PORTLAND, ME – Jake Linhart recorded his first professional three-point game, Eric Schierhorn turned aside 32 shots in net for his first professional victory and the Adirondack Thunder clinched a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a 7-5 win over the Maine Mariners Sunday afternoon in Portland.
The Thunder jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the first period to chase Mariners goaltender Chris Nell from net. Cullen Bradshaw tallied the game’s first goal on a gratuitous bounce in front of the cage. Kelly Summers fed Bradshaw behind the net, where the forward attempted a centering feed in front. Instead, the puck deflected off Josh Couturier and through the five-hole of Nell for a 1-0 Thunder lead.
Blake Thompson doubled the advantage just 30 seconds later to give him goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. After a Maine turnover, Mike Szmatula held the puck in the offensive zone and left a drop-pass to a charging Thompson. The defenseman’s wrister from the left faceoff dot beat Nell far-side to make it 2-0 at 7:19 of the first.
Jake Linhart made it three straight with a power-play goal with less than five minutes to play in the period. Shane Conacher found the rookie blueliner at the center-point. After holding the puck for a second, Linhart decided to float a screen-shot towards the net which ended up finding its way past Nell to chase him from the game. The goaltender’s vision was blocked from a Thunder double screen that featured Brian Ward up high and Cullen Bradshaw right in front of the cage.
Maine charged back with a pair of goals off Thunder turnovers before the close of the opening frame to make it a 3-2 contest. First, Taylor Cammarata finished alone in front with a backhand shot to beat Schierhorn. Then, Dillan Fox made it a one-goal game with a nice hesitation move that took Schierhorn out of position before roofing a nice backhand attempt.
Dylan Walchuk made it 4-2 Thunder near the halfway mark of the game. Summers entered the zone with the puck along the left-wing boards and took three Mariners skaters with him. The Clarkson University product somehow found Bradshaw camped alone in front of the net with a backhand feed. The forward delayed with the puck, made Francois Brassard commit and unselfishly found Walchuk on the other side of the net for an easy tap-in to restore the two goal lead.
Maine took the next pair of goals to tie the game at 4-4 after two periods of play. A pretty tic-tac-toe passing sequence ended with an easy back-door goal for Cammarata and Nick Master followed with a breakaway tally to give him goals in back-to-back games.
Shane Conacher notched Adirondack’s second power-play goal of the night under three minutes into the final frame. Jake Linhart slid a pass to Conacher at the blueline where he found himself all alone. The Canisius College product creeped in a few strides before blasting an uncontested slap-shot from the top of the right circle to give the Thunder a 5-4 lead.
Peter MacArthur added another goal on the man advantage at 6:50 of the third period. As Adirondack moved the puck all around the ice, Szmatula found Matias Cleland at the left point. The defenseman slid to MacArthur from right to left where he was seemingly tied up, but the alternate captain golfed a one-timer past Brassard for a 6-4 lead.
Linhart grabbed his first multi-goal game with a shorthanded goal as just over seven minutes remained in regulation. Bradshaw took the initial shot which rimmed around the boards to Brian Ward. The Haverhill, MA native moved the puck to Linhart who was wide open charging the slot. The former Wisconsin Badger collected and fired a quick wrist-shot that beat Brassard to round out the Thunder scoring.
Thunder netminder Eric Schierhorn turned aside 32 shots to earn his first professional victory. The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher was left hung out to dry after multiple turnovers, but proved steady over the course of the game. The rookie’s most memorable save came just 19 seconds into the second period when he robbed Cammarata who was alone in front with a beautiful glove save.
With the regulation victory, Adirondack has clinched a berth in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by Smile Direct Club. While the Thunder currently sit in second place in the ECHL’s North Division, three games remain for the team to determine their official seeding. The team controls its own destiny in terms of finishing in second.
Adirondack will rest this week before finishing out its regular-season with a three-in-three next weekend. The Thunder and Royals will start with a home-and-home set on Friday and Saturday, beginning Friday evening at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, NY. For the latest Thunder news, follow the team on all social media @ECHLThunder.
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