This weekend’s series between the Maine Mariners and Adirondack Thunder was a critical one, as the two teams entered the series both having 26 points, which had them tied for fourth in the North Division. Adirondack, however, does have three games in hand on Maine. The theme of the weekend would be fights and physicality, as we saw a total of four fights and seven game misconducts in the last two games of the series. Let’s take a look at the final series between these two clubs, as they don’t meet again until February 25th.
Harper’s Two Tallies Not Enough As Thunder Drop Opening Game
GLENS FALLS, NY — The Adirondack Thunder dropped the opening contest of their three-game series on Friday night against the Mariners, as they fell just short by a 3-2 final. This was the Thunder’s first regulation loss in 2021-22 against the visitors from Maine. Entering the evening affair, the Thunder had lost their leading goal scorer in winger Tyler Irvine, who was recalled to Utica. Not knowing who would pick up the offence in his absence, that question was answered thanks to the abilities of winger Shane Harper. The 32-year-old got the scoring started ten minutes into the game, which gave Adirondack an early lead, but one that only held for just over two minutes.
One of the most noticeable things about Friday’s game was Brandon Kasel’s evident issues controlling his rebounds, and that would cost the Thunder, as Maine’s first goal came off a rebound. Forward Conner Bleakley tallied his third of the year, which knotted things up at one apiece. Adirondack re-took the lead once again, as Shane Harper scored his second of the game off a gorgeous pass from Sebastian Vidmar. Speaking with the media postgame, Harper said, “It felt really good. It took me a couple games to feel good, then we went on our COVID break, and then it took me some time to get back in the groove of things. The past few games, I’ve been feeling good.” of his seven points against the Mariners.
Friday, fans saw shades of the Thunder team from earlier in the year, as Adirondack had trouble in the middle frame, and that would be the storyline on Saturday. “We talked about it in the room, we knew what was coming in the second,” said Head Coach Alex Loh. “We knew they were going to push.” It was a chippy second period, however, both teams were able to keep their cools to some degree, the Mariners were able to tie the game up on a Matthew Santos snap-shot, beating Brandon Kasel from just above the right circle.
Adirondack was awarded a power play opportunity, but failed to make good on the man-advantage. On the opposing end, Keltie Jeri-Leon fed Nick Master on a breakaway, making no mistake to give Maine a 3-2 lead, one in which the Mariners managed to hold onto. One of the bright spots besides Harper throughout the contest was Luke Stevens. “It was good to be back out there after 30 days,” the left-winger said.
Friday’s game also marked his first in the ECHL. “I don’t really have any experience here in the coast league,” Stevens continued. “You have a little more time, guys start going a million miles an hour with only three lines.”
Speaking of the team’s latest addition, Loh spoke highly of him to the media postgame. “I think he looked good for a guy who had only played one game in a month and didn’t practice much. It’s certainly encouraging for us looking forward here.”
Second Chance At Second Period Helps Thunder Even Up Series
This year, the Thunder have been a team that isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, and despite a game on Friday that only featured 10 penalty minutes between the two sides, Saturday’s game was a completely different story, as both teams combined for a total of 60 penalty minutes. However, heading into game two of the series, Adirondack was down two key players in Brandon Kasel and Pete MacArthur, both of whom are battling injuries. Both players are currently considered day-to-day.
The story surrounding the Thunder on Friday night was the second period, as that was one of their biggest weaknesses earlier in the year. Having since cleaned up their play, Saturday night was a different story. Maine entered Saturday night’s affair the league leader on the power play, and it was on display early in the first, as Master got his stick on a shot from the point on the advantage, scoring his second goal in two games to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Despite the Master goal, that wasn’t the headline of the first period, as Alex Carrier, Patrick Grasso and Jimmy Mazza all dropped the gloves in the opening twenty. This isn’t a shock knowing the tension that carried over from Friday night. The Mariners later doubled their lead on a shot from Nate Kallen, which innocently trickled past Alex Sakellaropoulos and into the back of the net.
Adirondack later responded with four unanswered goals, starting with Jordan Kaplan’s goal from the slot, which knotted the game up at one. Shane Harper continued his hot streak on Saturday, scoring a wrap-around goal, giving the Thunder a 2-1 lead, and one they wouldn’t look back on. The Thunder had a solid night on the power play, as Jake Ryczek scored on a shot from the point, and Robbie Payne received a nice pass in front from Luke Stevens on the man-advantage in the middle frame, as Adirondack outshot Maine 20-6, holding a 4-2 lead heading into the game’s final frame.
The third period brought another fight at the hands of the Thunder, as Joe Masonius and Alex Kile dropped the gloves after getting out of the penalty box for matching minors. Robbie Payne added an empty-net goal for his second of the night, as Adirondack won by a 5-2 final. Alex Sakellaropoulos made 32 saves en route to the victory for his fourth win of the season.
Chippy Rubber Match Sees Mariners Take Series On Home Ice
PORTLAND, ME — The Adirondack Thunder dropped the rubber match of the weekend series at the hands of the Maine Mariners by a 4-1 final. It didn’t take long for the hometown Mariners to break open the scoring, as Pascal Laberge scored from the right circle on the power play at the 2:39 mark of the opening period.
Despite Maine scoring the first goal, Adirondack put up 16 shots in the opening frame, holding Maine to only seven. The Thunder power play was once again lacklustre early in the game, as they couldn’t get anything going, and it wasn’t a momentum shift either. In the second, the Mariners doubled their lead, as Pascal Laberge picked up his second of the game, and any momentum the Thunder had from a strong first period was lost. Alex Sakellaropolous also didn’t look great in the net, as he was handed the loss, giving up three goals on 25 shots.
Tensions finally started to boil over at the 16:28 mark, as Patrick Shea scored a goal short-handed, then run into Sakellaropoulos, which started a gathering of the minds between both parties respectively. Sebastian Vidmar, Blake Thompson, Cam Askew, and Connor Doherty were all served with game misconducts. Once the dust settled, Adirondack still had time on the power play, and broke Jeremy Brodeur’s shutout, as UMaine alum Ryan Smith scored a power play goal, which made it a 3-1 affair. Master added an empty net goal for the Mariners, however, that wasn’t the end of Sunday’s story.
As the final whistle blew at Cross Insurance Arena, the Thunder and Mariners exchanged goodbyes and pleasantries, seeing that the two sides won’t see each other again until they meet in Glens Falls on Friday, February 25. Mazza, Ian McKinnon and Brendan St. Louis were all handed game misconducts as parting gifts from the referees.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against Reading, the Adirondack Thunder claimed forward Ryan Roth off waivers. Adirondack becomes Roth’s third team this season, as he’s spent time previously with both the Royals and Jacksonville Icemen. This season, across 14 games, the OHL alum has amassed four points on two goals and two assists. The Thunder return to action on Wednesday evening, facing Ryan’s last team in the Reading Royals at 7:05pmET.