for Thompson, 3rd for Szmatula—to put the Thunder ahead 4-0.
That fourth goal was the end of the night for Cowley, who was pulled in favor of Charles Williams. This marked the third time in 5 games that the Monarchs made a goaltending switch.
Unlike the first two times, the Thunder continued to score after the switch. Szmatula scored his second of the game 1:40 into the third period for a 5-0 lead.
Finally, for good measure, Kenton Miller scored his first of the postseason with 8:11 remaining for a 6-0 advantage.
Fielding would take care of the rest, stopping all 37 shots faced for his first shutout of the postseason. The victory put the Thunder up 3-2 in the series. Terrence Wallin and James Henry each had two assists, while all but four Thunder skaters picked up at least one point.
3. Ryan Schmelzer (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Mike Szmatula (ADK) 2 goals, 1 assist
1. Drew Fielding (ADK) 37 saves
Game 6, Monday, May 7th: Adirondack 3, Manchester 2 (3OT)
25 hours later, the Thunder got their first shot at wrapping up the series in Game 6.
Fielding would get his fifth straight start, while the Monarchs decided to go back to Williams. Only one lineup change for the Thunder: Riley would return to the lineup after missing just one game, taking the place of a banged up Desmond Bergin.
With the Monarchs’ backs against the proverbial wall, they would get off to a fast start in the opening period. Manchester captain David Kolomatis scored on Fielding just 1:53 into the contest for a 1-0 lead. The Thunder responded with 10:39 remaining in the opening period. Dylan Olsen scored on a power play, his first postseason goal, to tie the game up at 1.
Through alllllll the traffic to knot the game at one! pic.twitter.com/PjHO8R5IMS— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 7, 2018
Kolomatis gave the Monarchs the one goal lead back 6:21 into the second period. Again, the Thunder responded and re-tied the game as Brian Ward scored his fifth of the playoffs 3:20 later.
#⃣2⃣2⃣ ties the game at 2⃣ in period number 2⃣! pic.twitter.com/4NafuVP37i— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 8, 2018
After a scoreless third—including the Thunder killing off a 90 second 5 on 3—it was on to overtime, the first time this postseason Adirondack went beyond regulation.
One overtime couldn’t settle it. Fielding made sure of that.
DREWWWWWWWWW with the glove WOW! A huge stop from Fielding keeps overtime going as we're back to even strength! pic.twitter.com/0aD5VL6Sdm— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 8, 2018
In overtime #2, Fielding continued to come through in the clutch, with another ridiculous save to keep the game going.
OH. MY. DREW. FIELDING. pic.twitter.com/XY420VDK0F— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 8, 2018
After 100 minutes...still not enough. For the 22nd time in Kelly Cup Playoff history, and the first time ever for the Thunder, the team faced a TRIPLE OVERTIME.
Finally, after 108 minutes and 8 seconds, 87 combined shots, and 4 hours and 23 minutes of action, the ninth longest game in ECHL history was settled. It was the newly minted captain Brodeur getting the goal, giving the Thunder the win and a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Mathieu Brodeur scored 11:52 in 3OT in the NINTH longest game in #ECHL postseason history to give @ECHLThunder a 3-2 victory over @MonarchsHockey— ECHL (@ECHL) May 8, 2018
Thunder advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face @FL_Everblades
Details: https://t.co/xjRixYWajy pic.twitter.com/r9ZNc2jpTe
Fielding, who if you recall wasn’t even supposed to be playing in the postseason, continued to add to his legendary cult hero status in Glens Falls, stopping 53 of 55 shots. For the two games in Manchester, he stopped 90 of 92 shots faced. Five other skaters each added an assist.
3. Drew Fielding (ADK) 53 saves
2. David Kolomatis (MCH) 2 goals
1. Mathieu Brodeur (ADK) GWG OT goal
The Thunder will now face the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Finals. On Tuesday, the schedule was released, with the Everblades getting home ice:
Game 1: at Florida, Friday, May 12th, 7:30 PM
Game 2: at Florida, Saturday, May 13th, 7:00 PM
Game 3: at Adirondack, Wednesday, May 16th, 7:00 PM
Game 4: at Adirondack, Friday, May 18th, 7:00 PM
Game 5: at Adirondack, Saturday, May 19th, 7:00 PM*
Game 6: at Florida, Monday, May 21st, 7:30 PM*
Game 7: at Florida, Wednesday, May 23rd, 7:30 PM*