GLENS FALLS — It was Fan Appreciation Night at the Adirondack Thunder’s last regular-season home game Friday. The Thunder showered fans with posters, T-shirts and other items.
But the way they showed the fans the most appreciation was by delivering a crucial win, 3-2 over Manchester before a standing-room-only crowd of 5,247.
The victory put Adirondack in first place in the tight North Division with 87 points, one more than the Monarchs, who have two games left as opposed to the Thunder’s one. Still, the win clinched home ice for at least the first round of the playoffs.
The opponent is still to be determined, but Cool Insuring Arena General Manager Jeff Mead said that Adirondack will host the first game of the playoffs on Friday, April 13. Nothing more has been finalized.
The Thunder used a 2-0 second period to break a 1-1 tie and earn the advantage. Manchester put on a flurry in the third, outshooting the Thunder 17-3, but the defense and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood (37 saves) held it off.
“We were absolutely excellent with our effort,” Thunder coach Brad Tapper said. “Our stick detail was good. We were ending plays — it was nice to see Dylan Olsen ending plays. Shows you that he’s passionate, wants to win. Our goaltending was fabulous. Our special teams were good, and I’m very proud of the guys that put their bodies on the line to block pucks.”
Shane Conacher got the scoring started at 7:53 of the first period when he poked in a rebound down low for his 20th goal of the season.
Spencer Watson’s rebound tied it for the Monarchs to end the first in a 1-1 knot. The momentum changed in the second, however, after Manchester’ Ashton Rome got a game misconduct for being the aggressor and charging Troy Bourke from behind at 5:33.
Just 54 seconds later, in 4-on-4 play, Matthew Spencer finished a two-on-one off a nice assist from Brian Ward for the go-ahead goal.
“I was able to keep my head on a swivel, so I was able to jump up in the rush,” Spencer said. “I tried to open up as best I could so we could generate a passing lane. I kinda called for it last second; I gave my stick a little raise and he made a great pass over to me. Glad it went in.”
Then 1:12 later, with Adirondack on the power play, Paul Rodrigues intercepted a pass in the slot and shot it past Monarchs goalie Charles Williams, glove side, for his 11th of the season to make it 3-1.
The third period was a mighty test for Blackwood, but with the exception of a goal by Cory Ward with 1:22 left when the Monarchs had an extra skater, he was equal to the task. It was a career high in saves for Blackwood in the ECHL.
“Just getting to my spots fast and being set,” Blackwood said. “It was a pretty solid night and it felt good.”
Tapper said the fans were an unbeatable seventh man.
“When we score a goal in this building, when we win a hockey game, it’s the best building in the league by far,” Tapper said.
“It definitely fires you up and gives you that extra bit of motivation you need to get through a hard shift,” Blackwood said of the crowd.
Notes: Team awards were announced before the game. Brian Ward (29 goals, 22 assists) was named the team’s most valuable player, while Desmond Bergin got defenseman of the year. Goalie Drew Fielding got the unsung hero award and James Henry earned the community service award. Tim Harrison was named the rookie of the year.
Thunder 3, Monarchs 2
Manchester 1 0 1 — 2
Adirondack 1 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, Adirondack, Conacher 20 (Titcomb, Riley), 7:53. 2, Manchester, Watson 25 (Kolquist, Marcinew), 14:01. Penalties — LaVallee-Smotherman, Man (slashing), 3:21.
Second Period — 3, Adirondack, Spencer 2 (Ward, Szmatula), 6:27. 4, Adirondack, Rodrigues 11 (Miller), 7:39 (pp). Penalties — Rome, Man (tripping), 2:25; Rome, Man, major-game misconduct (fighting), 5:33; Bourke, Adk (slashing), 5:33.
Third Period — 5, Manchester, Ward 8 (Morris, LaVallee-Smotherman), 18:38. Penalties — Schmelzer, Adk (slashing), 0:49; Conacher, Adk (slashing), 10:52.
Shots on Goal — Manchester 8-14-17-39. Adirondack 11-8-3-22.
Power Play — Manchester 0-2; Adirondack 1-4.
Goalies — Manchester, Williams 22-11-3-2 (22 shots-19 saves). Adirondack, Blackwood 2-1-0-1 (39 shots-37 saves).
A — 5,247.
Ref — Chris Pontes.