PORTLAND – Play in the American Hockey League resumed Friday night following the All-Star break, but the Portland Pirates apparently didn’t get the memo.
“We just didn’t show up,” Pirates assistant coach Mike Minard said. “It started from the goalie all the way out.”
The red-hot Bridgeport Sound Tigers took advantage, cruising to a 6-2 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
It was the third consecutive loss for the Pirates, who fell into a tie with Providence for last place in the Atlantic Division.
“We weren’t here all game,” Portland defenseman Michael Stone said. “There’s not much to say. We’re just not playing well.”
The Sound Tigers are. Since the start of the new year, they’ve gone 11-0-0-1 to climb from the cellar to the top spot in the Northeast Division.
“There’s no in-between for us right now,” Stone said. “We’re either very good or we’re very bad. We’ve got to find a way to get out of it. It’s a crucial time of year for us.”
The Pirates’ downhill slide began in the opening moments of the game. Bridgeport center David Ullstrom plinked a shot from the top of the left circle off the crossbar and into the net just 22 seconds in for his team-high 15th goal.
Two minutes later, Stone made it 1-1 by stealing the puck at his own blue line and scoring his seventh goal on a breakaway.
But Tony Romano put the Sound Tigers back into the lead with four minutes left in the first, sticking a backhander into the left side of the goal.
Bridgeport built a 4-1 lead in the second period on a pair of soft goals.
Tomas Marcinko was credited with his sixth goal when Portland goalie Justin Pogge failed to control a dump-in from the neutral zone, as the puck bounced over the blade of his stick and into the net.
Marc Cheverie, who has spent most of the season in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators, replaced Pogge in net.
Justin DiBenedetto made it 4-1, wedging in a wide-angled shot from behind the right side of the post.
In the third period, DiBenedetto and Romano sandwiched goals around a power-play goal by Brock Trotter.
The six goals were the most allowed by the Pirates this season at the Civic Center.
“When things are not going your way, it’s frustrating,” Stone said. “We’ve got to stop letting it get to us. … When things are not going your way, you’ve got to stop going your separate ways and pull together as a group.”
NOTES: Right wing Mathieu Beaudoin returned to the Portland lineup after missing 29 games because of an injury to his left hand. Former Portland favorite Trevor Gillies was a healthy scratch for the Sound Tigers. Portland left wing Ryan Hollweg, who left the game after running into the end wall late in the second period, returned to the ice midway through the third period.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: