The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Portland Pirates http://www.pressherald.com Mon, 02 May 2016 19:44:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.3 Pirates eliminated from AHL playoffs http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/pirates-eliminated-from-playoffs-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/pirates-eliminated-from-playoffs-2/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 23:35:44 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/pirates-eliminated-from-playoffs-2/ HERSHEY, Pa. — Unlike Saturday night, Portland came to play for all three periods Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless, the Pirates fell short in a 2-1 loss to the Hershey Bears in the final game of a best-of-five AHL Atlantic Division semifinal series at Giant Center.

Hershey will meet the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the division finals beginning Wednesday in Hershey.

For the Pirates, their season came to abrupt halt despite a strong effort. Portland rebounded from a lackluster offensive effort in a 2-0 defeat in Game 4 and played a tight defensive game with fewer miscues.

They once again trailed 2-0 heading into the third period, however. They avoided back-to-back shutouts when Wayne Simpson tapped in Mike Matheson’s blast from the left point at 2:51 of the third period, ending Hershey goalie Justin Peters’ shutout streak of 100 minutes, 51 seconds.

The goal was preceded by a Portland power play that generated three shots.

Portland pulled goalie Mike McKenna with 1:19 left but couldn’t producing a tying goal despite keeping traffic in front of the Hershey net. The Pirates outshot the Bears 7-3 in the final period and 24-23 overall.

“I was certainly happen with our compete level tonight and it was certainly indicative of a playoff game,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen. “We were engaged right from the outset. We battled through it all, but they find a way to win. We didn’t let down when we were down.”

Allen credited the Bears’ offensive zone play throughout the series.

“They do a very good job with it,” he said. “We were prepared for it as well as we could have been and it was a tight series.”

He also cited the play of both goalies. Peters made several key saves as he turned away 23 shots, and McKenna was equally effective with 21 saves.

“(Peters) had an outstanding game,” said Allen. “Both goalies were outstanding. That’s what makes for playoff hockey. It was a game of inches.”

Hershey Coach Troy Mann saw a difference in his club after it dropped a 6-4 decision in the series opener in Portland. The Bears allowed a total of four goals in the next four games.

“That was a wake-up call for us,” he said. “From there, we played some pretty good defensive hockey. We also came up with some timely goals when we needed them.”

Hershey went ahead in the first period when Sean Collins took a pass from Liam O’Brien behind the net and flicked a shot in the slot past McKenna’s glove at 14:19.

Before the goal, the opening period was similar to Saturday’s first period, as tight checking by both teams limited scoring opportunities. Portland’s best chance came when Brickley fired a shot in front that Peters gloved.

Hershey’s Travis Boyd nearly gave his team a two-goal lead late in the period, but his shot hit the post and flipped over McKenna’s shoulder toward the other side of the net.

The Bears made it 2-0 in the second period when Ryan Stanton scored his first playoff goal. The defenseman took a cross-ice pass from Jakub Vrana and flipped a shot between McKenna’s pads at 8:29. Ryan Bourque also was credited with an assist, as he started the rush after a shot by Portland’s Matheson’s rebounded out to him.

With just over two minutes left in the period, Brickley had another opportunity in front when he took a pass from Lawson Crouse but Peters smothered Brickley’s shot.

The Bears responded with a pair of rushes that nearly resulted in goals, as the Pirates had trouble clearing the puck in front.

Overall, Allen was pleased with his team’s season.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” he said. “We had a lot of movement throughout the year and we had a lot of guys contribute to the season the Florida Panthers had. We had guys who stepped up and kept us in contention all the way.

“We had the fight tonight, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”

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Pirates face deciding Game 5 after 2-0 loss http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/pirates-face-deciding-game-5-after-2-0-loss/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/pirates-face-deciding-game-5-after-2-0-loss/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 01:29:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/pirates-face-deciding-game-5-after-2-0-loss/ HERSHEY, Pa. — The Portland Pirates believed they could close out the Hershey Bears in the best-of-five AHL Atlantic Division semifinals Saturday night and move on to face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

But it just didn’t happen.

The Pirates managed just 19 shots on goal and were shut out 2-0, evening the series at two games apiece.

Portland and Hershey will meet in the deciding Game 5 at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Giant Center.

The Pirates were shut out for the first time since Feb. 5, when they lost 5-0 to Hartford.

Portland had only four shots in each of the first two periods as Hershey’s backchecking and overall defense proved the difference.

“We played like we had the series already won,” said Portland Coach Scott Allen. “They played like a desperate hockey … team that was on the ropes. They responded well. We were obviously concerned early and we talked to them about it. Actions speak louder than words and their actions were the difference.”

Hershey goalie Justin Peters, who made 44 saves in a 2-1 triple-overtime loss Thursday, had a much easier night.

“This might have been the easiest game (Peters) ever played,” said Allen. “We gave them the game that they wanted from us. They summed up everything that we had talked about coming into this game.”

The 103-minute, 10-second marathon Thursday night was the longest game in Pirates history.

Hershey took a 1-0 lead when Travis Boyd scored his first playoff goal, taking a cross-ice pass from Jakub Vrana and beating goalie Mike McKenna in the slot with a wrist shot at 12:51 of the first period.

Hershey started the game as the aggressor, taking six shots in the first seven minutes. Dylan Olsen of Portland delivered a jarring hit to Aaron Ness of Hershey in the opening minutes that dropped him to the ice and stirred both teams.

McKenna, who finished with 26 saves after a stellar 41-save effort in Game 3, made three big stops in the period, when Hershey held a 13-4 advantage in shots.

The Pirates’ best chance came from Conner Brickley, whose shot from the slot was saved between Peters’ pads.

The Bears took a 2-0 lead when Chris Bourque fired a shot on a power play from the top of the slot that apparently hit several sticks on its way past McKenna at 16:23 of the first. Jonathan Racine of Portland was off for interference at 15:10.

It was only Hershey’s second power-play goal of the series. The Bears went 0 of 7 in Game 3 and entered the game 1 of 14 overall.

In the final period, the Pirates tried to generate offense but again were stymied.

They managed one shot on their lone power-play advantage and their best opportunity came from Mike Matheson, who was stopped by Peters in front of the net with just over 13 minutes to play.

Portland called a timeout with 2:24 remaining and pulled McKenna for an extra skater. But the Pirates managed one shot over the next 1:14 before McKenna returned to the nets for the final 1:10.

Allen knows that none of his players have been in a winner-take-all playoff game, and he envisioned the scenario.

“I expected it to be this kind of series,” he said. “It’s win or go home and we have to be ready.”

NOTES: The Pirates will face a Game 5 playoff situation for the second consecutive season. Last year they lost to Manchester, 5-3, in the best-of-five opening series.

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After epic victory in Game 3, Pirates can close out series http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/after-epic-victory-in-game-3-pirates-can-close-out-series/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/after-epic-victory-in-game-3-pirates-can-close-out-series/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 03:22:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/after-epic-victory-in-game-3-pirates-can-close-out-series/ Mike McKenna woke up Friday morning feeling worse than he did the night before, after sweating through the longest hockey game of his life.

“That was uncharted territory for me,” said McKenna, whose 41 saves backstopped the fourth-seeded Portland Pirates to a 2-1 triple-overtime victory over the No. 1 Hershey Bears Thursday night in Game 3 of their best-of-five Atlantic Division semifinal series.

“I’m a little tired, but I’m sure by the end of the day I’ll be good.”

The Pirates have a chance to clinch the series Saturday night at 7 in Hershey. Game 5, if needed, would be 5 p.m. Sunday in Hershey.

The winner advances to face No. 3 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a best-of-seven series.

Thursday’s game lasted 103 minutes and 10 seconds – the longest in franchise history. It ended when right wing Rob Flick’s one-timer from the right circle zipped inside the near post before Hershey goalie Justin Peters could shift over.

Corban Knight had carried the puck from his own blue line along the left boards and into the offensive zone before being challenged by a Hershey defender. Knight dropped a pass to a trailing Rob Schremp, who crossed the puck to Flick.

“It was obviously a team effort and I just happened to be the guy who got an open shot there,” Flick said after the game. “(Knight) did a really good job in the neutral zone of shaking somebody and ended up kicking it out to (Schremp), who put a perfect pass to my tape. So I didn’t have to do much.”

The only other triple-overtime affair in Pirates history was a season-ending 3-2 loss in 2001 at home to complete a three-game playoff sweep by Saint John. That ended 2:06 into the third OT.

Unlike the regular season, in which ties are settled by first reducing skaters to 3-on-3 and then, if necessary, holding a shootout, American Hockey League playoff games continue at full strength until a goal is scored.

“It was more or less business at hand,” McKenna said of Thursday’s night’s thriller. “The only thing that really changed was that guys were making sandwiches and trying to take fluids between periods. This is something our coaching staff and our training staff was prepared for. They had real food, not just power bars. We had to have meat and protein.”

McKenna said Pirates strength coach Eddie Reyes “must have been a sandwich artist in a past life” because of his dexterity at whipping up healthy food for the players, including a ham, turkey and mustard on whole wheat (no cheese) for the veteran goalie, who turned 33 earlier this month.

Pirates Coach Scott Allen said he’s been part of playoff teams that scrambled to have pizza delivered between periods of overtime games. The possible need for nutrition is not something he leaves to chance.

“That’s on our playoff checklist,” Allen said of the buffet table. “We want to be prepared for everything.”

Allen spoke by phone Friday afternoon as he was breaking down video of the game. He had been back on the Giant Center ice at 9 Friday morning with a dozen players scratched Thursday night. He told everyone who played to skip the morning workout.

After a scoreless first period, Hershey took a 1-0 lead on a Nathan Walker goal early in the second and the Pirates tied it on a wraparound by Greg McKegg (after he skated through three defenders) in the seventh minute of the third. The teams then played more than 56 minutes of scoreless hockey.

“I love the fact that there was no panic in our game, that we stuck to our guns,” Allen said. The Bears “certainly had their opportunities. I thought both goalies were outstanding and both teams’ penalty kills played very well.”

Peters finished with 42 saves. Hershey was 0 for 7 on the power play and Portland was 0 for 9. Through three games, each team has converted only once with a man advantage, despite 14 opportunities for Hershey and 19 for the Pirates.

Allen also discovered that Hershey left wing Ryan Bourque was “clearly” offsides on the play leading to Walker’s goal. Had Allen been able to challenge like his NHL brethren, the goal likely would have been disallowed.

Also, in the second overtime period, Hershey defenseman Aaron Ness slid in the crease behind Peters during a scramble and covered the puck with his glove. Normally such an infraction calls for a penalty shot.

Instead, referee David Banfield came over to Allen to explain.

“He told me he had a tough sight line on that particular play,” Allen said. “I appreciated his honesty. We’re all human and mistakes happen.”

McKegg, who nearly scored another wraparound from the opposite direction, was one of three players sent down from the NHL Panthers after their playoff elimination. Allen said McKegg, Logan Shaw and Mike Matheson all showed signs of rust from not skating for several days.

“They all played OK,” Allen said, “but I honestly think all three of them will be better (Saturday) night.”

Although the Pirates are in the driver’s seat, Allen said he doesn’t expect any momentum from Thursday night to carry into Saturday.

“The elimination game is the toughest game to win, and that’s what this is,” he said. “We expect to get their best game of the series. That’s what we have to be prepared for.”

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Pirates prevail in 3 OTs to take series lead http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pirates-prevail-in-3-ots-to-take-series-lead/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pirates-prevail-in-3-ots-to-take-series-lead/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 03:26:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pirates-prevail-in-3-ots-to-take-series-lead/ HERSHEY, Pa. — Rob Flick’s goal in the third overtime lifted the Portland Pirates to a 2-1 victory against the Hershey Bears in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division semifinals Thursday night at the Giant Center.

The game was the longest in Pirates history and the 20th longest in AHL history.

Flick took a cross-ice pass from Rob Schremp and blasted a shot from the right circle past Hershey goalie Justin Peters at 3:10 of the third overtime. Portland finished with 44 shots and goaltender Mike McKenna had a strong night with 41 saves.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and will look to close it out Saturday night in Hershey. If Game 5 is needed, it will be held Sunday.

The series winner will take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who already eliminated the Providence Bruins in three overtime games.

The score was 1-1 after regulation and stayed that way for another 43:10.

The Pirates did receive some reinforcements for the remainder of the playoffs when Greg McKegg, Mike Matheson and Logan Shaw rejoined the team from the parent Florida Panthers after the Panthers were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.

Those reinforcements helped.

Portland tied the game at 1-1 when McKegg scored his first playoff goal by skating through the defense, around the net, and tucking the puck over Peters’ glove hand with 13:32 remaining in regulation.

Neither team was fluid for long stretches or able to find the net with man advantages. The teams combined to go 0 of 16 on power plays with the Pirates missing on nine opportunities.

Coming into the game, both teams had one power-play goal in the playoffs and now they are a combined 2 of 33.

In the second overtime, the Pirates fired five shots on net in the opening five minutes with one solid scoring chance.

John McFarland tried a wraparound that was just wide, and Steven Hodges’ follow also was wide of the net.

In the first overtime, Hershey stormed the Portland net in the opening four minutes and fired four shots on net, but McKenna was solid.

The Bears continued their assault, but McKenna stopped a two-on-none breakaway with a stick save with 13 minutes remaining in the overtime.

The Pirates’ best opportunity came when Flick’s wrist shot in the slot was gloved by Peters with 1:05 remaining. Hershey outshot the Pirates 8-7 in the first overtime.

Hershey took a 1-0 lead when Nathan Walker scored his first playoff goal by beating McKenna with a wrist shot in the slot to his stick side at 5:27 of the second period.

McKenna had a busy first period, turning away 12 shots. His best effort was a glove save off a flipped shot right in front of the net with just over four minutes left in the period. McKenna then made two saves on a Hershey power play in the final minutes of a scoreless opening period in which the Pirates managed five shots.

The Pirates’ best chance came early when Connor Brickley broke free deep in the Hershey zone but was stopped on a breakaway by Peters.

Portland was the aggressor in the second period and outshot Hershey, 14-3. But a failure to take advantage of six power-play opportunities meant Portland had to continue to work from behind.

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Portland Pirates get additions for playoff push http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/portland-pirates-get-reinforcements-for-playoff-push/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/portland-pirates-get-reinforcements-for-playoff-push/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:29:11 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/portland-pirates-get-reinforcements-for-playoff-push/ SACO — The surprising first-round playoff exit for the NHL Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers is producing dividends for their American Hockey League affiliate.

The Portland Pirates, tied at one game each with Hershey in their best-of-five first-round playoff series, welcomed back defenseman Mike Matheson, right wing Logan Shaw and center Greg McKegg on the eve of Game 3 in Pennsylvania on Thursday night.

In Florida’s 4-2 series loss to the New York Islanders, Matheson played in five games (including 32 minutes in the double-overtime loss in Game 5), Shaw in three and McKegg in one.

After splitting the first two games at home, the Pirates must win twice in Hershey to advance to the second round against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which swept Providence in three games that all went overtime.

“I don’t really think we learned anything new in the first two games,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen after Portland’s practice Monday in Saco. “I felt we were thorough enough in our preparation for them.”

The Pirates won the opener 6-4 on Friday. Hershey, the Atlantic Division champion, responded with a 3-1 victory the next night. In four regular-season games, the teams each won twice. The Pirates hold a 19-18 edge in goals during the six meetings.

“They didn’t have any surprises for us,” Allen said of the Bears, whose NHL affiliate Washington begins a second-round series Thursday against Pittsburgh. “They’re a good team. We know that.”

McKegg, who had to clear waivers before returning to the Pirates, had been with the Panthers since mid-March. He played 47 games with the Pirates, with 10 goals and 13 assists.

Shaw saw action in 56 games with the Panthers and scored five goals. He was recalled three times by Florida and played only 19 games with the Pirates, with 11 goals and three assists.

Matheson enjoyed a plus-14 rating in 54 games with the Pirates, scoring eight goals and assisting on 12 others. He went up for two games in late February before being recalled again in early April for Florida’s regular-season finale and the playoff series; he registered his only point with an assist on a Reilly Smith goal in Game 3.

“These are guys who have been our teammates all year long, whether they’ve been here a month or three months or whatever it is,” said goaltender Mike McKenna. “We’re going to need everybody for sure. If you make it to the Calder Cup finals, you don’t do it with 20 guys. We need everybody.”

The Pirates drew two of their biggest crowds of the season last weekend, a total of more than 9,000.

In 38 regular-season games, Hershey averaged an AHL-best 9,790 at its home arena, Giant Center.

Pirates forward Shane Harper, who has two goals in the playoffs, spent parts of four AHL seasons with nearby Adirondack, so he’s familiar with the building.

“It’s a fun rink to go in,” he said. “You get excited to play there. Even in warmups, it’s pretty packed. So right from the start of the game, the energy’s going to definitely be ramped up. I don’t think it’s going to be a hindrance to us because we’re going to be up just as much as they are.”

Forward Rocco Grimaldi was with the Panthers in late November when the Pirates made their only previous visit to Hershey this season. The arena will be new to him, but not the feeling of a cavalry riding to the rescue.

Last spring in San Antonio, the third-seeded Rampage received three players after the Panthers failed to make the playoffs – including center Vincent Trocheck, who scored 25 goals for Florida this season – just before taking on sixth-seeded Oklahoma City.

“We thought it was going to be a lot easier because we had some of our best players coming down,” Grimaldi said. “And then – boom! – a three-nothing sweep. So we can’t be satisfied just with getting guys back. It’s obviously great to have them but it’s a team game and each guy needs to keep bringing it.”

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Hershey gets edge on Pirates, 3-1 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/23/hershey-gets-edge-on-pirates-3-1/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/23/hershey-gets-edge-on-pirates-3-1/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 01:28:12 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/23/hershey-gets-edge-on-pirates-3-1/ Riley Barber and Jakub Vrena scored third-period goals as the Hershey Bears skated to a 3-1 win to pull even in their Calder Cup series Saturday night with the Portland Pirates before a crowd of 5,097 at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Pirates, who won 6-4 Friday night in Portland, must win 2 of 3 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania next week to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“These two-three formats are tough,” Hershey Coach Troy Mann said. “You really play 76 games to get home-ice advantage. Even though you get the extra game, it’s not really home-ice advantage. We wanted to come in here and get the split. We played much better tonight.”

“Tonight was closer to playoff hockey, what you expect playoff hockey to be,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “It was a tight game.”

Play resumes Thursday in the best-of-five series. Game 4 will be played Saturday and Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for next Sunday.

Hershey beat the Pirates in both of its home meetings this season, a two-game set in November.

On Saturday, Hershey took a 2-1 lead less than two minutes into the third period when Barber put a shot from near the bottom of the left circle off the near post for a power-play goal.

“It was a 1-1 game going into the third period,” Allen said. “We needed a big penalty kill and we didn’t get it.”

With more than 11 minutes left, Vrena completed the scoring when he swept in a rebound from the slot with his back to the net for his second playoff goal after goalie Mike McKenna stopped Barber’s shot from the right side.

“Did I think we were going to sweep them? Not a chance,” Allen said. “That is an outstanding hockey team over there. They’ve got a lot of guys who have gone through the grind of winning championships at this level, so they weren’t going to be spooked by losing the first game. They played a solid game tonight.”

Both teams scored in the second period.

Garret Mitchell of Hershey opened the scoring less than two minutes in on a low shot from the left faceoff dot for his first playoff goal.

The rest of the second period belonged to the Pirates, who held a 14-4 edge in shots.

With less than two minutes left in the period, defenseman Sena Acolatse put in a shot from the right circle for his first playoff goal. It came after work by Connor Brickley and Chase Balisy, who hustled in to beat a defender to the puck near the end board to the left of the goal. Brickley joined the battle and carried the puck behind the right side of the net before laying a perfect centering pass to Acolatse, who was cutting diagonally across the circle.

“We know we don’t come by goals easily. (Hershey) is much more gifted offensively than we are, but I still love our team,” Allen said. “I still love the way we play. We give ourselves a chance every night when we play that way.”

NOTES: Veteran left wing Chris Bourque, son of NHL Hall Of Famer Ray Bourque, had a goal and an assist while playing six games for the Pirates in 2005 following his lone season at Boston University. … Bourque’s younger brother, Ryan, who played for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before turning pro, skated on the Bears’ fourth line. …. Defenseman Matt MacKenzie, who had two assists for Portland in Game 1, didn’t suit up Saturday.

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Pirates take 1-0 series lead over Hershey Bears http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/22/pirates-take-1-0-series-lead-over-hershey-bears/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/22/pirates-take-1-0-series-lead-over-hershey-bears/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2016 01:36:17 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/22/pirates-take-1-0-series-lead-over-hershey-bears/ It’s always about the start for the Portland Pirates: come out hard, set the tone and play your game.

Friday night, they couldn’t have done it much better. The Pirates jumped out fast, then held off a late surge by the Hershey Bears to win the opening game of their best-of-five Atlantic Division semifinals.

Rob Schremp and Shane Harper each scored two goals as Portland earned a 6-4 victory over the Bears before a crowd of 3,959 at the Cross Insurance Arena.

The Pirates skated to a 2-0 lead in the opening period and did a good job containing Hershey’s high-powered offense for most of the night.

Game 2 of the series is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the CIA, where the Pirates have won all three games against Hershey this year. After that the series shifts to Pennsylvania for however many games it takes to finish.

“I thought our guys were ready from the outset,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen. “And they executed.”

That start put the Bears on their heels and they could never fully recover.

“You want to come out hard in the first 10 minutes and kind of set the tone,” said Hershey Coach Troy Mann. “And they certainly did that. I thought a lot of our younger players looked like they had some nerves early.”

But the Bears hung tough, trailing only 2-1 after one period and 3-2 after two. The Pirates then took control in the third, scoring two goals within 11 seconds to make it 5-2.

Harper, who missed 16 games with an injury, got the first on a brilliant move. He kicked the puck away from Hershey defenseman Christian Djoos behind the net into the right corner. Then he came out of the corner, deked around Djoos, who looked exhausted, and beat Hershey goalie Dan Ellis with a high backhander to give Portland a 4-2 advantage with 16:48 remaining.

“He stepped up big time,” said Allen. “We needed that from him. He needed that for himself.”

“Monster goal,” said Schremp. “What a performance on that play by Shane, just resilient and didn’t give up. He got hit two or three times on the same shift and just kept with it.”

Harper spoke pretty matter-of-factly about the play: “I came out of the corner and kind of looked and there was one defenseman there. I just tried to make a quick move, it worked out in my favor and I just took a backhander when I got closer to the net. It went it.”

Eleven seconds later it was 5-2 on Schremp’s second goal of the game. Mann called a time-out – and not just to settle his team down.

“I think we knew we hadn’t played a great game to that point,” he said. “I told them no matter what happened the rest of the way we needed to set the tone for tomorrow night’s game. And I think we did that.”

The Bears came within 5-4 on two goals by Tyler Lewington, the second with 4:46 remaining. “You could see how fast they could strike there in the third,” said Harper. “It got a little hairy there.”

But the Pirates held on because Allen told them to simply play their game.

“We prepared all week for this team, this game, this series,” he said. “There were no surprises. Everything they did tonight we were prepared for. I didn’t want the guys to get away from that. I wanted them to have the confidence to close them out and fortunately that’s what we did.”

The Pirates, who also got goals from Kyle Rau (first period) and Brett Olsen (second), got the puck deep and Hershey couldn’t pull Ellis for an extra attacker. Chris Bourque of Hershey took a slashing penalty with 55 seconds left and Harper got his second goal with 10 seconds remaining to seal it.

Now Hershey will look to get a split – “Ideally you’d love to steal two, but trying to get the split would be ideal for us now,” said Mann – while the Pirates will look to open a big advantage.

“We knew the stakes here,” said Schremp of the series opener. “And they do have home-ice advantage so we need to take care of our end of it.”

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Pirates ready for Hershey challenge in AHL playoffs http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/22/pirates-ready-for-hershey-challenge-in-ahl-playoffs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/22/pirates-ready-for-hershey-challenge-in-ahl-playoffs/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=847502 SACO — The Portland Pirates came off the practice rink at the MHG Ice Center huffing and sweaty, the end of a spirited hour of up-and-down skating and situational drills.

They accomplished all they had hoped, focusing on their AHL Atlantic Division semifinal against the Hershey Bears – a best-of-five series that begins this weekend at Cross Insurance Arena.

They pushed each other, fighting for pucks and skating room. Scott Allen, who took over as head coach Jan. 1, loved what he saw.

“That internal competition is what stokes our fire,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve talked about all year. We want guys competing in practice on a daily basis. That’s the only way you will improve.

“We have to practice like we play. We are not a team that can practice easy and soft and light, and then turn it on in the game. We have to challenge ourselves every day.”

And they will face a great challenge against the Bears.

Only two AHL teams scored more goals than Hershey (259) this season. They come into this series with the league’s MVP and leading scorer – Chris Bourque, son of NHL Hall of Famer and former Boston Bruins star Ray Bourque. Chris Bourque scored 30 goals and 50 assists to lead the league. And the Bears have several other players capable of scoring quickly, such as rookies Riley Barber (26 goals, 29 assists) and Travis Boyd (21 goals, 32 assists), and left wing Nathan Walker (17 goals, 24 assists).

The Pirates? Not so much. Left wing Rob Schremp led Portland in scoring with 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists), ranking 89th in the AHL. Portland’s success comes from its depth and hard work.

“We’re a tenacious team,” said Schremp, who played in Europe the previous four seasons. “We don’t ever give up. No matter what is going on in the game, we stay the course. We’re kind of relentless in that aspect.”

And they know they are going to have to continue doing that against Hershey, which won the division with 98 points. Portland finished fourth in the Atlantic with 90 points.

“They are a very offensive team,” said Pirates defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who tied for second on the team with 37 points (two goals, 35 assists). “We have to make sure we play our game. We are who we are. When you play a team like that, there is a tendency to try to match their skills and match their run-and-gun. We just don’t have that. When we play a team like that, it still has to be about us first.”

The teams split in the regular season, each winning two games at home. The Pirates opened their home schedule with back-to-back wins over Hershey on Oct. 17 (3-2) and Oct. 18 (5-2). Hershey swept the Pirates on Nov. 20 (3-2) and Nov. 21 (4-2).

Since the teams haven’t met in five months, they’ve been playing catch-up this week.

“We’re doing our research, we’re watching them (on film),” said Allen. “They’ve changed and we’ve changed since we played. I’m sure they’re doing the same thing.”

Gaunce likes the fact they haven’t played recently. “I think that builds in a little more excitement,” he said. “Sometimes when you play the same team 12 times, there’s a bit of monotony involved. Hershey’s a brand new test for us and a lot of us are looking forward to the challenge.”

Just two years removed from a woeful season in Lewiston, the Pirates came into this season with a new NHL affiliate, the Florida Panthers, who replaced the Arizona Coyotes. They missed the playoffs two years ago and were beaten by eventual Calder Cup champ Manchester in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last year in five games, losing 5-3 in the finale.

Goalie Mike McKenna, the only player returning from last year’s team, likes what the new regime has brought.

“Different players, different organization, different mentality,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we have been playing some pretty good hockey lately. We all feel hopeful that we can accomplish something big.”

McKenna, who had a superb season with a 33-17-5 record and 2.45 goals-against average, especially likes the leadership on the Pirates.

“The professionalism is very high in our locker room,” he said. “A lot of our guys have been captains, not just now but in the past. They know what it takes to win.”

While the Pirates may not be able to match Hershey’s offense, they feel they have enough quality forwards to keep things close. They play four lines regularly and everyone is expected to contribute.

“It’s a different guy every night,” said right wing Wayne Simpson, who had eight goals and 28 assists this year. “Unfortunately sometimes you have an off night. But someone else steps up big. And we’ve got guys who can play, offensively, defensively, on the penalty kill, power play … We find ways to win games.”

Now they have to find a way to win at least three more.

“I love our team’s chances. I love our team,” said Allen. “We score by committee, we get contributions from everybody and that’s how we have to play.”

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Portland Pirates to face Hershey in AHL playoffs http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/17/pirates-win-regular-season-finale/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/17/pirates-win-regular-season-finale/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2016 23:39:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/17/pirates-win-regular-season-finale/ SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Defensemen Matt MacKenzie and Sena Acolatse scored third-period goals, and the Portland Pirates secured fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with a 3-1 win over the Springfield Falcons in their regular-season finale Sunday.

Mike McKenna made 35 saves for the Pirates, who will face the Atlantic Division champion Hershey Bears in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Pirates will host Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday before the best-of-five series shifts to Hershey for three games, if necessary.

