Photo Credit: Adirondack Thunder
It took Adirondack’s entire 72-game season to qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs last year. They achieved this through an unforgettable and thrilling weekend against the Worcester Railers. However, the team started the season winless in their first four games. Notice anything repetitive here? Yes, it’s all from last year.
Pete MacArthur has returned as head coach. Mike Bergin has returned by his side and newly appointed captain Patrick Grasso will lead the troops on the ice.
When asked about the advantages of last season and the changes for this year, MacArthur emphasized the stark differences.
He stated, “I now know what to expect about paperwork and expectations outside of coaching the team during practices and games. There’s a lot to handle, and I do more than just the things I love, which are being around the guys and helping them develop as players and individuals. But now I understand how everything works, including roster change forms, when rosters are due every week, and how to handle codependence. As a result, I can get things done more efficiently.”
The message for Thunder has been loud and clear since their last playoff game against the Newfoundland Growlers. They want to get back to the dance.
“We went through trials and tribulations, as a group and to do what we did and string wins together at the end-of-year was very galvanizing. So, bringing back a good core group of guys, going into the season we’re excited as an organization and something I hope the fans are too”.
That was what Patrick Grasso told me over the summer moments after Adirondack announced he was coming back for this upcoming season. Today, they appointed him as the sixth captain in franchise history.
Thunder fans are no strangers and can remember how the season started last year, going 0-4 against the Worcester Railers in their first four games.
“We have to play our game with every step forward”.
Yannick Turcotte preached, who did wear an “A” during the pre-season and will continue to do so as the regular season starts tomorrow alongside Ryan Smith and Colin Felix.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen again”. Referring to the unexpected start, the Adirondack faced last October.
That starts with competing. That has been Head Coach Pete MacArthur’s message ever since he took over the head coaching job last spring.
“We’re in a better position to start the season this year. It seemed like our rope was about this big last year as it pertained to mishaps we could have down the road, and everybody seemed to find a way to at least have a pinky nail on that rope and have a part of the success”.
Another key piece that MacArthur preached about was being the next man up and that it gets everybody to the eyes on the prize in June 2024, which is the Kelly Cup.
“Whether it’s the goalies or a guy that just got called up to fill in as a sixth D man, everybody’s going to have to give us what they’ve got”.
Coach MacArthur was not shy about giving the ten guys back from last year their flowers.
Vinnie Purpura, Bryce Martin, Ryan Orgel, Matt Stief, Travis Broughman, Patrick Grasso, Grant Jozefek, Ryan Smith, Yannick Turcotte, and Shawn Weller are the ten returners.
“We have that cohesive group that knows how we want to play, and they can help those new guys get assimilated quickly”.
But MacArthur’s message was obvious.
“We’ve got to go out there and win hockey games. It’s one thing to talk, it’s another thing to do it.”
Adirondack also received help from the Utica Comets as general manager Dan MacKinnon has not been shy about sending the Thunder help to start the year.
“I like all the guys they sent us”. Mac stated to me. “I think they are all purposeful wherever they are here or in Utica, so we’re excited to see those guys develop and I’m going to give them all an opportunity to play and hopefully in the three letters”.
Colin Felix and Will MacKinnon are names that Thunder fans should know very well and are happy to have them on our backend side spent time with James Henry’s Reading Royals last season.
Felix was an ironman on the blue line suiting in all of 72 games plus an additional eleven playoff games. MacKinnon was one game shy of all 72 but skated throughout the playoffs last year.
Up front, Adirondack is very lucky to have T.J. Friedmann. Friedmann is starting is first full professional season after five seasons during college with Quinnipiac.
Thunder fans are going to love his game. You also might have seen him play in Lake Placid without even knowing it before. Friedmann was such a standout in the ECAC tournament every March.
Youshiroh Hirano “Yushi” joins the Thunder after an impressive hockey resume at the age of 28. Hailing from Tomakomai, JPN, Hirano joins Adirondack after 49 games in the AHL with the likes of Wilkes Barre and Abbotsford.
Hirano also is very familiar with the ECHL. Skating in 156 games with Wheeling and Cincinnati. Hirano has also represented his home country well with World Juniors and International play with Japan. We can also add the Asia League in there that Adirondack fans may know thanks to Phantom, favorite Mike Testwuide.
Hirano is one of two veteran players on this Thunder team. Shawn Weller is the other. You are allowed four activate veterans playing at once. 260 professional games is the rule. So technically if you’d like to get funky, Hirano is the only veteran at this time due to Weller starting the year on IR.
Erik Middendorf, who the Thunder faithful got to know for a brief time last season, officially begins his season in Adirondack. The 23-year-old comes full circle in Glens Falls with his Uncle Max Middendorf, who played with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1991-92.
The 21-year-old Grand Prairie, AB, Canada native, Jake Isley joins MacArthur’s squad by-way Utica, for his first professional goal this weekend after four years spent in the Western Hockey League with Red Deer.
103 points in 205 contests at the junior level for Isely. Can he do what Xavier Parent did last year and score two goals in Worcester for his pro debut? We’ve only got about 25 hours to find out.
The Comets have sent us goaltending to start the year! Holy moly, it has happened…yet again, to no surprise! Jeremy Brodeur and Tyler Brennan are the two netminders from Utica, as Poulter stays in the triple-A league for the time being.
Believe it’s going to be the 2003-born Winnipeg native, who gets the nod for opening night tomorrow in Worcester and he deserves it.
Big hype for the 6’4 goaltender, drafted in the fourth round by New Jersey in 2022. Between. World Juniors and with an impressive resume in the WHL, Brennan is and going to be a stud.
Zach Walker and Shawn Weller start the year on IR. Meanwhile, defenseman Devin Becker and Vinnie Purpura start the year on reserve.
“A veteran player, hard nose player like that we certainly want him to be healthy so we shall see how he feels coming down the stretch here”. That was MacArthur on Zach Walker.
Speaking of Zach Walker, that was one of six new players that MacArthur added this off-season. Getting a warm welcome to the team are Andy Willis, Zach Walker, Jack Jeffers up front with Ryan Wheeler, Devin Becker, Tristan Thompson, and Brendan Less added on the backend.
Don’t forget that Hits 95.9 is once again the home for Adirondack Thunder hockey. We will have all 72 games live on the air, on the app, and online. Rob Lippolis and DJ Dennison Beers are back for another season.