For the first time since 1992, an Adirondack team has made it past their league’s playoff second round. In ‘92, the AHL Adirondack Red Wings swept the Springfield Indians in four straight in the North Division Finals, earning them a bye in the Calder Cup Final. That season, the team with the highest regular season points total among the three division final winners skipped the semifinal round. That squad earned Adirondack their last Calder Cup title.
The Adirondack Thunder hope to repeat this accomplishment, but first they have to take on the team with the ECHL’s best record during the regular season, the Florida Everblades. In a huge three game series in Glens Falls in late January, the Thunder took five out of six points from Florida, including a comeback shootout win in the second game of the series.
Judging from the first two games of this series, with one win for each side, it’s going to be a fight to the finish line.
Game 1, Friday, May 11th: Florida 4, Adirondack 3
The series would get underway in southwest Florida on Friday night. Adirondack decided to keep a very hot Drew Fielding in net, while the Everblades countered with Martin Ouelette.
One huge lineup change for the Thunder: forward Troy Bourke rejoined the team after Syracuse’s season concluded on Tuesday, making his first appearance since April 6th. To make room for Bourke on the roster, a still injured Shane Conacher would be placed on reserve. With defensemen Mike Bergin, Desmond Bergin, and Conor Riley also out with injuries, Paul Rodrigues would move from the forward spot to the blue line to fill in.
In the opening period, the Thunder had many opportunities to get the game off to a good start, getting three power play chances and outshooting the Everblades 14-6. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the offense going. Fortunately, Fielding would stop all 6 shots faced.
The hosts woke up in the second period, putting 16 shots on net and finding a way to stay out of the box. Fielding once again did everything he could to keep it a scoreless game.
Left Padded Larceny!!— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 12, 2018
Fielding gets the pillow out to turn aside McCarron! Still scoreless past the midway point of the second in Game 1. pic.twitter.com/cZPUTnkfHK
Finally, the Everblades’ John McCarron solved Fielding with 2:39 to go in the period, getting his sixth postseason goal for a 1-0 lead.
As is the Thunder custom, they answered that goal early in the third. Ryan Schmelzer tied the game at 1 2:36 in with his 7th goal of the playoffs.
Poppin' Bottles & Smashin' Glass! pic.twitter.com/IcU8lPf9bj— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 12, 2018
A mere two seconds after a Thunder power play, Bourke celebrated his return to the lineup with his first goal, putting Adirondack in front 2-1.
The Bourkey Backhand gives us our second of the game! pic.twitter.com/Lt7dIg6pKA— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 12, 2018
The Everblades re-tied the game less than two minutes later on McCarron’s second of the game. Then two quick goals in a span of 4:33 put Florida ahead 4-2 with 2:16 remaining in regulation. Both goals were scored by former Thunder Michael Kirkpatrick, one off a shorthanded break.
Adirondack was not going away quietly, however—on a late power play with Fielding pulled for a 6th skater, James Henry finally got his first playoff goal with six seconds remaining. This pulled the Thunder to within one with a 4-3. Unfortunately, there was no miracle at the end. The Everblades took Game 1, their 9th win in 10 playoff appearances.
Fielding finished with 32 saves on 36 shots. Schmelzer and four others each had one assist.
3. Ryan Schmelzer (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Michael Kirkpatrick (FLA) 2 goals
1. John McCarron (FLA) 2 goals
Game 2, Saturday, May 12th: Adirondack 3, Florida 2 (OT)
24 hours later, the two teams met again for Game 2. There were no changes for the Thunder lineup. Fielding and Ouelette would square off once again.
It didn’t take long for the Red Army to get started in the opening period. Kenton Miller scored his second postseason goal off an odd man rush for a 1-0 Adirondack lead.
The Everblades tied the game up on a power play goal after the Thunder were caught with too many men on the ice. Rookie Joe Cox cashed in just seventeen seconds into the man advantage with his second goal of the playoffs.
Then late in the period...things began escalating quickly.
After a mostly uneventful second, the Everblades jumped back in front on another power play goal from Cox for a 2-1 lead.
The Thunder, despite only putting up 15 shots in the first two periods, responded in the third. Schmelzer picked up his 8th goal of the playoffs with 8:10 remaining in regulation to re-tie the game at 2.
The Thunder had a golden opportunity to pull out the win late in the period with a power play, but were unable to get the go-ahead goal. For the second time this postseason, the Thunder and the Everblades were going to overtime.
This time around, Adirondack didn’t need more than one extra period to settle things. On just their fifth shot of the first overtime, Terrence Wallin picked up the game winner with 3:10 remaining, giving the Thunder the win and a 1-1 series tie.
Terrence Wallin AKA OT Hero! @ECHLThunder get the 3-2 OT win over @FL_Everblades and the Eastern Conference Finals are tied 1-1.— ECHL (@ECHL) May 13, 2018
Game 3 is Wednesday in Glens Falls#KellyCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/Z2o8jcNHy7
Fielding finished with an astounding 52 saves on 54 shots in about 77 minutes of work, improving his postseason mark to 5-2 with a 1.86 goals against average. Four Thunder skaters would each contribute a helper.
3. Drew Fielding (ADK) 52 saves
2. Joe Cox (FLA) 2 goals
1. Terrence Wallin (ADK) GW OT goal
The series now shifts to Glens Falls for the next three games, with Game 3 on Wednesday, Game 4 on Friday, and Game 5 on Saturday. If necessary, the two teams will play Game 6 in Florida on Monday.