The Adirondack Thunder are finally starting to find their groove, as they took two out of three games against the Mountain leading Utah Grizzlies. This was the hockey club’s first series win of the regular season. Physicality was a big part of the series, as there were four fights in the first two games, and it was a more physical series than what the Thunder are used to, but they were certainly up to the challenge. It was the second straight three-in-three, and will now have to play a three-in-four before heading back to a more normalized schedule. Let’s now dig deeper into this series.
Despite coming out victorious, Head Coach Alex Loh talked about how he wants to see the team string together several wins in a row. “I think we’ve been like a roller coaster so far. We’ve had one good one, one so-so, and then one bad one, so I think it’s time to string a few together with some really good efforts.”
Hometown Thunder Win Fight Night in Glens Falls
Adirondack was firing on all cylinders Friday Night, as Alex Carrier got the ball rolling just four minutes into the opening period. Ryan Smith received an accidental feed from Utah backstop Hunter Jones and set up the veteran forward, as he found the partially open net. Power plays would come early and often for the Thunder, who converted on their second opportunity, as Patrick Grasso banked a pass from Pete MacArthur to double the team’s lead.
The second goal would be the start point of fight night, as Tyler Crunk threw a huge check from behind on Tyler Irvine. That would bring Joe Masonius to drop the gloves over Crunk, a scuffle which ignited the crowd. “Yeah, I’m always a big competitor,” Masonius said. “I think that’s my best attribute. This is a business and I’m here to entertain.” That would be the end of Crunk’s evening, as he would get a match-penalty for cross-checking, and five for fighting.
Adirondack would take advantage of the long power play opportunity, with Patrick Grasso finding a loose puck and tapping it in to give the Thunder. 3-0 lead. Giving them a commanding lead, Mason Mannek threw a soft shorthanded goal on Mareks Mitens that found the back of the net, putting Utah on the board. With just 24.9 seconds left, Masonius dropped the gloves for a second time, this time doing so with Mannek. Adirondack had 26 shots on net in the frame, the fourth most in ECHL history.
The late Grizzlies goal, with some help from the special teams, helped to spark a flame to get them back in the game. It started with a shorthanded goal off the stick of Brandon Cutler that quietly helped draw Utah within one. It was the team’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season, which ranks second in the ECHL. The Grizzlies weren’t quite finished there, as Charle-Edouard D’Astous added a power play goal to knot the game through 40 minutes.
Throughout the contest, Jake Ryczek, Grasso and Loh all shared a similar sentiment; being that they won the first, but couldn’t follow in the second. However, Adirondack responded in the third, as Smith received a pass from Colin Long and immediately capitalized with his first professional goal. Jake Ryczek also scored his first of the season pad the two-goal lead, a goal that proved pivotal, as it was the game-winner.
Mitens had an off-night between the pipes, however, his 24 saves would be just enough to hand him his third win so far this season. “It’s huge,” the backstop said. “Especially after last weekend, winning one out of three.”
Adirondack Thunder Drop Round Two To Grizzlies
Coming off a physical matchup on Friday night, which saw many hits, shots and scuffles, the feeling at the game of Game 2 felt very dull, as only 15 total shots were fired on net combined between the two parties. Adirondack saw a couple chances out front, however, failed to see it through and put the puck in past Garrett Metcalf. It happened to be a very calm period, as there wasn’t much checking, and only one minor penalty assessed, which went in the way of the Thunder.
A sluggish start to the middle frame would end up hurting the Thunder, as Mason Mannek added one of his own, which handed to Utah an early 1-0 lead. Jake Hamilton looked nearly as useful as a traffic cone, as Gehrett Sargis got to the Thunder net with ease, skating right in on Mitens to double up on the Grizzlies lead. However, just 25 seconds, Brent Conger scored a goal almost identical to Mannek’s.
That saw the physicality start to come alive, with a glimmer of hope for Adirondack in the third. Tyler Irvine tipped in a shot deflected by Masonius, bringing the Thunder within a goal of their visitors from Utah. Just 1:31 later, the Grizzlies responded, going back up by three, now with a 4-1 lead. Now, for fight night, it was Jimmy Mazza dropping the gloves with Brian Bowen, and 25 seconds later, Carrier would drop the gloves with Austin Crossley, pumping up the home crowd.
Back to full resumption, Adirondack had their chances, as they had two five-on-threes, but once again would fail to convert. “I’m not too worried about it, Alex Loh assured after the game. “We’ve worked on it in practice, and I’ve done all I can do.”
Thunder Take Deciding Game in Series, As Teams Stay Calm
Entering Sunday’s game, the Grizzlies, in their last 13 games, were 11-1-1, and 17-2-0-1 in the third game of a three-in-three in the last 20 scenarios. They say on Sunday, you should worship god, and that may be the reason there were no fights in the matinee finale. As special teams played a factor, the Thunder clung to a 3-2 victory.
Ivan Chukarov got the party started just 8:32 into the first, as he received a pass from Peter MacArthur in the slot and fired it home, which broke open the scoring. This was a momentum boost for the Thunder, as they gave up three breakaways in the opening ten minutes, however, Utah was unable to convert.
Adirondack, much like Friday, stuck to an early shot advantage, leading the Grizzlies 13-4 through 20 minutes. In the second, the Thunder doubled their lead, as Jordan Kaplan fed the puck to Patrick Grasso, on a tic-tac-toe, found Robbie Payne for his second of the night. Utah answered back just 54 seconds later, as Luke Martin received a pass in the slot, beating Alex Sakellaropoulos while on the man advantage.
The Chicago native made some big saves in the third, including an amazing glove save to preserve the win for Adirondack. “I just threw everything at the kitchen sink, and it luckily hit my glove,” he said. Irvine tipped one in on the power play, which handed the Thunder a late lead, while simultaneously extending his point streak to three.
“That may be the first time in six years I’ve seen a high-tip from a shot from the middle,” said Alex Loh. Securing the rubber match victory with 26 saves, Sakellaropoulos earned his first win of the season. “I was so happy when that buzzer rang,” he joyfully expressed. “I screamed!”
When asked about his team’s will to compete, Loh said, “I think for me, you’re looking for a collective 60 minutes from the guys, but I think you just need to take it 20 minutes at a time, and I think everybody did their part.”
The Thunder will now head out west, starting on Wednesday evening with the Idaho Steelheads. Asked if the Grizzlies helped prepare them for their meeting with Idaho, captain Peter MacArthur said, “Idaho is a different team, especially in their own barn.”