PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates knew they had clinched a berth in the AHL playoffs even before they had finished their game Friday night against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but that didn’t prevent them from believing they nailed down the slot the old-fashioned way.
They earned it.
Rookie Chris Brown scored twice in the third period as the Pirates pulled out a 3-1 win before 4,751 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“I’m glad we were able to win (playoff spot) in the game and do it the right way and not have to wait for anybody else to help us,” Coach Ray Edwards said. “I didn’t think we were perfect tonight, but we found a way to win.”
The Pirates held a 2-1 lead with two minutes left when public address announcer Pete deBear told the crowd that the Albany Devils had eked out a 3-2 win over the Connecticut Whale to secure a playoff spot for Portland.
“This is the way we wanted to do it,” Brown said. “We wanted to get the win. We knew if we got at least one point we were in, but this is a momentum builder to go into the next two games and also go into the playoffs.”
It’s the first time a Phoenix Coyotes’ AHL affiliate has qualified for the playoffs since 2008, when the San Antonio Rampage lost in the first round to the Toronto Marlies.
“My first year as an assistant (coach) we made the playoffs, and this is the second time. You have to understand, for about four years we had no prospects. Now the cupboard is starting to fill up. It’s been a long time, but this is what happens when you start to put prospects on your team. A lot of the young players we have are used to winning, so this is the standard for them.”
Brown, who has a team-high 29 goals, is one of the Coyotes’ top prospects.
“This is my first year, so it’s a little different scene, but back at (Michigan) we were always in the (NCAA) tournament and I went to the national championship game, and those experiences help,” he said.
All the scoring took place in the third period.
Brown, after stealing the puck, scored on a shot from the right circle to snap a 1-1 tie with eight minutes left.
Evan Brophey scored his eighth goal 58 seconds into the final period.
In between those goals, Ryan Strome scored his second goal for the Sound Tigers, who are 0-5 against Portland this season.
With 15 seconds left, Brown flipped the puck from the neutral zone into an open net to complete the scoring.
NOTES: Forward Derek Whitmore, who spent three seasons with the Pirates when he played for the Buffalo Sabres’ organization, attended Friday’s game after finishing the season with the Augsburg Panthers of the German Elite League. … An upper-body injury kept right wing Jordan Szwarz out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: