PORTLAND – Disappointment. Shock. Surprise.
You name it.
That was what the Portland Pirates were feeling Wednesday after being swept by the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL’s Atlantic Division semifinals.
“We didn’t expect this to be the shortest playoff run we possibly could have had,” veteran defenseman Joe DiPenta said. “Four games in five days, and we’re done. It couldn’t have been any quicker. It stings a little bit. It’s over a lot quicker than we wanted to be, that’s for sure.”
The playoff sweep came after Portland won seven of the 10 games it played against the Monarchs during the regular season.
“I don’t think there is one guy in the dressing room, the coaching staff, the organization that thought we would lose four straight,” said forward Mark Mancari, the Pirates’ leading scorer during the regular season. “We were all very confident going into the series based on our season series with (Manchester) and the way we were playing going into the playoffs.
“It still doesn’t sit right, and it’s hard to believe.”
DiPenta said, “I think we’re all in shock. It’s started to sink in, and I think we’re in a little bit of denial we’re in this situation now. The season is over, and I think we were all caught a little bit off guard.”
The Pirates got off to a bad start against the Monarchs, who opened the best-of-seven series last weekend with 2-1 and 3-1 wins at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“It comes down to those (first) two games at home,” DiPenta said. “They came in and outworked us in our own building for two games, and they deservedly won two games.
“If we were going to do anything differently, we should have been more prepared for the start. I don’t think we were prepared as far as what to expect. They came in and played playoff hockey.”
The Pirates played the series without AHL Rookie Of The Year Tyler Ennis, who has spent the past month playing in the NHL with the Sabres.
Also missing was No. 1 goalie Jhonas Enroth, who sat out the past month with an injury to his left ankle, defensemen Matt Generous (right knee) and Dennis Persson (groin pull).
“Obviously, you can point to Tyler and Jhonas as being big losses,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.
“For me, I think, in this series the loss of Matt Generous and Dennis Persson was a very large factor for us. They were very effective for our defensive group. Certainly, our (lack of) defensive depth caught up with us.”
The Pirates also couldn’t get the puck past AHL Goalie Of The Year Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 125 of 130 shots during the four-game series.
“Give them credit. Manchester played a heck of a series, and one of our strengths, which is scoring goals, wasn’t happening for us,” Dineen said. “We tried to generate a lot of traffic on (Bernier), and I thought their defense played an excellent game.”
Dineen started holding exit interviews with his players Wednesday. Those discussions will continue today. Then, the players will be free to leave.
But the hockey season won’t necessarily will be over for all of the Pirates.
Six players will travel today to Buffalo, where they will serve as a taxi squad while the Sabres are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That group includes Mancari, Nathan Gerbe, rookie forward Luke Adam, defensemen Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani, and goalie J.P. Lamoureux.
“Hopefully, we’ll get in the lineup, here or there,” Gerbe said. “You never know.”
Forwards Felix Schutz and Philip Golgulla will return to Europe and try out for the German national team.
The world championships will be held May 7-23 in Cologne, Mannheim and Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
“Hopefully, I’ll have a little positive note to finish the season,” Schutz said.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: