Less than 24 hours after playing their final game of the season, the Portland Pirates prepared to leave town Friday.
The AHL team’s season came to a screeching halt Thursday when Orenj Palat scored his second goal of the game with 17 seconds left in overtime as the Syracuse Crunch completed a sweep of their best-of-five Calder Cup series with a 4-3 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates cleaned out their cubicles and went through exit interviews Friday with Coach Ray Edwards, NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving and Dave King, the NHL team’s director of development.
“We just talked about how the season went,” said Ethan Werek, a forward in his second professional season with Portland.
The Pirates faced a formidable challenge in taking on the Crunch during the first round of playoffs. The Syracuse lineup included a dozen players who helped the Norfolk Admirals win the Calder Cup last season.
“You could tell there were 14 guys from a team that won (the Calder Cup) last year,” Edwards said in a postgame interview. “You could tell why. They played fast. They played hard. There was no time and space. We had a tough time to get to 20 shots.”
During the offseason, NHL parent Tampa Bay Lightning became affiliated with Syracuse.
The Pirates didn’t play the Crunch during the regular season.
“I learned it’s hard to prepare for a team you haven’t played,” Edwards said. “They’re so much better live than they are on film. Until we played the games, we didn’t know what we were facing. Once we got out on the ice, we knew we had a strong opponent. We just weren’t able to be fast enough to catch up with them.”
Edwards said the Crunch beat the Pirates at their own game.
“We wanted to play fast, too, but that was a tough team to play fast against,” he said. “We like to get up and forecheck and dictate the pace of the game, but we couldn’t do that. They dictated the pace, and we were chasing.”
Still, two of the three games were decided in overtime.
“If you look at every one of those games, they were very winnable games for us,” Werek said. “It’s tough to go out like that, but it gives leeway into next year.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: