PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates came out flat Sunday afternoon, and the Springfield Falcons made them pay.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault had a goal and two assists as the Falcons clinched their first AHL division title in 16 years with a 4-2 win before 5,412 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“We weren’t good enough tonight,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “Right through the whole group, we didn’t have jump we needed to have. We just weren’t good enough.”
With their seventh win in nine games, the Falcons clinched the Northeast Division title. The team was affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Pirates’ current NHL parent, when it won its last division title in 1997.
“We have big aspirations with this team,” said Springfield Coach Brad Larsen, who served as captain of the Pirates in his last season as a player in 2009-10. “We’ve been trying to build something here since Day 1 of camp. The guys have put a tremendous amount of work in.”
The Falcons snapped the Pirates’ three-game winning streak. Portland is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind fifth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
With seven games left in the regular season, Portland needs seven points to secure a playoff berth.
“We’ve got to play better than we did (Sunday),” Edwards said. “If we do that, we’ll take care of ourselves.”
The Falcons opened the scoring with less than two minutes left in the first period when rookie center Jake Hansen scored his second goal of the season, firing in a slap shot from between the hash marks.
Audy-Marchessault made it 2-0, converting a turnover into his team-high 20th goal 12 minutes into the second period. His shot from the right face-off dot came with 15 seconds left on a power play.
The Pirates answered with a power-play goal of their own in the final minute of the period, as Andy Miele put in a rebound with 13.8 seconds left.
Portland had produced just one shot on goal during the first 17 minutes of the period.
Defenseman Blake Parlett scored his seventh goal of the season and Sean Collins put in his 11th in the third period to give the Falcons a three-goal advantage.
Miele got his second of the game and 18th of the season on a power play with two seconds remaining.
NOTES: Immediately after the game, the Pirates traveled by bus to Boston to catch a morning flight to Newfoundland for a two-game series against the St. John’s IceCaps. The teams play Tuesday and Wednesday. The Coyotes sent veteran goalie Chad Johnson back to the Pirates. An upper body injury will prevent newly acquired right wing Brandon McMillan from making the trip to Newfoundland. McMillan was obtained from the Anaheim Ducks just before the NHL trading deadline last Wednesday. Forward Scott Arnold, who spent the past two months in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators, rejoined the Pirates in time for the trip to Canada.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: