MANCHESTER, N.H. — In their four years of existence, the Adirondack Thunder have only lost once — to Manchester in 2017 — in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.
It will take a Herculean effort to avoid that fate this year. The Thunder trail Manchester 3-0 in their best-of-seven North Division semifinal series. Game 4 is set for 7 p.m. Friday at SNHU Arena.
Elimination games almost always bring out a good desperation from the team trying to avoid having their slapshots turn into golf shots, so Thunder coach Alex Loh said he’s not going to harp on it.
“The guys all know, it’s not like it’s going to be any secret, so it’s more about playing our game,” Loh said. “We just can’t show up and try to be somebody different. When we play our game, we’re pretty good.”
In looking at the positives and negatives of the series, the scale is predictably tipped in favor of the Monarchs.
For starters, their goalie Charles Williams is having a series for the ages. He has a 1.62 goals-against average and is saving 95.8 percent of the shots he has faced. He’s also getting a lot of help from his defense, which has done a good job of breaking up would-be rushes and keeping most of Adirondack’s shots to the outside.
The Monarchs also are getting balanced scoring and plenty of it. Their 13 playoff goals lead the league, and they’ve gotten them from nine players. And while he has one goal, former Thunder Pierre-Luc Mercier has had an outstanding series with three assists and smart play. His assist on Manchester’s first goal Wednesday was highlight-reel stuff.
Another thing in Manchester’s favor is the fact that it has to be in the Thunder’s heads. It’s gotten some fortunate breaks while Adirondack hasn’t, and the Thunder are riding a season-long six-game losing streak dating back to April 5.
The Thunder do have some positives going for them, but even those come with asterisks. Their 40 percent power-play percentage during the playoffs — boosted by a 2-for-2 performance Wednesday — is second in the league. And all of Peter MacArthur’s team-high three assists have come with an extra man. But the Thunder have scored just one five-on-five goal, and that was at 12:15 of the first period of game 1.
Also, Evan Cormier played a strong game Wednesday, as he was tested repeatedly in making 35 saves. One would think he’d be a logical game 4 starter. Still, the quality of shots he and Alex Sakellaropoulos in game 2 have faced was higher than that which Williams has faced, and it would be better for Adirondack if that statistic could be flipped.
“We’ve got to get some bounces here, too,” Bradshaw said. “A couple tips go through (Williams’) legs and out the other side. Things like that just aren’t going in for us right now, so hopefully it turns. I think it will if we just stick to it, keep the game plan. Because we’re doing a lot of good things, we’re just not getting totally rewarded.”