ECHL Conference Finals Preview: Adirondack Thunder vs Florida Everblades

Christina Slemp/InsideTheRink

The Adirondack Thunder and Florida Everblades will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, a rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, in which the Everblades defeated the Thunder in five games; Adirondack was also the top seed in the North Division in 2018. Adirondack and Florida met six times during the regular season, with Florida winning the season series 4-1-1, including sweeping Adirondack at home in February. Florida will be looking to make their third straight Kelly Cup Finals appearance and sixth in franchise history as the Thunder will be looking to head to the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in their franchise history.

“Their a world class and first class organization they’ve been doing it for a long time since I was playing until now and they’ve won two straight and they’re are going for three. I think it’s a great test for us we’ve been pushed up against the wall all year and we’ve kept pushing forward and our depth is going to be so crucial to keep jumping over the boards every game and every shift and wear them down and I think we have the team to do it this year”

Adirondack Thunder Assistant Coach Mike Bergin on the Florida Everblades

Goaltending Will Be On Full Display

Christina Slemp/InsideTheRink

There’s no question that one of the biggest factors of this series will be the goaltending, as both teams have gotten phenomenal goaltending not only in the regular season but also during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. For the Everblades, Cam Johnson led the Everblades to back-to-back Kelly Cup Championships in 2022 and 2023 while also being named Playoff MVP in back-to-back seasons. In 49 games during the regular season, Johnson went 27-15-4-4 with a 2.21 GAA, .921SV%, and four shutouts. He led the league in wins and saves and was tied for first in shutouts with Savannah’s Micheal Bullion and Wheeling’s Taylor Gauthier. Florida led the league, allowing only 2.58 goals per game during the regular season.

Johnson has started all 12 of Florida’s Kelly Cup Playoff games, going 8-3-1 with a 1.94 GAA, .933SV%, and one shutout. David Tendeck is currently serving as Johnson’s backup after being acquired by the Everblades in 11 games this season with the Wheeling Nailers, Idaho Steelheads, and Florida Everblades; Tendeck has put up a 6-5 record with a 3.42 GAA .883SV%.

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

Adirondack will be riding with the tandem of Jeremy Brodeur and Isaac Poulter, who have been absolutely fabulous in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, holding opponents to 2.15 goals per game. Isaac Poulter will undoubtedly get the majority of the starts for Adirondack as he’s gone 6-5 with a 1.69 GAA, .939SV%, and three shutouts during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Manitoba goaltender spent the majority of the regular season in the AHL with Utica Comets, playing in 28 games, going 17-8-5 with a 2.55 GAA and .911 SV%. He would end up signing a two-year entry-level deal with the New Jersey Devils back in February. Poulter joined Adirondack in late February and would go 5-0-0-1 with a 2.44 GAA and .917SV%.

“For me its just adding more tools to my tool box and more to my resume, I wanna come down here and prove I can play in the playoffs, I didn’t have much playoff experience before this, I just wanna show that I can play in the playoffs and for any situation that comes at hand”

Adirondack Thunder Goaltender Isaac Poulter on coming down to the Adirondack Thunder after spending most of the year in the AHL with the Utica Comets

Jeremy Brodeur had a solid regular for Adirondack, playing in 32 games, going 18-9-2 with a 2.52 GAA, .919SV%, and two shutouts. Head Coach Pete MacArthur has not been afraid to throw Brodeur between the pipes during the Kelly Cup Playoffs as he’s played in three games, two of them being starts, going 2-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .919SV%. I would once again expect Brodeur to get a start at one point during the series. Adirondack and Florida are ranked third and fourth during the Kelly Cup Playoffs in goals allowed per game.

Special Teams

During the regular season, both teams strived on the PK as the Florida Everblades led the league at 85.3%, and Adirondack finished the year fifth in that department at 82.4% during the Kelly Cup Playoffs; Florida has killed off 38 of the 46 penalties that they’ve taken and are one of only two teams still in the Kelly Cup Playoffs that have scored a shorthanded goal. Adirondack has also given up eight goals while shorthanded in the Kelly Cup Playoffs but have only been shorthanded 42 compared to Florida’s 46.

The powerplay has been an issue for both teams during the Kelly Cup Playoffs, especially for the Everblades, who are currently converting at less than 10% after finishing 13th in the league during the regular season at 20.3%. Adirondack has had their fair share of issues on the powerplay as they’ve already given up two shorthanded goals during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. However, they are converting at 12.7% and have seven powerplay goals, which is tied for second-most during the Kelly Cup Playoffs but have had the most powerplay opportunities with 55.

Players To Watch

Adirondack Thunder:

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

Tristan Ashbrook—There’s no question that Tristan Ashbrook has been a huge part of the Thunder’s success this season. He led the team in scoring, putting up 32 goals and 25 assists for 57 points in 69 games during the regular season and seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 13 Kelly Cup Playoff games. The 25-year-old forward has been one of the many pieces that has stepped up for Adirondack since they lost Patrick Grasso to a season-ending injury. He would also lead the Thunder with eight powerplay goals in the regular season and has been Adirondack’s go-to guy when they need a goal.

Shane Harper—Adirondack began the year without Shane Harper, who was contemplating retirement, but once he joined the team in November, he hasn’t missed a beat. He has 19 goals and 37 assists for 56 points in 56 games and has continued on that point-per-game pace in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, putting up five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 12 Kelly Cup Playoff Games so far. Harper comes into the series on a five-game point streak.

Ryan Smith- There are a lot of players who play a very strong game but sometimes don’t get as much attention as they should, and Ryan Smith is one of those players. The Virginia native had a career year for the Thunder, putting up 27 goals and 23 assists for 50 points in 69 games and led Adirondack with three shorthanded goals during the regular season. Smith had a series to remember against the Norfolk Admirals in Round 2, putting up six goals and two assists in the six-game series, and now has points in his last four games.

“Obviously after losing games 1 and 2 at home our backs were against the wall, to get an overtime win like that in Game 3 is pretty galvanizing for our group, obviously you see Poulter standing on his head every night, he’s been unbelievable and Brods {Jeremy Brodeur} when he’s called on he shows up too and that was definitely a big momentum swing for us and taking all three on the road we have all the momentum the world

Adirondack Thunder Ryan Smith on being able to sustain the momentum picked up from the Game 3 win vs Norfolk

Florida Everblades:

Christina Slemp/InsideTheRink

Josh Ho-Sang—The Former New York Islanders first-round pick joined the Florida Everblades in March and played in 11 games during the regular season, putting up two goals and 13 assists for 15 points. His success has carried into the Kelly Cup Playoffs, as he’s put up 10 assists in 12 games and has points in six of the last seven games. His impressive play has earned him a spot on the Everblades’ top line.

Jesse Lansdell- The 25-year-old forward joined the Everblades at the beginning of April after finishing up his final year of NCAA eligibility. In six regular-season games with Florida, Lansdell had two goals in six games with the Everblades and has added three assists in 12 games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. At 5’11, 183, it’s not his offensive game that makes Lansdell a factor, but it’s his ability to get under the opposing team’s skin, and Adirondack is going to have to make sure to control their emotions when he’s on the ice.

Cole Moberg: Florida has one thing that the Thunder don’t, and that is scoring from its blueliners. The Vancouver native had four goals in 60 games during the regular season and has already matched that number in just 12 Kelly Cup Playoff games so for the Everblades. His defensive play has really been on display as of late and will be a huge part of keeping the Thunder offense at bay.

Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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