LEWISTON — Two former Portland Pirates, of recent and not-so-recent vintage, returned to Maine to haunt their former team.
Forward Chris Brown, who left in a trade a month ago, and goalie Dave Leggio, who played for the franchise three seasons ago when the Pirates were affiliated with Buffalo, helped the Hershey Bears rally to a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at the Colisee.
A crowd listed as 1,268 saw the Pirates jump to a 2-1 lead after one period, only to be shut out the rest of the way by Leggio, who stopped 27 shots.
The victory moved Hershey into the eighth and final playoff spot in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. The Pirates were mathematically eliminated from the race Tuesday night with another 3-2 loss, at Worcester.
“It’s obviously a fun experience to play against all your old buddies, and to come out with a victory as well,” said Brown, who played for Hershey’s parent club, the Washington Capitals, in their 5-0 home loss to Dallas Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 18,000. He learned Wednesday morning that he would return to the AHL and flew to Maine Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday’s game marked the professional debut of three players, Portland’s Yan-Pavel Laplante and Kevin Raine, and Hershey’s Caleb Herbert.
It was Herbert, fresh off his junior collegiate season with Minnesota-Duluth, who made the biggest splash. He assisted on Hershey’s first goal and scored the second, tying the game in the opening minute of the second period, to earn the game’s first star.
“Overall, I really liked our game,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “If you stood this game by itself and forgot about everything else, you’d be real happy with the effort. Even though we didn’t win, we did a lot of good things.”
Tobias Rieder and Andy Miele scored for the Pirates. They remain tied for the team lead with 27 goals.
Jordan Martinook assisted on both scores. Louis Domingue stopped 22 shots.
Rieder’s goal came on the team’s first shot, five minutes into the contest, from the high slot. Sam Klassen assisted.
Hershey’s Jeff Taffe responded within half a minute to tie the score but the Pirates took a 2-1 lead into intermission thanks to a deft goal by Miele after a Martinook pass/shot, stopping the puck just in front of Leggio and neatly tucking it past him.
“I thought we had good legs tonight,” Edwards said. “I thought we played as fast as we’ve played in a while.”
Hershey needed 21 seconds of the second period to tie the score, on Herbert’s shot from the left circle. The Bears made it 3-2 later in the period when Kris Newbury tapped a pass from Matt Watkins inside the left post. Watkins is another former Pirate, having played for Portland two seasons ago.
The third period was scoreless, despite a Pirates power play for much of the final two minutes.
“We had the puck a lot,” Edwards said. “We just have to find a way to get one of those in.”
NOTES: Kyle Hagel (no goals, 162 PIM) was a scratch for the Pirates, but earlier in the day he was named the team’s Man of the Year for community work in Portland and Lewiston/Auburn.
A Princeton graduate with a degree in poli-sci, Hagel is a co-founder of Hockey Players 4 Kids, through which he started a Stick to Reading program in several schools. He also took part in the team’s Goals for Success program and volunteered with the Portland Junior Pirates.
The Pirates are the fourth team with whom Hagel has been so honored, after Hamilton, Peoria and Rockford. Hagel is one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2013-14 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the league’s overall Man of the Year.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or: