Here we are at the ECHL All-Star break, and the Adirondack Thunder are one of just two teams (along with Atlanta) to have played 41 games. Most teams are in the mid- to high-30s.
And that is a position of strength for the Thunder. That crazy 12-game road swing in less than a month has the potential to pay off in this second half of the season.
The Thunder stand in second place in the North Division with 47 points, one behind Manchester, but also just two in front of Wheeling and three ahead of Reading. Worcester and Brampton are farther down, but the way this division has been, you wouldn't really count them out, would you?
We've established that the Thunder are an extremely hard-working group, fun to watch. They've lost more than their share of people to AHL teams and injuries (can you believe Troy Bourke is hurt again?), but they've established an identity that I believe will serve them well the second half of the season.
Entering this weekend, the Thunder topped Reading 4-1 on Saturday and lost to Brampton 6-5 on Sunday. Games before all-star breaks in ANY sport are funky and not really representative. I remain convinced this team is more the one you saw Saturday than the one that played Sunday.
In that win, the offensive lines adjusted well to the injury of Ty Loney, Drew Fielding's goaltending was stellar and the defense put up an 'A' performance, including three fights that all went Adirondack's way -- something that any other night I might say are perhaps two too many, penalty-box-wise, but it didn't seem to hurt them Saturday.
By Sunday, it was the team's and, notably, Fielding's fourth game in five days. The defense is always the first to go when fatigue sets in. You hate to see any team let up six goals, but I don't believe you'll see Brampton lay another six on the Thunder this season.
Still, the Thunder have questions and issues. Among them:
- They've played Wheeling twice and allowed six goals each time. They get the Nailers twice at home the rest of the way, but that's a potential playoff opponent. They've got to figure out a defense to stop Wheeling.
- I've seen hotels' revolving doors that don't get the action Adirondack's roster has, but where it seems to have the greatest potential for disaster is goalie. Fielding has done yeoman's work and deserves to be the No. 1 'keeper, but he needs help fast. You can't keep renting emergency backups. These few days off will hopefully settle it, but if not, that's a flashing red light.
- Attendance is up over last year, but still could be better. They averaged 2,830 for last year's regular season, and so far this season they're at 2,922. They put on a good show, hockey-wise and entertainment-wise. You should go see them because, not for nothing, the league-wide average is 4,195 and you'll note cities such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Jacksonville are among the teams.