This season has been a collection of trades, promotions and reassignments for the Adirondack Thunder, but the one factor that should remain constant is a player’s desire to compete.
It hasn’t always — it would be almost impossible over an ECHL regular season. But now 48 games into a 72-game season, Thunder coach Brad Tapper has told his team that it has to.
The “or else” is obvious when one looks at the standings. The Thunder are a respectable 26-18-2-2, good for the fourth and final North Division playoff spot if the regular season ended now. While their 56 points are merely four behind division leader Manchester, suddenly they also are just 10 ahead of Worcester, which has won five of its last six and earned at least one point in all six.
And that desire to compete was missing in Adirondack’s 8-3 loss to Manchester on Saturday. Since then, Tapper said the Thunder had two good days of practice and worked on special teams, forechecking and pace. But he couldn’t put them through the one thing he wants most.
“The will has got to come from the players,” Tapper said, “and it wasn’t there Saturday. Manchester had as playoff-ready a lineup as it can, they played well and we were a little banged up, but no excuses. Guys have got to step up.”
That desire to compete will be tested this weekend, as the Thunder visit Norfolk for three games in three days, starting with Friday night’s contest. They’ll again have to do it with changes to the lineup, as two notable transactions happened Thursday.
The AHL’s Syracuse Crunch loaned forward Shane Conacher back to Adirondack, but defenseman Desmond Bergin signed a player tryout contract with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL.
Conacher has accumulated 37 points in 33 games with the Thunder. His 28 assists lead the team. He has played seven games with Syracuse this season. Bergin, 25, heads to the AHL for the first time during the regular season, though he participated in training camp with the Binghamton Devils and with Hartford in 2016. He leads all Thunder defensemen with 31 points.
Tapper is well aware that three games in three days is physically taxing, but he plans to give his players as much rest as he can afford.
“We’ve done three-in-threes before,” Tapper said. “It should be easier now.”