GLENS FALLS — Wanted: a sense of urgency by the Adirondack Thunder for home-ice advantage in the ECHL playoffs. If interested, apply Saturday or Sunday.
Needing just one win in this weekend’s stretch of three games in three days to secure home ice, the Thunder began Friday night with a lackluster 4-1 loss to Reading.
“That was the difference between a team that needed the two points and a team that wanted the two points,” Thunder coach Alex Loh said.
Reading, which briefly had a tie for fourth in the division before Brampton’s overtime game with Cincinnati, took a 2-0 lead in the first period, and the Thunder were fortunate it wasn’t more. Between fortunate bounces and goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos (32 saves), the Thunder still had time to turn things around.
But even when they tried, they couldn’t sustain it. Matias Cleland’s shove-type shot went off a Reading defenseman’s stick and into the net at 16:54 of the second to make it a 2-1 Royals lead. But the Royals’ Tyler Brown took advantage of a too-late defensive slide to backhand a short shot past Sakellaropoulos’ far side with 40 seconds left in the period.
Reading added its fourth goal on a clean breakaway from Nick Luukko at 4:42 of the third — Reading’s second goal of the game where the Thunder got caught looking instead of skating.
Sakellaropoulos might wish for Reading’s first goal back, but he was otherwise very sharp in his first game back with the Thunder since Feb. 24, having spent time with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. He made a stick save while falling down in the second period that was highlight-reel material, and stopped two other breakaways.
With defenseman Jake Linhart out of the lineup, rookie Tommy Parran got the surprise start. Fresh off the campus of Ohio State, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder played some solid minutes, had a couple of decent hits and showed good speed.
“Similar systems in college, so not too much of an adjustment,” Parran said. “It’s just a little bit faster-paced game, guys are little bit stronger, little bit older, little more mature.”
The basic problem all night was that the Thunder gave Reading too much room to operate, and the Royals — desperately fighting for the last playoff spot — were happy to oblige. One imagines they will be that way Saturday, when they host Adirondack. The Thunder wrap up the regular season Sunday at home against Worcester.
“This is something we’ve dealt with all year, playing three-in-three,” Loh said. “It’s just finding a way to recognize how important these games still are. I know we’ve got the little ‘x’ next to our name, but we still want to play in front of this crowd as much as we can, so we need that win.”
In the playoff race, Manchester earned a shootout win over Newfoundland, which clinched a playoff spot for the Monarchs, who are now two points behind Adirondack, but have one more win. Should Adirondack and Manchester tie in points and wins, Manchester owns the tiebreaker of overtime wins. Adirondack owns the tiebreaker over every other team still fighting for a spot.
NOTES: Adironack captain James Henry was selected as the recipient of the 2018-19 ECHL Community Service Award. Among his many contributions, he and his wife Ashley helped arrange the Thunder’s community initiative, resulting in the team donating over $7,500 to Mission 22, which aids in the prevention of veteran suicide. … In other team awards given Friday, Sakellaropoulos was Rookie of the Year, Blake Thompson was Defenseman of the Year, Matt Salhany was the Unsung Hero, Conor Riley and Shane Conacher shared the Thunder Fan Favorite and Mike Szmatula was the Most Valuable Player. ... The Thunder took goalie Logan Thompson off injured reserve and released goalie Arthur Brey.