The second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs continued this week for the Adirondack Thunder as they hosted Games 3 and 4 against the Manchester Monarchs. After a strong outing in Game 3, the injury bug has struck the Thunder. They now head east to New Hampshire this weekend, needing two more wins to reach the ECHL’s Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in team history.
Game 3, Tuesday, May 1st: Adirondack 5, Manchester 2
After a dominating 5-1 win in Game 2, the Thunder brought out the same lineup in Game 3 on Tuesday—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Manchester would go back to goaltender Charles Williams, who had been yanked after giving up all 5 goals in Game 2, while Drew Fielding got his second straight start for Adirondack.
It was a scoreless first period, but it wasn’t a great start for the home team—not only were the Thunder outshot 8-4, but they would lose Shane Conacher late in the period to a lower body injury.
However, Adirondack’s offense would explode in the second. Ryan Schmelzer would get the home team on the board 2:35 in with his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Ryan Schmelzer - Good wrist shot, better overhand fist pump. pic.twitter.com/BkdDb4v03h— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 2, 2018
Two seconds after that goal, both Schmelzer and Mike Bergin would end up in the penalty box for separate infractions, giving Manchester a long 5 on 3 chance. The Monarchs would indeed capitalize, tying the game at 1 on a Rob Hamilton goal.
Adirondack would break the tie on Colton White’s first goal of the postseason, also on a power play, to take back the lead. Late in the second, with Austin Orszulak sitting for a delay of game call, a breakaway by Conor Riley would lead to a shorthanded goal, putting the Thunder ahead 3-1.
This breakaway beauty from Conor Riley was one of five we scored in the second! pic.twitter.com/C50l7bV1ND— xy - Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) May 2, 2018
On the same power play, Manchester would cut the lead to 3-2 on a Tony Turgeon goal. But, goals by Orszulak and Terrence Wallin 20 seconds apart would extend the Thunder lead to 5-2. For the second straight game, Williams would be pulled after the fifth goal in favor of Evan Cowley, who would again stop the bleeding. The five goal second period outburst was a Adirondack season high.
Fielding was tested in the third, as the Monarchs outshot Adirondack 17-4. He did manage to stop 16 of those shots, only allowing a power play goal to Kevin Morris with 8:14 remaining in regulation. He would finish with 38 saves on 41 Monarch shots, picking up his second straight win since returning to the lineup, and Adirondack would take a 2-1 series lead in the best of seven series.
James Henry and Desmond Bergin would each finish with two assists.
3. Colton White (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Drew Fielding (ADK) 38 saves
1. Conor Riley (ADK) 1 goal, 1 assist
Game 4, Thursday, May 3rd: Manchester 3, Adirondack 0
48 hours later, the two teams would meet again for Game 4 of the series.
Only one lineup change for the Thunder: Paul Rodrigues would take over for an injured Conacher, who was seen noticeably limping as he made his way towards the media suite on the upper level of the Cool Insuring Arena.
While Fielding would get his third straight start, the Monarchs finally decided to give Cowley the nod in net after two straight relief appearances.
Manchester would strike first in the opening period, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman goal. Adirondack would get a golden opportunity to tie the game with exactly four minutes to go in the first, but it came at a price. Monarchs forward Matt Marcinew would board Mike Bergin, knocking the Thunder captain out of the game due to injury. In the process, Marcinew earned a five minute major. Unfortunately, Adirondack was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, and then ended up blowing the last 1:28 of the penalty after Brian Ward was called for high-sticking.
Second period would again be all Monarchs. Matt Leitner’s second goal of the postseason would double the Manchester lead. Things would get worse for the Thunder in the third. Not only did they only manage two shots, they would give up a third goal, this time to Monarchs defenseman Colton Saucerman, to fall behind 3-0. On the same play, Riley would be forced to leave the game due to injury, leaving the Thunder with just five healthy defensemen to finish the game.
Cowley didn’t need much to record his first shutout of the postseason, only stopping 18 Thunder shots. He would extend his postseason scoreless streak against Adirondack to 106:01, helping the Monarchs to tie the series at two. Fielding would finish with 28 saves on 31 shots.
3. Evan Cowley (MCH) 18 saves
2. Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman (MCH) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Matt Leitner (MCH) 1 goal, 2 assists
The best of seven now shifts to Manchester for the next two games.
Game 5 is Sunday night, followed by Game 6 on Monday. If Game 7 is necessary, the two teams will head back to Glens Falls on Wednesday.
If you want to be optimistic and look ahead to the conference finals, know that the next opponent is guaranteed to be Florida-based. The Florida Everblades, a team the Thunder defeated in two out of three games in Glens Falls in late January, currently lead the Orlando Solar Bears 3 games to 1 in their best of seven series. Game 5 is slated for Sunday afternoon in Orlando, with Game 6 on Monday night if needed.