GLENS FALLS — The karma was real Saturday night at Cool Insuring Arena.
After Adirondack Thunder forward Conor Riley was slashed by Newfoundland goalie Michael Garteig and ended up skating off to the locker room for an early end to his first period, he later returned and delivered a hat trick in the Thunder’s 6-4 win over the Growlers before 4,114 fans.
With Riley skating toward the puck, Garteig slashed Riley across his legs, causing him to trip and slide across the ice. After trainer Aisha Visram visited him, Riley needed help in getting off the ice.
But when he returned in the second period, he made sure Garteig and the Growlers would remember his name. He assisted Kelly Summers’ goal to break a 1-1 tie for a power-play tally at 13:47. He had some words for Garteig on that play.
“I just kind of let him know we were going to make it a long night for him, and we were going to try to get as many pucks on net as possible after that,” said Riley, whose hat trick propelled him to 21 goals for the season.
He wasn’t through. At 16:25, Mike Szmatula delivered a great cross-ice pass to the open Riley, who wristed it stick-side over Garteig to make it 3-1. He stared at Garteig from behind the net for several seconds as he celebrated with teammates.
Riley scored his second straight goal at 5:07 of the third on what has to be the Thunder’s best sequence of the season. Coming out of the penalty box, Michael Sdao arrived at a Growler a split-second after the puck did. Sdao leveled him high, but cleanly, causing the puck to squirt right to Riley, who had a breakaway and buried it.
“I just tried to make sure it was clean,” Sdao said. “Part of the game. The puck just happened to be passed up to the point the time the (penalty) expired. I’d rather go on a breakaway.”
After the Growlers closed the lead to 4-2, the final two and a half minutes were a goal-scoring frenzy. Brian Ward notched his second of the night on an empty-netter on a defensive play, the puck painstakingly slowly going into the net.
Newfoundland got one back before Riley notched his own empty-netter by taking a stab at a 50-50 puck a split-second before a Growler. Again, the anticipation of the puck going in the net was worth it to the enthused crowd.
“A little bit of karma after that and some lucky bounces,” Riley said. “It was good to get the two points, especially where we are in playoff position. It’s good that we’re playing playoff-style hockey now.”
Thunder coach Alex Loh said the referee explained to him that Garteig was guilty of a two-minute slash, but the linesman was the one who saw it, and they can’t use a linesman on a two-minute penalty. Loh said the ECHL’s supervisor of officials was in attendance, and he is satisfied that proper steps will be taken.
“I might disagree with the final result, but that’s what they’re going with,” Loh said of the non-call. “He’ll deal with it however he wants.”
There was another non-call early in the third period that may be more painful to the Thunder. Starting goaltender Logan Thompson — who saved 24 of 25 shots to that point — was hit by the Growlers’ Alex Gudbranson on an inside cut-and-shot to the net. He had to helped off, keeping his left foot off the ice. Arthur Brey entered and made 13 saves the rest of the way. While Brey allowed three goals, he also made some very impressive saves.
“They kicked one in, and Pardy, he has an NHL shot that rung off the far post. Nobody’s saving that. Certainly no issue with Art, he made some great saves for us,” Loh said.
The win gives the Thunder 74 points and a tiny bit of breathing room in the North Division’s second place. Maine and Worcester each have 69. The Thunder’s three-in-three weekend concludes Sunday with an afternoon home game against Reading.
“The team showed a lot of character the last two games,” Sdao said. “Good weekend so far, but we’ve got two more points to get.”