November 27, 2011

Penalty killing makes the difference for Pirates

Portland gains momentum by stopping Worcester's advantages, then takes control of the game.

By MIKE SCANDURA Special to the Telegram

WORCESTER, Mass. - According to the stat sheet, the Portland Pirates beat the Worcester Sharks 3-1 on goals by Brett MacLean and Matt Watkins on Saturday night.

But that didn't tell the whole story. This game turned early in the second period when Portland killed off a double minor to Ryan Hollweg.

"Just managing momentum like that is a big part of the game when you have to get through it," Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. "That was a big turning point for us. You either get momentum from your special teams or you lose momentum.

"We always talk about gaining momentum, so I thought our penalty killers gave us a lot of momentum. Even getting that power-play goal (by MacLean) near the end of the second period obviously gave us some momentum. You have to try to get momentum from those special teams situations, and we got it."

Portland killed off all seven of Worcester's power plays.

"To kill off a four-minute penalty is a huge momentum-changer for us," Andy Miele said. "Our PK has been great all year so we're really happy about that.

"It starts with our goaltender (Curtis McElhinney, who finished with 29 saves) and he was great on the PK, too. (Killing the double-minor) definitely gave us a lot of momentum."

After holding Worcester without a shot for nearly seven minutes, Portland grabbed a 1-0 lead at 8:17 when Tyler Eckford fed a cross-ice pass to Dean Arsene, who gunned home a slap shot.

Six seconds after Portland killed off a penalty, Nathan Moon stuffed in the rebound of a Cam MacIntyre shot at 17:12 for a 1-1 tie after the first period.

Portland broke the deadlock on a well-executed power play at 15:14 of the second.

Watkins passed deep in the right corner to Miele, who sent a cross-crease pass to MacLean, who deflected the puck past Tyson Sexsmith (28 saves).

McElhinney assisted on Portland's final goal at 4:14 of the third. He sprung Miele and Watkins on a two-on-one break, and Miele passed to Watkins at the left point. Watkins unloaded a slap shot that beat Sexsmith.

Miele has been unloading on the AHL as a rookie. He has seven goals and 13 assists in only 14 games, yet wasn't inclined to brag about his early-season accomplishments.

"If you win (the Hobey Baker Award, which Miele did last season at Miami), it stays at college," Miele said. "They see you won that, but it's a whole different game here. You're playing against better and bigger players.

"There are definitely things I can improve on. Hopefully I can do that before this season ends."

 

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