HERSHEY, Pa. – This was not how Dean Arsene envisioned his homecoming.
When the Portland Pirates’ defenseman thought about his first trip back to the arena where he helped win two Calder Cups, he probably dreamed of scoring the winning goal or making a key defensive play.
Before the game he made no secret of his desire to shut down his old buddy and teammate, winger Graham Mink.
But those dreams turned into a nightmare when Mink scored two goals and his teammates added five in a 7-1 victory for the Hershey Bears.
“We weren’t very good,” said Portland Coach Ray Edwards. “We gave up.”
Arsene, who spent six seasons in Hershey, was on the ice for both of Mink’s goals, and three others. To be fair, Arsene didn’t shoulder all the blame for Portland’s second loss in two December games after going 7-2-1 in November.
One key to that November success was penalty killing. Before leaving on this trip, the Pirates allowed four power-play goals in eight games away from the Cumberland County Civic Center.
After giving up three in the loss to Hershey, Portland has allowed five in the past two games. Add an offense that only scored one goal in each of those games, and the Pirates are sliding in the middle of a stretch of seven road games.
“We took too many penalties. You can’t do that against that team. They are too skilled,” said Arsene.
Hershey’s power play is tops in the American Hockey League. At home, the Bears had converted on more than a third of their extra-man chances. They connected at almost twice that rate — 3 of 5 — against the Pirates.
“We’re not hard enough. We’re not clearing the puck all the way down,” Arsene said. “We’re keeping it in our zone too much and they took advantage.”
Things started well for the Pirates. They scored early, taking a lead just two minutes into the game when Brock Trotter found Ryan Duncan wide open in front of Hershey goalie Dany Sabourin, and Duncan lifted it into the net over Sabourin’s shoulder on the glove side.
But that was pretty much the end of the highlight film for Portland, unless you count goalie Justin Pogge making 34 saves to keep the Bears from reaching double digits.
Mink tied it with a power-play goal 14 minutes later, setting loose an avalanche of more than 10,000 teddy bears onto the ice. Officials sent the teams to their dressing rooms early while the ice was cleared and resurfaced.
“(The break) should have killed their momentum but we came out flat,” said Arsene.
Did they ever.
The Bears scored four goals in the second period, two on power plays. If that wasn’t enough, they added another pair in the first four minutes of the third.
Portland was 0 of 5 on the power play and was outshot 41-21.
It was especially lopsided in the final period, when Hershey had 14 shots to two for the Pirates.