As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
For the Adirondack Thunder, that end came this past weekend. Tied 1-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Florida Everblades, the team returned to the friendly confines of the Cool Insuring Arena for Games 3, 4, and 5.
However, thanks to some misplaced bounces, a few questionable calls, and a sudden power outage on the man advantage, the Thunder find themselves wondering what could have been.
Game 3, Wednesday, May 16th: Florida 3, Adirondack 2
Adirondack got a huge defensive boost as Game 3 approached on Wednesday: captain Mike Bergin, who had been out of the lineup since a hit in Game 4 of the North Division Final against Manchester, would make his return. He replaced forward-turned-defenseman Paul Rodrigues. Drew Fielding, coming off another 50+ save performance, got his eighth straight playoff start.
It was not a good first period for the home team. The Everblades got goals from Gus Young and Logan Roe in a span of 1:42 early in the opening frame, with Young’s goal coming on Adirondack’s first penalty kill of the night.
Trailing 2-0 going into the middle period, the Thunder began to show signs of life, and got right back into the contest. Just 59 seconds after the puck dropped to start the period, Terrence Wallin scored his fifth postseason goal to cut the Florida lead to 2-1.
Ryan Schmelzer followed that up with his 9th goal of the playoffs 3:35 later to tie the game up at 2.
Oooooooooh those silky mitts! We're tied in Game 3!!!! pic.twitter.com/PKwtVTsCas— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 17, 2018
The Thunder had several opportunities to take the lead in the second, thanks to four straight power plays that included two 5 on 3 chances, but they were unable to capitalize. That would come back to haunt them as the third period got underway.
At the 1:42 mark, John McCarron scored his 8th playoff goal to give the Everblades a 3-2 lead. Adirondack could only manage 5 period shots against Florida goaltender Martin Ouellette, and in turn they fell behind 2-1 in the best of 7 series.
Fielding took the hard luck loss, stopping 23 of 26 shots, including robbing former teammate Mitchell Heard on a breakaway:
Schmelzer, Austin Orszulak, and Matthew Spencer all added one assist each.
3. Martin Ouellette (FLA) 29 saves
2. Ryan Schmelzer (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. John McCarron (FLA) 1 goal
Game 4, Friday, May 18th: Florida 7, Adirondack 3
With no changes to the lineup, the Thunder hoped to rebound in Game 4 on Friday and tie the series up. Fielding got his ninth straight start.
After the Game 3 loss Wednesday, Thunder coach Brad Tapper had a rough description of the 0 for 7 power play (per The Post-Star):
“Our power play needs to wake up,” Tapper said. “I don’t know what we’re doing, we’re too cute. We were being too fancy (Wednesday). We’ve got to get pucks and bodies at the net and hammer away and jam away at this kid.” (referring to Ouellette)
Well, that power play got tested again in the first period, as Adirondack got four straight in the first twenty minutes, including a brief 5 on 3. But once again, the Thunder had nothing to show for it. In fact, it was Florida taking advantage, getting a shorthanded goal from Stephen MacAulay during the fourth penalty kill to open the scoring. The Everblades followed that up with their own power play goal from Zack Kamrass with 43 seconds remaining in the opening period for a 2-0 lead.
The Thunder responded early in the second. Just after a third Florida goal was disallowed, Schmelzer struck for his 10th of the postseason to cut the Everblade lead in half.
Off of a Florida face and in.......don't care tbh WE'LL TAKE IT! pic.twitter.com/pPHSkDda1R— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 19, 2018
The Thunder then fell victim to three straight penalty calls midway through, and the Everblades power play did something Adirondack’s couldn’t: Score. Two power play goals in a span of 3:36 from David Dziurzynski and Sam Warning gave Florida a commanding 4-1 lead and spelled the end of the night for Fielding. He was pulled in favor of Olivier Mantha, who was getting his first game action since Game 1 of the North Division Final against Manchester.
The goalie switch did not make a difference. The Everblades recieved goals from Heard and Steven Lorentz in a span of 1:09 early in the third for a 6-1 lead. Finally, Adirondack started to show some sign of life midway through the final period. Troy Bourke scored his second of the postseason on the Thunder’s ninth power play attempt to cut the lead to 6-2. James Henry’s second playoff goal less than three minutes later made it 6-3.
Tapper decided to take a gamble and pull Mantha for an extra attacker with four minutes remaining in regulation. The extra point for Florida would be good. An empty netter by Brett Bulmer with 2:37 remaining finished off a dominant Everblades win and pushed the Thunder to the brink of elimination.
Before being pulled, Fielding finished with 21 saves on 25 shots, while Mantha stopped 4 of 6.
Despite the bad loss, Tapper was not ready to wave the white flag. He told The Post-Star postgame:
“Just one of those nights, we all feel terrible, but I tell you for (expletive) sure we’re not going to quit (Saturday).”
3. Ryan Schmelzer (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Sam Warning (FLA) 1 goal
1. Stephen MacAulay (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist
Game 5, Saturday, May 19th: Florida 3, Adirondack 2
Any cliche you could think of-backs against the wall, on the brink, etc-applied to the Thunder on Saturday as they made their first attempt of extending their season. Despite being pulled the night before, Fielding got the nod in net, hoping to rebound from what happened 24 hours ago.
Before the game, a very cool moment: as anthem singer Amy Walag began the Star-Spangled Banner, her microphone suddenly shorted out. Everyone in house—roughly 3,000+ in the stands—came to her rescue.
Greetings from Glens Falls, NY, where the @ECHLThunder will host the Florida Everblades in Game 5 of the East Final. But first, after the microphone stopped working during The Star-Spangled Banner, the fans finished the anthem. pic.twitter.com/EnVq8ZCiDB— Leo Scaglione Jr. (@LeoScaglioneJr) May 19, 2018
Unfortunately, that feel good moment would quickly evaporate in the opening period. The Everblades came out flying.
Matt Mackenzie scored his first of the postseason less than 3 minutes into the contest for a 1-0 Florida lead. Former Thunder Michael Kirkpatrick doubled the lead with his 10th of the playoffs 7:37 in. Heard then added a power play after a borderline questionable interference call on Schmelzer, and suddenly it was 3-0 Everblades 14:08 into the game.
After so many frustrating moments that simply were not going the Thunder’s way, Bergin and the team had just about enough.
A little hockey, a little boxing... pic.twitter.com/8QtP3tKe7b— Will Springstead (@WSpringsteadPSV) May 19, 2018
After a scoreless second period—and three more wasted opportunities for the Thunder on the power play—Adirondack finally started to rally in the final period. Mike Szmatula scored his 5th of the playoffs 2:39 in to cut the Everblades lead to 3-1.
Colton White then brought the Thunder to within 3-2 with 7:57 remaining in regulation with a power play goal, his third of the postseason.
The Thunder tried in vain in the last few minutes of regulation to get that tying goal—they would outshoot Florida 13-4 in the third—but that one goal just could not get into the net. The Everblades escaped with the win and the East berth in the Kelly Cup Finals.
Some photos posts from the end of the Thunder’s season:
First, the traditional handshakes.
Then, the official trophy presentation on ice...In front of the runners-up. If that’s not motivation for next season, then...
Finally, one last salute to those that remained in house.
In a post game interview with The Post-Star, Mathieu Brodeur would sum it up best:
“It’s always fun to be in the final four,” he added, “but with the group of guys we have, I truly believe we could have won that series and gone all the way. It didn’t go our way. It’s disappointing not to be on top for this room.”
Fielding finished with 18 saves on 21 shots. Four Thunder skaters had one assist each.
3. Michael Kirkpatrick (FLA) 1 goal
2. Mike Szmatula (ADK) 1 goal
1. Matt Mackenzie (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist
Florida now awaits the winner of the Western Conference Final, which will be either the Fort Wayne Komets or the Colorado Eagles. After a double overtime win in Indiana on Saturday evening, the Eagles, who will join the AHL as an Avalanche affiliate next season, take a 3-2 series lead back to Colorado on Tuesday.
As for the Thunder...the offseason begins. Stay tuned for select exit interviews, and a stats review coming soon.