For the first time in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Manchester Monarchs, the Adirondack Thunder have faced adversity.
Through three games, they were as Angus Young put it best, “Rolling Thunder.”
Adirondack won the first three games of the series to take a three games to none lead headed into Monday evening’s Game 4. With the possibility of being swept in play, the Monarchs charged out of the gates as a desperate team, throwing 20 shots on Adirondack netminder Ken Appleby in the first period. Even though they were unable to score, their desperation gave them a dynamic start that gave Adirondack problems.
“To win the fourth game is the hardest to do,” Adirondack forward Michael Kirkpatrick said. “They were desperate tonight, had nothing to lose, had their backs against the wall and they came out and played a good game.”
Despite Manchester’s aggressive beginning to the game, last evening’s game marked the first time in the series that a goal was not scored in the game’s opening 70 seconds.
A pair of penalty calls finally led to the game’s first two goals, one to each side, late in the second period. After Ben Johnson was given an extra two minutes following a scrum by the Monarchs’ bench, Manchester opened the scoring with Matt Leitner’s first career ECHL playoff goal. A Mark Anthoine roughing minor, the lone penalty stemming from a scrum behind the net, gave Adirondack a power play a few minutes later and Ryan Lomberg converted with just 17 seconds left in the middle stanza to even the score at one.
The Monarchs found their eventual game winner with nine minutes on the dot to play in the second and despite some chances, the Thunder were unable to knot the score and force overtime. The desperation factor that the Monarchs played with throughout the night was something that Thunder Head Coach Cail MacLean felt his team lacked down the stretch.
“They were just a more desperate team tonight, that’s the bottom line,” MacLean said following the loss. “They were a more desperate team than we were tonight and they won as a result. Give them credit for that and we need to become that team.”
As the Thunder progress towards Game 5, they are coming off of a loss for the first time in the series. During the regular season, the Thunder came back after a loss 17 times with a victory, something they will need to do again on Wednesday if they want to avoid a return to the Civic Center for a potential Game 6.
“Every single game between us is close, it was another close one tonight,” Kirkpatrick said. “We have to bounce back on Wednesday. [Wednesday] is another game, it’s a playoff series. You have to forget about the last one and come out with a fresh mindset for the next one.”
If one thing is for certain, it’s that Manchester’s intensity isn’t going anywhere between Games 4 and 5. Just as it was prior to Monday evening, the Monarchs have nothing to lose on the ice and their desperation level will remain at an all-time high.
“Teams are always ready to go when their backs are against the wall,” MacLean said. “That’s a good lesson for us and we need to be ready to go on Wednesday.”