GLENS FALLS — Hockey players might not want the comparison to Crash Davis of the movie, “Bull Durham,” but the Adirondack Thunder’s Nick Riopel paraphrased his “don’t think, just pitch” line Wednesday night.
Don’t think, just react.
Riopel was sharp, Troy Bourke returned to the lineup with fantastic results and the Thunder had things their way in a 3-1 ECHL win over Manchester at Cool Insuring Arena.
“Sometimes when you think too much is when the mistakes happen,” said Riopel, who had 20 saves. “I talked to my dad, and he said, ‘Nick, just go out there and have fun and play the game.’ The past two weeks, even in practice, I enjoy myself. Just don’t think, compete and good things will happen.”
Riopel said he had some difficulties adjusting to the constantly changing lineup and had some minor injuries, but finally decided to save his thinking for practice. His game-time reactions were solid Wednesday, as he made two breakaway saves as part of his repertoire Wednesday.
“I thought Riopel was a big factor, which is good,” Thunder coach Brad Tapper said.
The other major influence in the game was Bourke, who has been out with an injury since the season-opening game. He made his presence felt early with a nifty assist.
The Thunder trailed 1-0 on a power-play goal originally waved off 25 seconds in, but they soon got a power-play of their own. Bourke, just behind the goal, flipped a quick pass to Ty Loney on the goal’s doorstep and Loney flicked it in for his team-high 15th goal to tie the game at 1:53.
“Absolutely huge, what a play,” Tapper said of the tying goal. “You can design any play you want in the world. … but you have to allow the players to make plays, and they can’t be scared to make plays. That is a talented play by Bourke back to Loney to put that puck in the net, and few players can do that.”
“Honestly, he’s a smart player and he gets to the right areas, and I honestly don’t have to do much, just pick up my head and try to find a lane there,” Bourke said of Loney.
Special teams weren’t finished. On the penalty kill, Paul Rodrigues stole the puck in the neutral zone and waited for a cutting James Henry before sending it over and watching Henry net his ninth of the season to make it a 2-1 Thunder lead at 6:26 of the first.
The score stayed that way through the second period. Still, Manchester didn’t get to the top of the North Division by accident, and its speed was evident all night, so an insurance goal for the Thunder would go a long way.
Enter Loney and Bourke again.
Loney skated in to the right circle and passed it across to Bourke, who one-timed it in for his third goal of the season in just two games.
“A little back-and-forth action,” Bourke said of reciprocating with Loney. “It’s nice to get that insurance goal and run away with it,”
“It was nice to have him back,” Tapper said of Bourke, a third-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. “He got the hammer in the room for player of the game from the team, and rightly so. He provided energy, he was skating well, he competed and he looked fine.”