PORTLAND — Fewer than 24 hours after the Portland Pirates were eliminated from playoff contention, the players hauled their gear out of the Cumberland County Civic Center on Monday.

Coach Ray Edwards and Phoenix Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving held exit interviews as the players prepared to leave town.

“Anytime your schedule ends on April 15 and you’re doing exit interviews on April 16, it means the season didn’t go the way you wanted it to go,” Treliving said.

Portland made a strong push for an American Hockey League playoff berth the past month but fell two points short.

“Part of the development process is that you want to play games that matter, and I think we played a lot of those games down the stretch,” said Treliving, who flew overnight from Arizona to talk to each of the Pirates. “You hope you put yourself into a situation where those games don’t mean as much. You really want to be preparing for a playoff series right now.”

The season didn’t necessarily end for 13 of the Pirates with Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Providence.

Forwards Alexandre Bolduc and Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and goalie Justin Pogge flew to Chicago on Monday to join the parent Phoenix Coyotes, who play the Blackhawks tonight in Game 3 of a best-of-seven series in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

On Thursday, forwards Brett Hextall, Brett MacLean, Andy Miele, Jordan Szwarz, Matt Watkins and Ethan Werek, and defensemen Maxim Goncharov, Mark Louis, Connor Murphy and David Rundblad will travel to Glendale, Ariz.

They will practice separately from the Coyotes to stay in shape in case they’re called up to the parent squad because of injury.

“Obviously it’s disappointing not to make the postseason,” Werek said, “but moving forward it was just a good learning experience.”

Werek, 20, completed his first professional season after spending the previous three years playing junior hockey with the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League.

“It’s a long year and every game is important,” he said, “but we had a great stretch at the end of the year where things were shaping up to where I thought we were going to be in the postseason. You look back at some of the games we gave back and it’s tough to swallow.”

Werek, who had 10 goals and nine assists in 67 games, is under contract to the Phoenix organization for two more seasons.

“The first 30 games of the year are probably the easiest games to win, and it comes back on you at the end of the season when you don’t win those games,” said veteran forward Ashton Rome, who had 11 goals and nine assists in 66 games with the Pirates.

After the first 30 games of the season, Portland was 14-12-1-3.

“To get into the playoffs, all we needed was a win earlier in the season that we didn’t get,” said Rome, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. “Guys don’t realize those early games are just important as the last ones.”

Edwards said team defense was a major reason why the Pirates didn’t win enough games to get into the playoffs. Portland allowed a league-high 254 goals.

“You don’t win long-term if you don’t defend,” he said. “Just think about it: We’re two points out of the playoffs and we gave up all those goals. You give up 20 (fewer) goals and we’re in the playoffs.”

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH