The trip will cover four-fifths of November, 4,600 miles and involve stays at eight hotels. Due to the Cool Insuring Arena hosting a rodeo, gun show and state girls volleyball tournament, the Adirondack Thunder won’t see Glens Falls until Nov. 25.
Until then, they will play 11 away games during a stretch that they must hold their own in, lest the rest of the competitive North Division teams start to run away from the Thunder in the ECHL standings.
So, the Thunder prepare to go as far west as Moline, Illinois, as far north as Brampton, Ontario, and as far south as Norfolk, Virginia. And besides the bus drivers, it is their defense that will have to lead them.
The Thunder enter this November road swing on a two-game losing streak. Most troubling was their 9-4 loss to Reading on Sunday. Thunder coach Brad Tapper noted that the stars aligned for host Reading that day — it was the second time the rested Royals were waiting for Adirondack, which was playing its third game in three days.
“We were mentally drained and physically drained, but we need to be smarter,” Tapper said. “We need to be a lot better defensively. We need to be harder to play against.”
Among the things that Tapper mentioned was not having the forwards get pinned in opponents’ defensive zones so easily.
Defensemen Mike Bergin and Dylan Olsen characterized the Thunder’s defensive struggles as a combination of little things blowing up.
“Coming back on the backcheck, shoulder checking, picking up the late guys, being strong in the net front and trying to clear out the net front so the goalies can see pucks,” Bergin listed. “It’s a cumulative thing, just tightening up on every aspect. It’s a long road trip coming up, so that’s important.”
“We just have to play in our structure, be solid in our own zone and work to create offense. We’ve just got to keep it simple,” Olsen added.
The Thunder also have dealt with a lot of transactions over the past week and a half, so the moving parts of the roster haven’t helped. Hoping that will slow down over the road stretch, the players and coaching staff think being with the same faces for such a long period of time could help team bonding tremendously.
“If we’re feeling good and playing well, you’re on the road and you’re only worried about one thing, and that’s hockey, so we’re looking to get off to a hot start and keep it rolling,” Bergin said. “It’ll be nice to get the same group of guys together for an extended period of time, and we can definitely use it as a bonding experience.”
But as well-bonded as they may be by the end of it, the wins and losses will be their ultimate judgment.
“If you want to be a playoff-contending team, you’ve got to win on the road,” Tapper said. “We do have a young group, but we need to play smarter without the puck and smarter with the puck.”