PORTLAND – Rookie right wing Phil Lane scored three goals as the Pirates tuned up for their first AHL playoff appearance in three seasons by cruising to a 5-1 win over the Connecticut Whale before 6,085 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“I think it’s real important for the playoffs that we just keep going,” Lane said. “Keep building off every game, going into every game with meaning and hopefully keep it going in the playoffs.”
Portland’s first-round opponent in the best-of-five series, which starts next week, could be the Binghamton Senators, Springfield Falcons or Syracuse Crunch.
The Pirates complete their 76-game regular season Sunday afternoon at Bridgeport.
Saturday night, the Pirates took a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Lane opened the scoring 12 minutes into the game by tipping in defenseman Boris Valabek’s shot from the left point.
With less than four minutes left in the opening period, Tyler Bodie scored his third goal since joining the Pirates 10 days earlier by sticking a rebound into the left side. Lane finished off a rush with another goal just 16 seconds later.
“I was just happy with the work,” Coach Ray Edwards said. “We worked real hard. We wanted to take any hope away from them early and getting up 3-0 is a good way to start.”
Marek Hrivik cut the lead to 3-1 midway through the second period when his shot from the left corner went in off Portland defenseman Mathieu Brodeur’s skate.
With less than 10 minutes left in the game, the Pirates took a 4-1 lead when Andy Miele, who also had two assists, put in a shot from the slot for his 19th goal of the season.
A few minutes later, Lane completed his first hat trick as a pro, turning a centering pass from Miele into his 14th goal.
It was the second hat trick recorded by the Pirates this season. Rob Klinkhammer, currently playing in the NHL with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, scored three goals against the St. John’s IceCaps on Oct. 23.
NOTES: Former Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings, signed to an amateur tryout contract Saturday, served as Mike Lee’s backup. An upper-body injury kept forward Jordan Szwarz out of the lineup for the fifth straight game. A lower-body injury took Mark Louis, normally a defenseman who played his last two games at right wing, out of the game. Minor injuries also sidelined defenseman Maxim Goncharov, right wing Brett Hextall and goalie Mark Visentin.
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