November 24, 2013

Goalie switch does it for Pirates

Mike Visentin relieves Mike Lee and Portland wins a shootout at Norfolk.

By Jim Hodges
Special to the Press Herald

NORFOLK, Va. — It was a short night for Mike Lee, but a satisfying weekend for the Portland Pirates.

Lee, Portland’s backup netminder, gave up two goals on as many shots in the opening 2:18 of Saturday’s game, then was dismissed in favor of Mark Visentin, who was told to hold the fort until the cavalry arrived.

Andy Miele finished a charge with 1:24 left in regulation to finish a three-goal rally, then added one of three shootout goals that gave the Pirates a 4-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals.

It contrasted with Friday’s game, in which the Pirates blew a two-goal lead in an overtime loss.

“Really, I wasn’t upset with our play in the first period,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “I thought the first two goals just weren’t good goals.”

The first Admiral goal, scored when Chris Wagner drove the net and slipped a shot between Lee’s pads, came only 32 seconds into the game. But Charlie Sarault’s goal, scored from near the blue line, came on a shot Lee saw, but whiffed on.

Edwards had seen enough.

“For whatever reason, it just didn’t look like Lee was on,” the coach said. “I’m lucky that one of my assistant coaches is a goaltending coach (Mike Minard), and I can lean on him in those situations. We both agreed for the team that we should make the move. It’s always tough, because you never want to embarrass the guy, but in that case we thought it was best for the team.”

Visentin, who was the losing goalie in Friday’s 3-2 OT decision in which the Pirates blew the lead, was touched for David Steckel’s goal 5:44 later. It came when Steckel picked Miele’s pocket, skated in alone with time on his hands, deked left, then went right to backhand the puck past Visentin for a 3-0 lead.

“I wasn’t upset with our play,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t happy about being down 3-0.”

It got better in the second period as the Pirates turned up the pressure on the forecheck, creating havoc in the Norfolk end.

A cycling effort in the corner was turned into a Pirate goal when Chris Summers fired a pass to Lucas Lessio, who was open in front of Norfolk goalie Jon Gibson. Lessio’s shot cut things to 3-1 with more than half of the game to be played, and with Portland on enough momentum to outshoot the Admirals 14-6 in the period.

Norfolk was held to two shots in the opening 17:30 of the second, and only two shots in the third period and OT together.

Portland’s Brandon McMillan cut the edge to 3-2 with 3:06 to play, and Miele then evened things with Visentin on the bench for an extra attacker.

Miele, Brandon Yip and Ethan Werek scored in the shootout, and Visentin held Norfolk to two shootout goals to finish the weekend on a positive note.

“You’re a genius when it works,” Edwards said of the goalie switch. “When it doesn’t, you’re a fool.”

In this case, it worked, earning the Pirates their fifth win in seven road games this season.

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