Up North With The Thunder…So Far

What used to be a small paragraph at the end of every weekly recap is now going to become a (mostly) weekly column!

So…what have our friends up in the North Country been up to this offseason?  Quite a lot, actually.

The biggest news actually came back in late February, when the Adirondack Civic Center Coalition, a locally based ownership group, bought the franchise from Calgary, who had brought the team to Glens Falls prior to the 2014-15 season as an AHL franchise from Abbotsford.  The Flames, as they were known, then became part of the AHL west migration, and in turn Calgary’s ECHL team in Stockton would move in to the Civic Center to take its place, and was subsequently rebranded as the Adirondack Thunder.

With local ownership in place, the Coalition began the Keep Hockey Here  initiative, holding numerous fundraisers in the Glens Falls area to do just that.  A recent silent memorabilia auction called Raise the Rink brought in just over $25,000, and the coalition has a dodgeball tournament and a document shredding event scheduled for later in July.

On Tuesday, the Glens Falls Civic Center officially became the Cool Insuring Arena, a name that will stay in place for the next five years.  This is the first name change for the Civic Center, which has been open since 1979.  Cool Insuring is a local insurance agency established by the first mayor of Glens Falls, Charles Cool, back in the late 1870s, and has offices in nearby Queensbury and in Latham (just north of Albany).

As for on-ice?  There’s going to be a new look there as well.

The Thunder are currently without an NHL/AHL affiliation, as Calgary and Stockton have teamed up with the Kansas City Mavericks.  They are one of just three ECHL franchises (Tulsa and Fort Wayne the others) not affiliated.  The other NHL/AHL partnerships without ECHL affiliates, if one wanted to speculate: Ottawa/Belleville, Florida/Springfield (although they sent players to Manchester last season), Arizona/Tucson, St. Louis/Chicago, Tampa Bay/Syracuse, and New Jersey/Binghamton, who while in Albany had a “handshake” agreement to send players north.  No word yet on whether that partnership will continue with the relocation.

Eight Thunder players have already moved on to other teams:

-Defenseman Alex Wall signed with Frisk Asker (Norway)

-Defenseman Roman Dyukov joined Dinamo Minsk (KHL)

-Forward Greg Wolfe signed with Sparta Sarpsborg (Norway)

-Forward Cullen Bradshaw joined Kallinge/Ronneby IF (Sweden Div. 1)

-Forward Dennis Kravchenko stayed in the ECHL and signed with Fort Wayne

-Forward Brock Montgomery signed on with Tilburg (Germany)

-Defenseman Stepan Falkovsky signed with the Kings

-Defenseman Keegan Kanzig was traded to Carolina as part of the Eddie Lack deal.

As far as this year’s roster?  So far two players have signed on for the 2017-18 season:

First to sign is a returnee from last year’s team, second year pro Kevin Lough.  He appeared in 51 games for the Thunder during his rookie season, putting up 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists).  He also made one appearance on a PTO with Binghamton late in the season.

Second is forward Terrence Wallin, who split last season between Adirondack and Rapid City.  After two scoreless appearances with the Thunder in October, he spent the majority of the year with the Rush, picking up 31 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 47 games.

Then there’s the schedule.  It’s a very…interesting one.

Unlike the AHL, where all teams play each other an even number of times at home and on the road, the ECHL has an unbalanced slate.

For example, the Thunder will play the newest ECHL team, Worcester, 12 times.  The Railers go to Glens Falls 7 times, but Adirondack only goes to Massachusetts 5 times.  Same with Manchester: seven trips to New Hampshire, but only 5 home matchups with the Monarchs.

Also unlike the AHL (well, with the exception of the Pennsylvania teams this season), the Thunder will see opponents outside the Northeast corridor, with three Midwestern teams–Quad City, Fort Wayne, and Toledo–being first time opponents.

The longest homestand will be seven games, from November 25th-December 15th.  That follows the longest road trip of the season, a brutal 12 game swing from October 29th-November 24th that sees the Thunder go to 9 different cities.