MacKenzie’s second goal of the season snapped a scoreless deadlock with 15:32 remaining. Acolatse made it 2-0 when he scored on a shot from the point during a power play with 10:08 left.

Craig Cunningham ended McKenna’s shutout bid just over a minute later, knocking in a rebound, but Connor Brickley clinched the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Here is the schedule for the playoff series:

Game 1: at Cross Insurance Arena, 7 p.m. Friday

Game 2: at Cross Insurance Arena, 7 p.m. Saturday

Game 3: at Hershey, 7 p.m. April 28

Game 4: at Hershey, 7 p.m. April 30 (if necessary)

Game 5: at Hershey, 5 p.m. May 1 (if necessary)

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Pirates fall in overtime http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/16/pirates-fall-in-overtime-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/16/pirates-fall-in-overtime-2/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2016 02:08:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/16/pirates-fall-in-overtime-2/ SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Dakota Mermis scored 29 seconds into overtime to lift the Springfield Falcons to a 3-2 win over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center.

The Falcons opened the scoring 7:28 into the game on a power-play goal by Christian Fischer, but Portland responded with a pair of goals in the second period to pull ahead.

Wade Megan scored the equalizer 3:36 into the period while the Pirates were short-handed. It was the seventh short-handed goal of the season for Megan.

MacKenzie Weegar got the go-ahead goal with 9:14 left in the second, but Springfield tied the game on a power-play goal by Fischer 9:46 into the third.

Portland goalie Sam Brittain finished with 24 saves. Adin Hill stopped 27 shots for the Falcons.

With Bridgeport’s 3-0 loss to Albany, Portland moved one point ahead of the Sound Tigers for fourth place in the Atlantic Division. If the Pirates get at least one point in their regular-season finale Sunday, they’ll clinch fourth place and set up a first-round playoff matchup against the division champion Hershey Bears.

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Pirates edged by Sound Tigers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/15/pirates-eged-by-sound-tigers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/15/pirates-eged-by-sound-tigers/#comments Sat, 16 Apr 2016 01:49:40 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/15/pirates-eged-by-sound-tigers/ Bracken Kearns ended the Portland Pirates’ chance at gaining home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs when he scored on a breakaway with 42 seconds left Friday night to lift the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to a 3-2 victory at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Sound Tigers clinched a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs.

The Pirates, who clinched a playoff spot last weekend, were unable to improve their seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs that start next week.

The Pirates went into the weekend with a chance to move up as high as second in the Atlantic Division and gain home ice. Now the best they can finish is third in the division.

“We’re still battling for positioning in the standings,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “We’re still battling for who we’re going to play in the first round, so we’re not looking to mail in any games. The game you’re playing is the biggest game you’re playing that day. That’s what we’ve got to understand.”

The Pirates will finish the regular season with games at Springfield on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s obviously disappointing with the loss because you want to have a couple of wins before going into the playoffs,” center Brett Olson said. “The good thing about playing three (games) in three (nights), we have a couple more chances this weekend to go get the win.”

Friday night, before 3,317 fans, the Pirates got off to a slow start.

“The first period I thought we eased into it,” Allen said. “It took us some time to get going, but I thought in the second and third periods we were good until the last six minutes of the game.”

Bridgeport center James Wright opened the scoring 11 minutes into the second period by putting a shot in from the top of the right circle for his 14th goal while the Sound Tigers were skating with a two-man advantage.

“We fell behind with a terrible five-on-three call, but it is what it is, and we tried to use it as a learning experience,” Allen said.

Tony Turgeon was sent off for holding and Olson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“We know that’s going to happen in the playoffs and you can’t get rattled by that stuff,” Allen said. “You can’t get caught up in it.”

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead less than five minutes into the third period on Connor Brickley’s 11th goal and Olson’s 13th goal, but they couldn’t hold it.

With six minutes left, defenseman Matt Finn put in a shot from the inside the right circle for his sixth goal to tie it.

Kearns got the winning goal when he took the puck from a defender and skated in alone to put a backhander past goalie Mike McKenna for a team-high 23rd goal.

NOTES: During a pregame ceremony, goalie Mike McKenna received the Pirates’ Most Popular and Most Valuable Player Awards, and right wing Wade Simpson received the Unsung Hero Award, which are based on a vote of the fans. Veteran center Wade Megan received the players’ Player Award and was named the recipient of the Tom Ebright Award by the Pirates’ front-office staff. Rookie Mike Matheson, currently with the NHL parent Florida Panthers, received the Jack Button Award as that organization’s top NHL prospect. … Former Lewiston Maineiac Marc-Andre Cliche centered the third line for the Sound Tigers.

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Pirates win, clinch playoff spot http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/10/pirates-win-clinch-playoff-spot/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/10/pirates-win-clinch-playoff-spot/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 21:44:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/10/pirates-win-clinch-playoff-spot/ After spending nearly five months playing in the NHL for the parent Florida Panthers, Logan Shaw has returned to the Portland Pirates just in time to make some huge contributions.

Sunday afternoon, Shaw scored his second goal of the game with less than four minutes remaining to lift the Pirates to a hard-fought 3-2 win against the Hartford Wolf Pack at Cross Insurance Arena.

The victory clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth for the Pirates, who have won five of their last six games and nine of their last 11.

“We set goals at the start of the year, and we obviously want to win the Calder Cup, and to start, we have to make sure we’re in the playoffs,” said Shaw. “Everyone contributed, and it was a lot of fun.”

Hartford needed to earn at least one point to still have a chance to catch the Pirates and could have closed to within two points with a regulation win. Instead, Portland moved back into fourth place in the Atlantic Division and stayed in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Pirates are two points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Providence for second place with three games remaining.

“That was a playoff game for us, (and) we had to treat it like a playoff game,” said Shaw, who has four goals and two assists in five games since rejoining the Pirates on April 1. “Playoffs are close games and they come down to the last couple of minutes. We battled right through to the end, and that was huge for us.”

