GLENS FALLS – There is no ECHL rule that says a team must have a certain number of players from nearby colleges. It just ended that way for the Adirondack Thunder.
Both of their goalkeepers have local ties: Union College graduate Alex Sakellaropoulos and Skidmore College graduate Brandon Kasel.
It was not a good year for the Thunder, whose season ends on Sunday, and who did not qualify for the upcoming playoffs, but a bit of that can be put at the feet of Sakellaropoulos and Kasel, who kept the team in many games. When Sakellaropoulos entered Tuesday’s match at Trois-Rivieres, Sakellaropoulos had a record of 10-15-1 with a goal against the average of 3.82 and a save percentage of 0.883. Kasel had an 8-15-1 record with a GAA of 3.58 and a .896 save percentage.
Sakellaropoulos, 27, played from 2013 to 2017 for Union and was a member of the 2014 national championship team. He played 82 games and had a record of 40-22-13 with a 2.54 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
Kasel, 26, played for Skidmore from 2016-2020. He also played 82 games with a record of 31-39-7, 2.63 GAA and .918 save percentage. He was named the All-NEHC’s third team in his senior season.
This is Sakellaropoulos’ second stay with the Thunder, a subsidiary of the New Jersey Devils. He played 33 games in the 2018-19 season and helped the team qualify for the playoffs. The season before, he jumped around the ECHL and SPHL and appeared in just seven games.
Thunder coach Alex Loh saw Sakellaropoulos as someone who needed a chance to get some serious minutes.
“For some reason, sometimes the New Jersey Devils’ goalkeepers can be a little fragile, and guys get a lot of opportunities around here, and he’s a guy who was able to jump in the net and carry the record for us my first year as main advisor. He was really good, “Loh said.
“It felt a lot more comfortable here,” Sakellaropoulos said of his first season with Adirondack, “especially being 30 minutes away from where I went to school. It’s pretty nice. I knew the area pretty well, especially downtown Albany, Crossgates Mall. ”
After spending the 2019-20 season with two other ECHL clubs, Sakellaropoulos had signed with Adirondack for the ’20 -’21 season, but all Northern Division teams chose not to play due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions in place , so he succeeded. to get in six fights with the Wichita Thunder. But he was ready to return to Glens Falls this season. He started skating during the summer at Cool Insuring Arena with a couple of other Thunder players in town and his goalkeeping coach, Bryan McDonald, who also coached another goalkeeper who had graduated from nearby Skidmore.
Kasel hoped to play in the ’20 -’21 season, but with so many teams choosing not to play, veteran goalkeepers got the chances. He moved into an Airbnb in Saratoga Springs and drove up to Glens Falls.
“I was just trying to prepare for next year, when things got normal again,” Kasel said.
Loh said it was a bit of a coincidence how Kasel landed with the Thunder.
“I knew he had been skating with a couple of our guys over the summer,” Loh said. “Then the Devils did not end up sending a guy to Utica, and they needed a guy at the last second, and so I reached out to Brandon and asked, ‘Hey, are you interested?’ And he jumped in his car and drove to Utica for training camp.
“When he saw him there, he looked like a guy who could play at that level,” Loh continued. “We were not sure exactly how things would shake out, but we said we would give him a chance and he has taken advantage of it. He has been solid for us most of the year.”
Sakellaropoulos also took advantage of the twists and turns of goalkeeping this season.
“The plan over the summer was to get him to be our third goalkeeper because the Devils wanted to send us two,” Loh said. “Of course it never really happened, so for goalkeepers you sometimes have to be patient, and when you get the chance, you just have to dig in and take advantage of it.”
One thing that the goalkeepers and Loh agreed on was that Sakellaropoulos’ and Kassel’s relationship as goalkeeping partners has been a strong side.
“We always try to help each other off the ice, on the ice, especially with whoever is playing,” Sakellaropoulos said. “When a goal comes in, we talk to each other like, ‘Hey, what do you think I should do differently?’ It’s nice to have another set of eyes out there, and that’s what we’re trying to do to get better every day, I know if I work hard, he works hard, and if he works hard, I’m have to work just as hard. ”
“It always makes it easier when you get along with your goalkeeping partner, and Alex has always been a leader, a great guy in space,” Kasel said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and having that relationship makes it a lot more fun to get on the field and compete with him and fight.”
Loh knew Kasel could compete at ECHL level, but he needed some time to develop, so the coach gave him that time at the start of the season, and sometimes he kept him as a third goalkeeper, which rarely done at ECHL level.
“I had to adapt different parts of my game to get used to these guys’ speed and playing skills,” Kasel said. “They are definitely able to find the back of the net better if you give them the opportunity. I had a lot of time at the beginning of the year to practice and get used to it, so I think it helped make my transition a lot easier. ”
There are not many Division III players in the ECHL, but there has been enough in the Adirondack over the years that it is an area the team is happy to mine. One of the franchise’s best goalkeepers, Drew Fielding, was a D-3 product, as was current defender Blake Thompson.
“D-3 has lots of good players. There are guys falling through the cracks for some reason. “Sometimes they just need a shot.”
“It makes it a little more special when you come from a program where there have not been many guys who go to pro-hockey. Representing it and being an alumni of Skidmore is something I will always be proud of, ”said Kasel.
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