LEWISTON — Last week, on the eve of the National Hockey League trading deadline, the Portland Pirates lost one of their top forwards, Chris Brown, and two of their best defensemen, Rostislav Klesla and David Rundblad.
On Friday, the parent Phoenix Coyotes recalled defense prospect Brandon Gormley to the NHL. On Sunday morning, just hours before the Pirates were set to give away 1,000 Andy Miele bobbleheads, the Coyotes summoned Miele as well.
So perhaps it wasn’t completely surprising that the last-place Pirates laid an egg Sunday afternoon, losing 9-3 to the first-place Springfield Falcons before a crowd announced as 2,458 at the Colisee.
Never before had a Pirates team given up as many as nine goals in a game in Maine.
“It hasn’t been a perfect year, obviously,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards, “but I’ve got a lot of respect for our team, because in games like this, they keep fighting and we appreciate the effort.”
The score was 2-0 after five minutes, 4-0 after one period, 7-1 after two periods and 9-1 two minutes into the third. Determined to salvage something positive, however, the Pirates never coasted.
Tim Kennedy scored his first goal of the season early in the third, with assists from Connor Murphy and Tobias Rieder. Late in the period, Brandon Yip added his seventh, with help from Sam Klassen and Brendan Shinnimin.
“Our guys don’t quit,” Edwards said. “They’re good kids.”
That the Pirates, after 30 attempts, are still looking for their 10th victory at home this season is not lost on Edwards, nor is the fact that, had negotiations between team management and trustees of their true home – the recently renovated Cumberland County Civic Center – gone more smoothly, the Pirates might have bid adieu to Lewiston in January.
“It’s embarrassing,” Edwards said of Sunday’s lopsided loss. “We’re embarrassed by that game and we’ve been embarrassed by the way we’ve played at home. But this team, we’ve had to deal with a lot, and they’ve never quit.”
Springfield scored on three of its first five shots against Pirates starting goalie Mark Visentin. The first two goals, by Patrick McNeill and Sean Collins, came 32 seconds apart.
The Falcons added a pair of power-play goals to make it 4-0 at the first intermission.
“We got some good breaks early, as far as throwing pucks on net,” said Springfield Coach Brad Larsen. “That first goal (from low on the left side at an improbable angle) was a tough goal for their goalie.”
Louis Domingue replaced Visentin for the second, and Brett Hextall broke up the shutout after a faceoff in Springfield’s zone, with assists from Kyle Hagel and Ethan Werek. Any comeback thoughts quickly disappeared, however, when Springfield again tallied twice in 32 seconds, first on a power play and then while shorthanded, for a 7-1 lead.
The Falcons converted all three of their power plays while the Pirates, who had been seventh in the league with Miele playing a pivotal role, were 0 for 5.
“They’re a skeleton of what their team was a month ago,” said Larsen, whose Falcons lost a 4-3 shootout at home in their previous Pirates encounter. “You take out Miele and Brown and Gormley, and that’s a lot of subtractions. It’s not that the (replacements) aren’t capable, it’s that you’re re-teaching everything you’ve been doing all season. You don’t have much time to get these guys on the same page.”
Edwards said he understands his special teams will take time to develop with new personnel, and that Visentin (who returned to net after Jack Skille scored twice in 26 seconds to open the third) and Domingue both had off days. Miele, a deserving young player, had earned a promotion to the NHL, so the day was not a total loss.
“I told him in my text that we’d be sure to save a few bobbleheads for him,” Edwards said of the 5-foot-8 former Hobey Baker Award winner, and couldn’t resist a grin. “They’re life-size.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: