ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This is how you know the Portland Pirates are loving this stretch of consistent winning:
Even though they had set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive victory the night before, even though they again were using a depleted lineup and even though they were playing a third road game in as many days, a 3-2 shootout loss Sunday was distressing.
That’s because the Pirates were just 1.3 seconds from a second victory in 21 hours over the Rochester Americans.
Rochester’s Mike York stuffed in the deflection of a shot by Clay Wilson to force overtime, then the Amerks got the better of goalie J.P. Lamoureux in the shootout.
”Yes, we are disappointed,” said Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen after his club fell to 32-16-5-3, two points behind first-place Worcester (74-72) in the AHL Atlantic Division. ”We got five of six points and considering the travel we’ve done this week, that’s nice. But at the end of the day, we’d like to think we can close out a game like this.”
The Pirates were in the process of doing just that. Felix Schutz swatted a rebound of Mark Mancari’s shot into the net at 2:22 of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie. The Amerks argued Schutz’s stick was above the crossbar, but referee Terry Koharski disagreed.
”There’s no explanation for that,” said Amerks goalie Alexander Salak, who strongly protested Koharski’s call.
But when Pirates defenseman Mike Weber took a cross-checking penalty with 57 seconds to play, the Amerks had hope. Weber belted Michael Duco to the ice from behind.
”You can’t do that at that time of the game,” Dineen said.
It meant the Pirates’ most reliable defenseman wasn’t out to defend what became a four-on-six manpower disadvantage after Rochester pulled Salak.
”He’s been great this year, he’s really been a horse,” Dineen said of Weber. ”He’s a real shutdown defenseman and it’s pretty hard for us to finish a game when he’s in the box.”
The Pirates just about succeeded. With 15 seconds to play, they fired the puck the length of the ice. There seemed to be no way Rochester had enough time to retrieve and get anything set up in the Portland zone again — except the Amerks did it.
Michal Repik sprinted to get the puck behind the Rochester net, then made a 120-foot bullet pass to the Pirates’ blue line. Wilson chipped it to the corner and Chris Taylor retrieved it, then passed into the slot.
The puck skipped past Jeff Taffe, then Repik, but Wilson gathered it in and shot.
”I was almost in shock when it hit my stick,” Wilson said.
His shot hit Taffe’s leg at the top of the crease, caromed to the left edge of the crease and York jammed it in.
”We made some very tired mistakes,” Dineen said. ”Not tired legs but tired minds.”
In the shootout, Drew Schiestel and Tyler Ennis scored on the Pirates’ first two shots, but Jamie Johnson, Evgeny Dadonov and York connected on shots 2, 3 and 4 for the Amerks.
Salak stopped Portland’s final shooter, Derek Whitmore, to end the game. On Saturday night, Whitmore thrilled about 135 people in a section of family and friends by scoring the winning goal as the Pirates beat the Amerks, 4-3. He grew up and still lives in the Rochester suburb of Greece.
”I may have said ‘not again’ on the bench,” Amerks assistant coach Jason Cipolla said when he saw Whitmore come out as Portland’s fifth shooter.