GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – The Adirondack Thunder headed into Saturday’s game five ahead 3-1 in their first-round series with the Worcester Railers. The Thunder had a perfect opportunity to end the series and move on to face the Manchester Monarchs in round two. Adirondack had won the last two contests and had all the momentum going into this one.
In the first four games of the series, the team who scored first ended up with the victory. Saturday night it was Worcester’s Josh Holmstrom who got that crucial first goal, scoring only 35 seconds into the game.
Just over a minute later, a Worcester skater crashed into the Adirondack net and collided with goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. That was the end of Blackwood’s night, and rookie Olivier Mantha came in to replace him.
With Worcester’s Kellen Jones in the box for delay of game, Adirondack’s Ryan Schmelzer was able to tie the game at 6:52 of the first period. Just over a minute later, Thunder captain Mike Bergin scored his first goal of the season to give Adirondack the lead.
The Thunder were given another power play opportunity later in the period when Yanick Turcotte was called for boarding. Shane Conacher took advantage and put his team up 3-1.
Tim Harrison‘s goal at 5:49 of the second period appeared to put the game out of reach for the Railers. Starting goaltender Mitch Gillam was replaced by Eamon McAdam, who had lost both of his previous contests. The Thunder led 4-1, usually a comfortable lead for a first-place team.
It didn’t take long for Worcester to show why they went 8-2-2-0 against Adirondack in the regular season. Just 1:09 after Harrison’s tally, Nick Saracino scored his first of the night. Less than five minutes later, Matt Gaudreau scored his first of the postseason. Exactly one minute later, the game was tied on a goal from Matt Lane. The two teams headed into the final frame tied at 4-4.
Adirondack forward Brian Ward broke the tie only 19 seconds into the third period. The lead lasted only until 3:32 when Saracino scored his second of the night. The hat trick was completed at 14:02 and would be the game-winner.
Despite the outcome, the Adirondack skaters played a strong game. Ward continued his dominance with his fourth goal (fifth point) of the postseason. Conor Riley also continued his strong play in the postseason and earned an assist on Bergin’s goal. More importantly, Riley contributed off the scoresheet, sticking up for his teammates, causing turnovers, and using his speed to beat opponents to the puck.
For the Railers, Saracino, Holmstrom, and Lane were the main contributors, combining for nine points on the night. Saracino finished with three goals and an assist, while Holmstrom had a goal and two assists. Lane also had a goal and an assist.
The two teams next meet Monday night in Worcester for game six. As was the case Saturday, Adirondack will advance to round two with a win. If Worcester wins, the series continues to game seven, which will take place Wednesday in Glens Falls.