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Irvine, Grasso help Thunder get back on track

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Thunder vs. Maine

Fans throw Teddy Bears on the ice as part of a promotion after the Adirondack Thunder scored their first goal on Saturday night.

GLENS FALLS — From rags to riches, from teddy bears to hats.

One day after suffering their worst loss of the season, the Adirondack Thunder played a solid 60 minutes Saturday in topping Maine 5-3 before 3,484 fans on Teddy Bear Toss Night at Cool Insuring Arena.

After an 8-1 loss to Worcester on Friday, Thunder coach Alex Loh said the team just needed one player to step up and do a little thing that would spark the rest of the guys. Tyler Irvine stepped up to that role.

Irvine worked for the puck along the boards, came away with it, skated in and notched the Thunder’s first shorthanded goal of the year 2:42 into the game, allowing the teddy bears to come flying out of the stands. That also was significant because Maine’s power play led the league at 37.8 percent entering Saturday.

“Tyler made a great play there,” Loh said. “For him to go out there and win a puck battle and then make a play was awesome, and it obviously got us off on the right foot.”

Patrick Grasso, who finished with a hat trick, made it 2-0 at 10:56 after finishing a give-and-go from Irvine, who had a five-point night with a goal and four assists to take over the team lead in scoring with 15 points.

The Thunder led 2-0 after one period, but the second period has been the albatross around their neck. Entering Saturday, Adirondack had been outscored 26-7 in that period — the worst in the league — and had allowed 174 shots in that period, tied for second worst in the league.

This night was different, however.

Grasso scored again, on the doorstep, to make it 3-0 41 seconds into the period, which sent Maine starting goalie Zachary Bouthillier to the bench in favor of Jeremy Brodeur. Later, defenseman Ivan Chukarov tallied his second of the season all alone in the slot on the power play to make it 4-0 at 11:34. Maine got on the board before the period ended, but the Thunder (6-8-1-0) had outscored the Mariners 2-1 and allowed just 13 shots in the middle 20 minutes.

Of course, things are never easy, and Maine scored twice in 51 seconds in the third, making it a 4-3 Thunder lead at 11:26. Adirondack’s penalty-kill unit, however, completely stymied the Mariners about a minute later, which gave the Thunder the momentum it needed.

Grasso’s final goal of the night and eighth of the season went into an empty net with 2:17 left for the final margin.

There were some line changes after Friday, with the most notable being Adirondack’s starting forward line of 25-year-olds: Nick Rivera, Grasso and Irvine. Seeing as how the trio combined for four goals and six assists, it’s a safe bet it will stay together as long as it can.

“We all focused on winning our one-on-one little battles,” Irvine said.

“A short memory will serve us well,” Grasso said of Friday’s loss. “You’re going to have those ups and downs. It’s just a matter of keeping your head and riding the highs and bouncing off the lows.”

Mareks Mitens had a strong game, with 37 saves, to earn his fourth win of the year.

“The team in front of me played amazing,” Mittens said, “especially the first and second shift of the third period — they blocked three or four shots in a row.”

NOTES: Ten candidates have been nominated for the 2022 class of the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame. There are eight players and two builders. The players are Scott Drevitch, James Henry, Dave Korol, Michael Leighton, Claude Loiselle, Geordie Robertson, Stacey Roest and Gary Shuchuek. The builders are Mike Kane and Joe Vogel. A committee will select the inductees in December and be inducted on April 15. … The Thunder released forward Nick DeVito. The Averill Park native played at SUNY Morrisville. He had two assists in seven games for Adirondack.

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The Adirondack Thunder hit the road this weekend for a three-games-in-three-days series, beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Worcester.

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