Portland plays its final home game Friday against fifth-place Bridgeport, then goes to last-place Springfield for games Saturday and Sunday.

“(Those games) are huge for us for positioning,” Shaw said. “We have to treat them like playoff games as well. We have to make sure we play 60 minutes every game.”

The Wolf Pack held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.

Less than four minutes into the game, Adam Tambellini finished off a two-on-one break with Chad Nehring to score his 16th goal of the season.

The Pirates went 13 minutes without a shot in the second period, but the drought ended when Shane Harper jammed the puck inside the left post for his 12th goal after circling around the back of the goal.

About three minutes later, Shaw put the Pirates ahead with Portland’s 14th short-handed goal, one behind Utica for most in the AHL. He received Corban Knight’s well-placed centering pass and put in a shot in from just outside the crease.

The lead lasted just 26 seconds before Hartford defenseman Mat Bodie tied the score with a shot from the slot while the teams were skating four-on-four.

Shaw’s winning goal was a low, hard shot from the hash marks under goalie Magnus Hellberg’s pads. It was his 11th goal in 18 games for the Pirates.

NOTES: Hartford defenseman Chris Summers, who played parts of four seasons with the Pirates, got into a fight with Connor Brickley in the first period. Both received five minutes majors. … Chris Brown, who spent two seasons with the Pirates while the team was affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes, assisted on Bodie’s goal. … Portland forward Kyle Rau left the ice three minutes into the third period after taking a stick to the face and didn’t return.

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Sports Digest: Pirates’ winning streak stopped by Providence http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/09/sports-digest-pirates-winning-streak-stopped-by-providence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/09/sports-digest-pirates-winning-streak-stopped-by-providence/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 01:50:51 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/09/sports-digest-pirates-winning-streak-stopped-by-providence/ HOCKEY

Pirates’ four-game winning streak ends as Providence skates to a 6-1 victory

Alexander Khokhlachev recorded two goals and two assists Saturday night, and the Providence Bruins moved back into third place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with a 6-1 win over the Portland Pirates at Cross Insurance Arena.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Pirates, who dropped from third to fifth place in the Atlantic. Portland has four games remaining and can clinch a playoff berth with a home win in regulation Sunday against the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Ben Sexton of Providence scored the only goal of the first period. The Bruins extended the lead to 3-1 in the second, getting goals from Seth Griffith and Brandon DeFazio to offset a goal by Logan Shaw of Portland.

Khokhlachev’s goal just 1:11 into the third period started a three-goal outburst for the Bruins.

SOCCER

MLS: Sebastian Giovinco scored in the 58th minute to tie it, and Clint Irwin had seven saves to help Toronto FC rally for a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution at Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Jozy Altidore slipped behind the defense on a breakaway and dropped the ball to a streaking Giovinco, who scored the equalizer from just outside the top of the box.

Kelyn Rowe’s header into the corner, set up by Je-Vaughn Watson’s long cross from the right wing, gave New England (1-1-4) a 1-0 lead.

Lee Nguyen of the Revolution scored an apparent winner in extra time but was called offside.

FIFA: The English Football Association will ask FIFA to investigate whether former players have dementia as a consequence of brain damage from playing the game.

Three members of England’s 1966 World Cup squad – Martin Peters, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson – have Alzheimer’s, family members told the Daily Mirror newspaper.

SPANISH LEAGUE: Barcelona stumbled for a third straight match in its quest to defend its Spanish league title, losing 1-0 at Real Sociedad. The loss cut Barcelona’s lead to three points over Atletico Madrid and four over Real Madrid.

FOOTBALL

NFL: A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that the Denver Broncos agreed to trade left tackle Ryan Clady and a seventh-round draft pick to the New York Jets for a fifth-round selection in the upcoming NFL draft.

The move frees up nearly $9 million in cap space for the Super Bowl champs, who are searching for a quarterback to help them defend their title. And it gives the Jets a replacement for D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who announced his retirement after 10 seasons.

TENNIS

VOLVO CAR OPEN: Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, ranked No. 2 in the world, retired because of a viral illness during her semifinal match, sending American Sloane Stephens to the final in Charleston, South Carolina.

– From staff and news services

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Pirates hold on for a win, jump ahead in playoff race http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/08/portland-sustains-late-lead-jumps-ahead-in-playoff-race/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/08/portland-sustains-late-lead-jumps-ahead-in-playoff-race/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2016 02:51:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/08/portland-sustains-late-lead-jumps-ahead-in-playoff-race/ PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Corban Knight, Wayne Simpson and Sena Acolatse scored, Mike McKenna made 35 saves and the Portland Pirates held on to defeat the Providence Bruins 3-2 Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The win left both teams with 85 points, but the Pirates own the tiebreaker for third place in the Atlantic Division – more wins in regulation and overtime (38-34).

Acolatse picked up his seventh goal at 16:18 of the first period following assists by Wade Megan and Logan Shaw.

Simpson got his eighth goal about two minutes later off an assist from Knight, who scored the only goal of the second period to put the Pirates up 3-0.

Rob Schremp and Simpson earned assists on Knight’s goal.

The Bruins rallied for two goals in the third period.

Brandon DeFazio converted a power play, and Austin Czarnik scored with 44 seconds left.

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Former Portland Pirate pleased to return after concussion http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/07/former-portland-pirate-pleased-to-return-after-concussion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/07/former-portland-pirate-pleased-to-return-after-concussion/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 02:46:07 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/07/former-portland-pirate-pleased-to-return-after-concussion/ BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres center Tyler Ennis was grateful for the mere opportunity to return to the ice for practice Thursday after enduring several difficult months recovering from the effects of a concussion.

