PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates desperately needed two points in the standings on Wednesday night and rallied in the third period to earn them.
Rookie right wing Jordan Szwarz and defenseman Tyler Eckford scored 33 seconds apart to lift the Pirates to a 4-3 win against the Worcester Sharks before a crowd of 3,738 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“These are huge points for us, so we have a playoff mentality right now,” said rookie center Andy Miele, who snapped an 18-game scoring slump with his first-period goal. “We had to stick in there. We knew if we worked hard we would be rewarded, and that’s what happened.”
The victory pulled the Pirates, who snapped a three-game losing streak, to within a point of the Sharks and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the race for the final two playoff berths in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
“What we did in the third period is we hung in there, and we made a couple of big plays,” Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “It was a big two points for us. We needed those two points bad.”
Portland pulled into a 3-3 tie when Szwarz put in a one-timer from between the hash marks for his sixth goal with less than six minutes left in the game.
“That line plays about 6 to 10 minutes a night,” Edwards said. Szwarz skates on a line with rookie center Ethan Werek and veteran right wing Ashton Rome. “They play limited minutes, but they give us a huge boost. They scored a huge goal for us. It got us some momentum.”
With less than five minutes left, Eckford finished off a four-man rush with his seventh goal.
“I think we stayed the course, and we played our game,” Eckford said. “We got pucks deep and we went to the net.”
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead less than 15 minutes into the game.
David Rundblad, a rookie defenseman who joined Portland a month ago, scored his sixth goal in 12 games while the Pirates skated with a two-man advantage, and Miele tapped in the rebound of Brett MacLean’s wraparound for his 10th goal.
With less than four minutes left in the period, Jack Combs made it 2-1 by scoring his fifth goal in six games during a power play.
Three minutes into the second period, Nathan Moon tied the score by putting in a shot from the top of the left circle for his seventh goal.
With less than six minutes left in the second period, Ryan Del Monte jammed the puck in for the Sharks’ third power-play goal to make it 3-2.
“There was a little adversity tonight, but it showed a lot of character for our team, and a lot of depth,” Eckford said.
NOTES: Portland left wing Ryan Hollweg, who provided the color commentary during the radio broadcast of the game, will undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL next week. … An upper-body injury kept defenseman Maxim Goncharov out of Portland’s lineup for the fifth consecutive game. An upper-body injury also kept Brock Trotter, the Pirates leading scorer, from playing.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: