Fans and players alike were a little confused when the Adirondack Thunder’s playoff schedule came out. The Thunder won the North Division, earning home ice, but actually start the first round on the road.
They play the first two games of the North Division semifinals at Manchester before the series comes to Glens Falls for up to five games.
“I was a little confused at first because it didn’t make any sense,” Greg Wolfe said. “But when you think about it, that’s a pretty heavy advantage in our favor.”
All of the Thunder players asked are more than willing to give up the chance to open at home in return for the home crowd behind them in a clinching game for either team.
But how did they end up with this weird format?
It comes down to interesting scheduling by the SNHU Arena. The building is hosting the Ringling Bros. circus, which requires taking the ice out in the middle of the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Manchester cannot host a hockey game at its home arena before Friday or between April 17 and April 27. It may have been able to find another rink, but that would be far from ideal.
When Manchester CEO Brian Cheek suggested this format to Thunder president Brian Petrovek, he was intrigued. Maybe he could have forced Cheek to host a game at St. Anselm College, but having five games straight games at home seemed like a pretty good deal, too.
“I think it’s a good thing to start on the road,” coach Cail MacLean said. “I think it’s healthy for a team to get into that environment right off the bat. I don’t mind it at all.”
The higher seed starting on the road is unusual, but not unheard of. In the AHL, which uses five-game series, most higher seeds start on the road in 2-3 formats.
Last year, the Thunder were the lower seed and opened with two wins at Manchester. That history gave Petrovek some confidence in starting his team off on the road.
So how much does it all matter?
“It doesn’t matter that we’re the higher seed or that we’re starting on the road,” Pete MacArthur said.
The Thunder roster is out and while it looks pretty similar to the one they ended the season with, there are a few key differences.
The most glaring is the one goalie. J.P. Anderson is the only goaltender listed, no Drew Fielding, who started the final regular season game. Instead, there is a spot open.
“Mason (McDonald) has been with us all year and he’s done a good job,” MacLean said. “We’re doing our best to communicate with everyone and read what’s going to happen. Given that, it’s best to put him in even though he’s not here right now.”
McDonald is with Stockton, which is in a playoff position but has yet to secure that spot with three games left in the season. The Heat do have three goalies, however, having signed Joel Rumple on Sunday.
Ken Appleby is also eligible to fill the spot. Appleby, who led the Thunder in last year’s playoffs, is currently with Albany, which is also in a playoff position but has not clinched it.
The Thunder released injured players Mike Bergin, Dana Fraser, Phil Lane, Conor Riley, who will not be healthy in time, and J.C. Campagna. They have one more spot that can be filled by one of the following polayers currently in the AHL: Mathieu Brodeur (Syracuse), Mikkel Aagaard (Stockton) and Ty Loney (Chicago).
How to watch
Adirondack Thunder fans who want to watch games one and two of their ECHL playoffs series against Manchester this weekend have two options: echl.tv and O’Toole’s Restaurant Pub.
The games will not be televised. They will be streamed on echl.tv for $6.99 per game or $39.99 per round.
The team is also hosting watch parties both nights at O’Toole’s. The exact details of the watch parties are not available, but the games will be aired. Friday’s game starts at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s at 6 p.m.