GLENS FALLS, NY – The first place Adirondack Thunder and second place Manchester Monarchs began round two of the Kelly Cup playoffs Friday night. The teams know each other well, meeting up in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons. The Thunder won the 2016 series, while the Monarchs advanced in 2017.
The two teams also faced off 13 times during the 2017-18 regular season, battling for the North Division lead. Though Manchester held the top spot for much of the season, Adirondack finished the regular season in first place. The Monarchs finished one point behind. The history between the rivals was sure to draw some bad blood once the North Division finals got underway.
In each game of Adirondack’s first-round matchup with the Worcester Railers, the team who scored first went on to win the game. Manchester’s Sam Kurker scored first Friday, on his team’s second shot of the night.
Just under two minutes later, Kurker gave the Thunder their first power play of the night after he went crashing into Adirondack netminder Olivier Mantha. It was a scary moment for the Thunder, whose starting goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood, was injured in the first round when a Worcester skater crashed into him. Unlike Blackwood, Mantha was able to remain in the game. Adirondack was not able to capitalize on the power play.
The score remained 1-0 until 7:26 of the second period. Matt Leitner passed the puck to Zac Lynch, who patiently waited until Mantha went down before putting it into the open net.
The Monarchs went up 3-0 just over a minute later when Kevin Morris tipped in Spencer Watson‘s shot.
Shane Conacher began Adirondack’s comeback bid with two goals 3:38 apart in the second period. Both were scored on the power play, and both were set up by Colton White and James Henry.
Adirondack entered the third period hoping for a quick goal to tie the game. Instead, it was Manchester who scored next. Alexx Privitera and Michael Doherty scored 42 seconds apart to put the game out of reach.
The Thunder were able to get one more goal, this time from Mathieu Brodeur at 16:47 of the final frame.
With an assist on Brodeur’s goal, Conacher ended the night with three points, factoring in all three Thunder goals. Manchester’s Kurker and Privitera each had a goal and assist. Watson added two assists, as did Adirondack’s Henry and White. The true standout, however, was goaltender Charles Williams, who made 51 saves to lead his team to victory. Williams has been outstanding throughout the playoffs, posting a 1.54 goals-against average and .953 save percentage, and has been instrumental in the Monarchs’ postseason success.
The entire game was a physical affair, with plenty of big hits and tempers flaring. A total of 18 penalties were dished out, with several roughing minors, though no fighting majors.
The Thunder and Monarchs next face-off tonight at 7 pm in Glens Falls for game two in the best-of-seven series.