PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates are heading into the new year in the right frame of mind.
The Pirates built a 3-0 lead in the first period and cruised to a 4-2 win against the Worcester Sharks Saturday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The convincing victory capped a week in which the Pirates earned six of a possible eight points to take firm hold of fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
“Overall, I’m really happy with the way we’ve played,” Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “A week ago, I wasn’t happy. In the four games this week, we’ve gotten back to the way we need to play. I’m excited about where we’re heading.”
Since the Christmas break, the players have tried to grow closer as a team.
“Coach sat us all down and told us we needed to be more of a team,” said rookie center Andy Miele, who had a goal and an assist in the first period. “We’re just closer as a group. When you’re close off the ice, you’re closer on the ice, and I think we’ve shown that as a group.”
The Pirates controlled the first 30 minutes Saturday.
Edwards loaded up the first line with the team’s top scorers, Miele, Brett MacLean and Brock Trotter, and it paid off almost immediately.
On the line’s second shift, Trotter scored a goal worthy of a highlight video after getting his stick on the rebound of MacLean’s wraparound shot from the left side at 3:33.
While skating backward, Trotter flicked a backhander from the bottom of the right circle behind goalie Tyson Sexsmith for his eighth goal of the season.
At 5:17, defenseman Michael Stone made it 2-0 when he put in a blast from the top of the slot for his third goal after receiving a centering pass from Ryan Duncan.
With 2:35 left in the period, Portland’s top line struck again.
This time, MacLean intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and sent Miele in on a breakaway. Miele was dragged down by defenseman Taylor Doherty as he closed on the crease but still was able to push the puck past Sexsmith for his ninth goal of the season.
The Sharks got closer, scoring less than five minutes into the second period when Tommy Wingels scored his team-high 13th goal on a power play.
With less than nine minutes left in the period, Duncan, a right wing in his first AHL season, sent the Pirates back into a three-goal lead when his shot from the top of the slot slipped through a screen for his seventh goal.
Worcester’s Jack Combs scored six minutes into the third period.
NOTES: After suffering a broken wrist during Friday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Adirondack Phantoms, rookie left wing Spencer Bennett joined a long list of Pirates who are out with injuries. It includes center Colin Long and Alexandre Bolduc, right wing Mathieu Beaudoin and defenseman Nick Ross
The Pirates snapped the Sharks’ three-game winning streak.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: