GLENS FALLS — Adirondack Thunder goaltender Drew Fielding got the second assist on the team’s game-winning goal in overtime Saturday, but that wasn’t as amazing as the assist that the crowd gave the Thunder at Cool Insuring Arena.
Before a Thunder-record crowd of 5,445 on Military Appreciation Night, the Thunder delivered a gem in topping Reading 3-2.
In the 3-on-3 overtime, Fielding got to a loose puck in front of the net before a Royals player and sent the puck toward the boards. Pierre-Luc Mercier then dug it out and sent a backhanded pass to a breaking James Henry. The speedy forward finished the breakaway with a goal at 2:26 of the overtime.
And then there was that special noise in the arena when 5,000-plus people yell at the top of their lungs. When you hear it, you never forget it.
Fielding said it was a fun atmosphere playing before such a lively crowd.
“You could see a lot of (retired) military and current military people in the stands,” Fielding said. “The way they sacrificed for us, it’s easy to get up for a game like that and put it on the line. You could see it in (our) blocked shots. It was an awesome effort.”
Fielding said he tries to work on his stick handling in practice.
“Especially 3 on 3, you can be a little more aggressive,” said Fielding, who made 26 saves and improved his record to 13-8-2-2 this season. “I saw two of their guys forechecking pretty hard, so I knew with a loose puck, I could bypass at least one, hopefully two.”
Thunder coach Brad Tapper said he noticed that Fielding “had his swagger back” after his performance in Friday’s overtime loss to North Division-leading Manchester.
“A goaltender needs swagger and confidence, and he looked like he had it back last night,” Tapper said. “So he got the start and I thought he did really well.”
The Thunder took a 1-0 lead on Desmond Bergin’s slap shot 1:47 into the second period. The Royals tied it on a power-play goal, but the Thunder retook the lead on Troy Bourke’s fourth goal in just seven games during this injury-filled season for the skilled forward. Bourke came around the goal and put the puck in off a Reading defenseman’s skate. It was Bourke’s first game since Jan. 5.
“I was kind of getting used to the flow,” said Bourke, who has 13 points. “Not exactly in game shape as I want to be, but once things started moving around, I kind of got used to my linemates. They did a good job tonight.”
Scott Tanski made Adirondack pay for a turnover deep in its own zone 2:32 into the third period, tying the game at 2. From then on, the Royals controlled the action, with Fielding keeping Reading at bay until Henry notched his 17th goal of the season and team-high 45th point.
“I’m really proud of the service men and women for such a special night,” said Tapper, who noted that Private Alex Kinney got to read the lineup to the team and deliver a pregame message to the team.
“Hopefully we have the legs against Wheeling, which has not played this weekend,” Tapper said, “but we’ll do our best.”
Thunder 3, Royals 2, OT
Reading 0 1 1 0 — 2
Adirondack 0 2 0 1 — 3
First Period — None. Penalties — Luukko, Rea (boarding), 15:00.
Second Period — 1, Adirondack, Bergin 12 (Rodrigues), 1:47. 2, Reading, McCarthy 17 (Willows, Zajac), 6:32 (pp). 3, Adirondack, Bourke 4 (Conacher), 11:33. Penalties — Kaiser, Adk (slashing), 5:13; Bergin, Adk (hooking), 18:13.
Third Period — 4, Reading, Tanski 2, 2:32. Penalties — Thompson, Adk (hooking), 17:13.
Overtime — 5, Adirondack, Henry 17 (Mercier, Fielding), 2:26. Penalties — None.
Shots on Goal — Reading 7-10-11-0-28. Adirondack 18-12-11-3-44.
Power Plays — Reading 1-3; Adirondack 0-1.
Goalies — Reading, Dekanich 10-14-2-0 (44 shots-41 saves). Adirondack, Fielding 13-8-2-0 (28 shots-26 saves).
A — 5,445.
Ref — Matt Menniti.