GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – November has not been a good month for the Adirondack Thunder. The team saw its six-game win streak come to an end, quickly followed by a four-game losing streak. Friday’s win in Reading ended that streak, but the Royals quickly extinguished any hopes of another win streak with their victory over the Thunder the following night.
Friday’s 8-3 blowout in Reading saw 14 Thunder skaters record at least one point. Conor Riley and Mike Szmatula each scored two goals, with Szmatula also picking up a pair of assists. Dennis Kravchenko (goal, assist); Shane Conacher (three assists); Matias Cleland (two assists); and Desmond Bergin (two assists) all had a multi-point night as well. Steve Johnson and Alex Krushelnyski each had a goal and assist for Reading.
An incident in the second period of Friday’s game has resulted in suspensions for Adirondack’s Brian Ward and Reading’s Dan Milan. Milan shot the puck onto the Thunder bench, hitting head coach Alex Loh. Ward came off the bench in response, resulting in a five-game suspension. Milan was suspended indefinitely until the league could further review his actions and decide upon his punishment. A decision should be made early this week.
This is wild. Former Komet Dan Milan, now with Reading, suspended for firing puck into Adirondack bench. Brian Ward suspended for leaving bench, tries to kinda kick Milan. Milan out pending hearing. Ward 5 games. All after Dennis Kravchenko goal, another ex-Komet. From: ECHL TV. pic.twitter.com/JMq0A0OWmC
— Justin A. Cohn (@SportsiCohn) November 24, 2018
The teams headed to Glens Falls for the second half of the home-and-home on Saturday night. There was a much different outcome, a 2-1 Reading victory, thanks in large part to goaltender Nick Niedert, an emergency fill-in for the Royals.
Niedert was at his job in Connecticut when he got a call from the Royals coaching staff Friday afternoon, asking if he could make it to Reading for the game that night. Black Friday traffic barred him from making it there in time for that game, but he was able to make it to Glens Falls for the game Saturday. He has trained with any teams this season, and has only been skating “a little bit here and there.” It showed after the game when he agreed to an interview, but only after he removed his skates, explaining that his feet were killing him.
“I haven’t done this in awhile,” Niedert said.
The 36-year-old has been used primarily as an emergency backup the past few years and had not played a game in the ECHL since the 2015-16 season when he appeared in two games for the Royals.
Niedert made the most of his opportunity Saturday night, making 38 saves on 39 shots. The Royals skaters gave the Thunder five consecutive power play opportunities (and six total), but Adirondack’s power play was shut down every time.
“The way the guys played tonight, especially killing all those penalties, they took a lot of stress off me,” Niedert said. “Everybody bought in, it was 100% character, and it was one of the best ones I’ve ever been part of. I’m very proud to be a part of that one tonight.”
Steven Swavely and Jack Riley provided the offense for Reading, while Blake Thompson scored the lone Adirondack goal.
When asked about future appearances, Niedert replied:
“This is my fifteenth year of pro hockey, now that I got into a game, and if that was the last one, what a way to go. Just stayed in the moment, took it all in, and I’m very extremely proud of the kids here tonight.”
From Adirondack’s perspective, one word can be used to describe the loss: frustrating. According to Conor Riley:
“Definitely frustrating after last night. We were able to fill the net, we thought we were out of that slump of not being able to score goals. Definitely, everyone’s a little frustrated about this game.” He later went on to say, “We had a lot of chances and we couldn’t bury. The last five or six games, that’s been our kryptonite, being able to put the puck in the back of the net. Except for last night, that was pretty much the only game where we were able to open up a little bit.”
On Niedert: “Niedert stood on his head and made some really good saves. We just couldn’t beat him tonight.”
Linesman Steve Lemay worked his final ECHL game Saturday, and was honored prior to the game.
The Thunder next head to Manchester, NH Friday to take on the Monarchs. The teams have only met twice thus far, with Manchester winning both games, coincidentally the first and last games of Adirondack’s four-game losing skid. The Thunder then return home Saturday to take on the Royals once again. The Thunder have a more favorable record against the Royals, going 3-1-0-0 on the season.