MANCHESTER, N.H. — They captured a Cup.
No, not the coveted Calder Cup that goes to the winner of the American Hockey League playoffs, but the inaugural VIP Cup awarded to the winner of the 12-game series between the Pirates and the Manchester Monarchs.
The Pirates, playing with a revamped lineup after several Coyote call-ups, held off the Monarchs 4-2 on Friday at the Verizon Wireless Arena to win the series seven games to five and take home the trophy presented by VIP Parts, Tires and Service.
More importantly, Portland moved to 38-25-3-2 and strengthened its hold on fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re trying to get ourselves in position to clinch (a playoff spot),” said Coach Ray Edwards. “We’d like to get it done as soon as we can so we don’t screw around here.”
The Pirates play Springfield on Sunday in the Cumberland County Civic Center at 4 p.m.
Goalie Mike Lee made 24 saves for the win, improving his record to 8-4-0.
Martin Jones had 22 saves for the Monarchs, who fell to 31-30-3-4 and are outside looking in at the playoffs at the moment.
“It’s typical of a lot of losses we’ve had this season that were winnable games,” said Manchester Coach Mark Morris, who was not pleased with his team’s defensive lapses.
Down 2-1 entering the third period, the Monarchs tied the game on a Jordan Weal goal at 4:07 of the third period, seconds after Portland killed off a Manchester power play.
But the tie lasted less than three minutes.
Darian Dziurzynski put the Pirates up 3-2, on assists from Jordan Szwarz and Justin Feser. Feser, playing his first professional game, created the scoring chance by racing down the right side and feeding Szwarz.
Phil Lane finished off the scoring with his second goal of the night, this one into an empty net, with 1:08 left.
The only goal of the opening period came at 9:49 as Manchester forward Hunter Bishop came down the right side, cut in front and beat Lee with a shot along the ice.
Brett Hextall scored early in the second period and Phil Lane tallied late to put Portland up 2-1 with 20 minutes to go.
Portland was missing center Alexandre Bolduc and defenseman David Rundblad, who were re-routed to Phoenix just as the Pirates boarded the bus for Manchester. They’ll be joining forwards Chris Brown and Chris Conner, called up Wednesday night as the Coyotes dealt with a flu bug.
“We have seven guys up there now,” Edwards said. “I give our guys a lot of credit. I thought it was a gutsy kind of road victory for us.
“There were a lot of new guys in the lineup and some guys that had to play a little bit more of a role for us.”
NOTES: Forwards Brandon McMillan and Feser made their Pirate debuts. McMillan came over in a Phoenix trade with Anaheim for Matthew Lombardi. Feser is 20 and up from Tri-City of the Western Hockey League. He scored 44 goals and had 62 assists in 72 games this year for Tri-City and had played in a WHL record 321 consecutive games. Feser played with Pirate rookie center Brendan Shinnimin for four years in Tri-City.…
In his debut with Phoenix Thursday night, Conner scored the game-winning goal in the Coyotes’ 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.