As cliché as it may sound, the Adirondack Thunder are approaching their playoff series with the Manchester Monarchs one game at a time.
You probably hear it all the time in sports and may never really believe it. In a best of seven series, however, if you look too far ahead, or dwell too much on the past, it can overcome a team.
“You don’t look at it as a playoff series, you look at it as one game at a time,” Thunder defenseman Ryan Constant said. “You can’t look too far ahead and you have to stay even keeled throughout the playoffs. You can’t get caught up in the highs and the lows because it can take over a team over a playoff series, so you have to be careful and make sure the whole team is on the same page.”
Constant, a veteran of over 60 career ECHL playoff games, knows that while a Game 1 victory on the road is important, it’s far from a done deal in a series between two teams as evenly matched as Adirondack and Manchester. While it’s important to move past the emotions of Game 1, the gameplan and execution was something that Constant feels is important to carry over.
“We had a gameplan going into the first game and I thought we executed pretty well,” Constant said. “We have to keep that same gameplan into Game 2 knowing they’re going to be coming at us pretty hard, especially with us taking the first game in their barn. We have to know that’s coming and be expecting it.”
Constant knows his team is ready for a battle in Game 2 against a hungry Monarchs team that won’t be in tune with the idea of dropping two in a row on home ice to open a playoff series. Despite the Thunder being a young team, having many of their players in their first year of professional hockey, Constant wasn’t concerned about the team’s youth.
“We don’t look at it too much,” he said. “Obviously there are some younger guys on the team but we have enough older guys that can steer them in the right direction.”
One of those younger players is goaltender Ken Appleby, who despite being a rookie is no stranger to the rigors of playoff hockey. Appleby backstopped his team to the 2015 Memorial Cup Championship, playing through four grueling rounds of OHL playoff action and four more intense games at the Memorial Cup in June.
After 25 games of playoff action, including an OHL Finals victory over NHL superstar Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters, Appleby earned the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy for Top Goaltender at the Memorial Cup, as well as a place on the All-Tournament Team. Appleby posted a perfect 4-0 record with a 2.08 GAA and a .915 SV% in four Memorial Cup games.
“You need to be a lot more consistent night in and night out,” Appleby said. “You have to come in prepared every night because they’re going to be doing the same. Luckily we were able to get off to a good start [in Game 1] and hopefully we can continue that.”
Playing so many games in a two-week window can be taxing on anyone, even well-conditioned professional athletes. Appleby stressed taking care of his body in a series that could easily go seven games, all played within an 11-day span.
“I think you have to take care of your body, because you’re playing so many games without a lot of rest,” he said. “You have to choose your spots during practice, getting reps and a feel for the puck the day before a game. You want to get used to the game, get your legs under you again and it’s a lot better than sitting at the hotel being a couch potato.”
With Game 2 on the horizon tonight, the Thunder are far from couch potatoes, skating each day during their trip to Manchester. With another heavy battle awaiting, the Thunder will be taking in the moment as they will every other. One game at a time.