GLENS FALLS — Adirondack Thunder coach Brad Tapper admits that the turnaround from Friday night’s 6-5 shootout rally over Manchester to Saturday afternoon’s 5-4 overtime loss to Reading wasn’t easy. Five hours on a bus, five to six hours of sleep, go!
It was a walk in the park compared to what awaits them this week and into next. The Thunder have four games in six days, starting with Tuesday’s home game against Greenville. They next have two home games with Toledo on Friday and Saturday nights before, in a cruel twist, heading back to Reading for another 4 p.m. game Sunday.
The physical toll such a schedule exacts is obvious, but players and coaches said Monday that it’s a combination of physical and mental steps that will help everyone get through it with what they hope is a winning record.
Assistant coach Alex Loh said video review of the Thunder’s two games last weekend provides the first line of help.
“Trying to find areas where you can improve quickly,” Loh said. “That’s hard to get because you’re not looking at a lot of practice time — maybe today and Thursday — so it’s about finding quick fixes that can help us this week.”
Once on the ice for practice, Tapper won’t change anything, noting he’ll put the players through the usual pace practices.
“For defensemen, they play up to 20 minutes, some of them 12 to 13, they have to be ready to go,” Tapper said.
Paul Rodrigues is in his fifth ECHL season, but his first with Adirondack. He said such a grind requires focus and work ethic.
“There are a lot of things that go into it,” Rodrigues said. “It’s not just being prepared on the ice, but off the ice: eating right, staying hydrated. Stick to the game plan and things will work out the way they should.”
Mike Bergin, in his third season with the Thunder, said that when the games begin, it’s important for players to look at the small pictures.
“Cut it down to that next game, that next shift,” Bergin said. “You don’t want to think ‘four games in six days, but one and one, next shift.’ Just compete and don’t worry about how many games you have coming up.”
Loh added that players need to have short memories once they start playing.
“Forget the last thing and move on to the next because it happens so quickly,” he said. “Otherwise the game’s over and you’ve been thinking about something else the whole time.”
Tapper said he emphasizes mental preparation as far as the players’ lifestyles off the ice to help with this stretch.
“Making sure you’re eating well, sleeping well, buying in to be a 24/7 professional hockey player, not being a goofball off the ice,” Tapper said, listing examples.
The Thunder can use their three-point weekend as mental fuel going into this stretch. On Friday they fell behind Manchester 5-2 in the second period, but tied a franchise record for largest deficit to overcome and earn at least a point from before turning it into a two-point night with the win. Less than 24 hours later, they set a new record by coming back from a four-goal deficit to earn a point in the overtime loss.
“You never want to fall back in a game, but it’s great to see the resilience of our team. We can definitely use that in the future,” Bergin said.
“We’re very proud as a hockey staff to get that point,” Tapper said.