GLENS FALLS — Parents and teachers of the Adirondack Thunder can be proud. They taught their boys to listen very well.
Coach Brad Tapper said a key to beating Worcester in their ECHL North Division semifinal series would be to make life difficult for Railers goalie Mitch Gillam. The Thunder executed that game plan perfectly in topping Worcester 3-0 before 3,540 fans at Cool Insuring Arena on Friday.
The Thunder’s first goal at 8:58 of the first period was a prime example. Dylan Olsen fired a slapshot and Tim Harrison, in front of the net, redirected it off the shaft of his stick past Gillam to give the Thunder some crucial momentum.
“Throughout the week we were preaching just getting to the net, putting bodies to the net and pucks to the net, so getting the first one — kind of a greasy one — just sets the tone for the whole series,” Harrison said.
In celebrating, Harrison fell to the ice, but got up like he had planned it.
“Anything to get the fans going,” he joked. “The crowd was buzzing, and anytime we can get them fired up. They do a lot out there. They definitely help a lot.”
“It gets the crowd into it early, gets energy on the bench, gets everybody going,” added forward Brian Ward, who scored the third goal. “It’s tough to come from behind, especially in a playoff battle like that.”
Adirondack made it 2-0 at 7:54 of the second period on a power-play goal by Paul Rodrigues. He gathered a loose puck in the slot and slid one through Gillam’s legs in a crowd.
Ward’s goal came at 5:50 of the third on a great individual effort. Gillam tried to catch James Henry’s slapshot, but Ward poked it free, then sent a low-angle backhander off Gillam.
Adirondack’s defense had perhaps its most complete effort all season. Worcester outshot the Thunder 27-21, but goalie Mackenzie Blackwood had outstanding positioning and was solid all game. Plus, the defensemen took away a bunch of other chances by blocking passes and shots.
“We did a lot of video,” Tapper said. “We watched our last three games against them, and we made it a habit of keeping our sticks on the ice to take away passing lanes. We also made it a habit as a team to be blocking shots all the time for our goalie.”
Tapper said that, generally, the defense did a good job taking away time and space.
“I thought our forwards were doing a good job tracking back and not allowing any rushes against. Just really proud of our goaltending, our defensemen played well with the puck and our forwards made it difficult on them with their line rushes,” Tapper said.
In an unusual schedule, action shifts to Worcester for games 2 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday, before returning to Cool Insuring Arena on Wednesday.
“Getting our confidence up and playing a good game here bringing us into there is really important,” Ward said.
“It’s kind of a new season,” Harrison said. “You look at the stat pack, everyone’s got zeroes, so you start fresh. If we can get out of here with 16 wins, we’ll be good. Raise that Kelly Cup!”
NOTES: The Thunder paid tribute to the 16 people who lost their lives in the recent Humboldt hockey tragedy by setting aside 16 seats in Section H. They had hockey sticks with the names of the deceased fixed to the seats by green and yellow ribbons.
Thunder 3, Railers 0
Worcester 0 0 0 — 0
Adirondack 1 1 1 — 3
First Period—1, Adirondack, Harrison 1 (Olsen, Orszulak), 8:58. Penalties—Harrison Adk (slashing), 13:41.
Second Period—2, Adirondack, Rodrigues 1 (Schmelzer, Bergin), 7:54 (PP). Penalties—Bergin Adk (tripping), 0:29; Almeida Wor (roughing), 7:03; Henry Adk (roughing), 7:54; Saracino Wor (tripping), 12:12; Wallin Adk (boarding), 14:58; Lane Wor (tripping), 16:41; served by Orszulak Adk (bench—too many men), 18:12.
Third Period—3, Adirondack, Ward 1 (Henry, Olsen), 5:50. Penalties—Bergin Adk (high-sticking), 1:52; served by Panico Wor (bench—too many men), 7:16; Cornell Wor (cross-checking), 13:11; Wallin Adk (interference on the goalkeeper), 13:22; Panico Wor (roughing), 15:21; Cornell Wor (misconduct), 18:50; Turcotte Wor (major—roughing, fighting), 18:50; Ward Adk (major—fighting), 18:50.
Shots on Goal—Worcester 8-11-8-27. Adirondack 5-9-7-21.
Power Play Opportunities—Worcester 0-7. Adirondack 1-7.
Goalies—Worcester, Gillam (21 shots-18 saves). Adirondack, Blackwood (27 shots-27 saves).
Referees—Andrea Barone (15), Jesse Gour (24).
Linesmen—Kyle Richtelle (73), JP Waleski (51).