MANCHESTER, NH – Conor Riley scored his team-leading 10th and 11th goals of the year, Mike Szmatula added three points and Alex Sakellaropoulos turned aside 36 of 38 shots to lead the Thunder to a 5-2 victory Friday night at SNHU Arena in Manchester.
After the Monarchs opened the scoring with a pair of goals just 67 seconds apart early in the initial period, the Thunder came charging back with three of their own before the first intermission. Conor Riley got the party started when he converted on a rebound for his tenth score of the season. Mike Szmatula started the play with a bad-angle shot from the outside of the right circle. Riley was sitting on the doorstep and his second jab at the puck shot through the legs of Cole Kehler to cut the Manchester lead in half.
Szmatula tied the game less than two minutes later when he scored on a rebound opportunity of his own. Kelly Summers took the initial Thunder shot and the puck was sitting in front of Kehler and the Monarchs’ cage. Szmatula, Riley and Matt Salhany were all pounding away before the rookie forward smacked it into the net for his ninth score of the season.
Shane Conacher added his seventh tally while the Thunder were shorthanded at 18:42 of the first period. Riley raced behind the Manchester net and pickpocketed the puck from Kehler. He carried it in front of the cage and sauced a pass to a charging Shane Conacher. The Canisius College product took a huge slap-shot that beat Kehler and gave Adirondack a 3-2 lead.
Salhany added to the Thunder advantage with the only goal of the second period. The speedy forward snuck in behind the Monarchs’ defense and had a breakaway on Kehler. After a little deke, the second-year pro slid a shot through the five-hole for his fourth goal of the season.
Riley finished the scoring when he made it 5-2 at the 4:08 mark of the third with a power-play goal, his team-high 11th tally of the season. Again it was Summers starting the play with a one-timer from the right point. Kehler made the first save but Riley teed it up out of mid-air to knock in the rebound for a three-goal Thunder lead.
Sakellaropoulos was tested early and often in this one and was up for the challenge. After an early hiccup, the former Union College goalie put up goose eggs on the scoreboard for the game’s final 53-plus minutes. With Cam Johnson being recalled from his loan to the Thunder, Sakellaropoulos looks to assume the majority of the time in net for Adirondack.
Matt Marcinew and Spencer Watson were the goal scorers for Manchester, which built a 2-0 lead before the Thunder came storming back. Watson’s goal launched him into double digits as it was his tenth score of the year.
The team returns home to take on the Reading Royals tomorrow evening at Cool Insuring Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. in Glens Falls. For the latest Thunder news, be sure to follow the team on Facebook and Twitter (@ECHLThunder).
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