“It felt great. I mean, I can still skate. I figured that out,” said Ennis, who scored 23 goals for the Portland Pirates in the 2009-10 season. “Not playing hockey is strange. And it’s the opposite: When I’m on the ice, it’s the greatest feeling.”

Though he’s been ruled out from playing in Buffalo’s final two games, Ennis took a major step in his recovery by rejoining his teammates for the first time since being hurt in the second period of a 5-2 loss at Washington on Dec. 30. He was going after the puck along the boards in his own zone when he turned his back and was hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals.

Ennis got up slowly, rejoined the play and checked Nicklas Backstrom into the end boards. Upon leaving the ice, Ennis went directly to the locker room after experiencing his second head injury in a little over a month.

The game was Ennis’ fourth after he missed 12 games following a high hit by St. Louis defenseman Robert Bertuzzo.

What followed was a frightening stretch. Ennis experienced seizures, had to be shuttled because he wasn’t allowed to drive, and on the worst days wondered whether he might play again.

“It’s really a difficult thing. A lot of different emotions, a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “To say I wasn’t scared at some point would be probably a lie.”

Ennis said he’s symptom free, feels 100 percent, and excited to resume his career.

“It gave me time to kind of reflect, appreciate what I have and give me that much more motivation and excitement for whenever I get back,” he said. “I wish we could play 82 more games.”

Ennis is a three-time 20-goal scorer known for speed and being fearless in traffic.

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Pirates rally for third straight win http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/03/pirates-rally-for-third-straight-win/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/03/pirates-rally-for-third-straight-win/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 01:06:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/03/pirates-rally-for-third-straight-win/ WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Portland scored three unanswered goals in the second period Sunday to beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 5-3 at Mohegan Sun Arena and move into a tie for fourth place in the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division.

The Pirates, who have won seven of their last eight games, are tied with Bridgeport with 83 points, but Portland holds the tiebreaker. Both teams are six points ahead of Hartford for the final wild-card berth.

The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period before Dylan Olsen scored for Portland on the power play with 2:16 left in the first.

Connor Brickley tied it with a power-play goal in the second period, but the Penguins quickly regained the lead on a goal by Jean-Sebastian Dea.

Brett Olson scored for Portland to tie it later in the second, and Logan Shaw gave Portland the lead with 1:30 left in the period. Shane Harper made it 5-3 with a third-period goal.

Sam Brittain stopped 30 shots for the Pirates.

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Pirates pick up important victory http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/02/pirates-pick-up-important-victory/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/02/pirates-pick-up-important-victory/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2016 01:50:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/02/pirates-pick-up-important-victory/ HARTFORD, Conn. — Wade Megan and Brett Olson scored in a 14-second span of the second period and Mike McKenna made 43 saves as the Portland Pirates solidified their playoff position with a 4-1 win Saturday night over the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Megan finished with two goals as the Pirates opened a four-point edge over Hartford for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with seven games remaining.

Defenseman Brent Regner put the Pirates (36-25-5-2) on top with an unassisted goal just 21 seconds into the game.

McKenna protected the lead by stopping 17 shots in the first period and 15 in the second. Portland finally opened some breathing room late in the second period on goals by Megan and Olson.

Daniel Paille got the Wolf Pack (37-29-3-0) on the board early in the third, but Megan’s empty-net goal in the final minute clinched the win.

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Pirates get shutout win over Providence, 2-0 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/01/pirates-shut-out-providence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/01/pirates-shut-out-providence/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2016 03:07:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/01/pirates-shut-out-providence/ The Portland Pirates bounced back Friday night from a disappointing loss and held on to the last playoff berth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, as Mike McKenna made 30 saves in a 2-0 win over the Providence Bruins before 4,013 at Cross Insurance Arena.

The victory came three days after the Pirates blew an early 2-0 lead and gave up four third-period goals in a 5-2 loss at Bridgeport.

“We played a lot better,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “We did a good job of managing the puck.”

The Pirates, who have earned at least a point in seven on their last eight games, remain two points ahead of Hartford for the conference’s eighth playoff spot.

Connor Brickley opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game with his ninth goal of the season.

Defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who leads the Pirates with 32 assists, fired a low, hard shot from center point, and Brickley, who was skating across the slot, tipped it past the reach of goalie Jeremy Smith.

“Their goalie was playing the shot to go one way, and we just directed it the other way,” Allen said.

With less than seven minutes left in the second period, Rob Schremp made it 2-0 when he tipped in defenseman Matt MacKenzie’s blast from the right point for his team-high 21st goal.

“That second goal was a prime example of an outstanding shift by all five guys who were out on the ice,” Allen said. “They basically broke down the defensive zone coverage, and that opened up the opportunity to sail the puck through from the point. It was just great puck management.”

It was MacKenzie’s first point since he joined the Pirates three weeks ago after spending the first five months of the season with the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs. He previously played four AHL seasons with the Rochester Americans.

“He’s been down this road before and he knows what it takes,” Allen said. “He’s earned every right to be in the lineup and he did a fantastic job for us tonight.”

No penalties were called during the first 38 minutes. The Pirates didn’t commit the first of their two penalties until midway through the third period.

“(Providence) is the No. 1 special-teams team in the league,” Allen said. “Their power play is first and their penalty kill is third. If you give them a lot of power-play opportunities, eventually it’s going to fall for them.”

It was the fourth shutout of the season for McKenna.

“He was on his game tonight,” Allen said. “Sometimes a puck looks big and sometimes it looks like an aspirin. I assume it looked fairly large for him tonight.”

McKenna credited his success to the way his team played in front of him.

“We played really well, and that makes it look easy sometimes,” he said. “If you look at our shot chart tonight, I’m sure more (shots) were perimeter, and even those I would consider Grade A were a little bit higher out. They really weren’t coming from the middle of the ice, which is what we’re trying to eliminate.”

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Pirates’ win streak snapped at Bridgeport http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/29/pirates-win-streak-snapped-at-bridgeport/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/29/pirates-win-streak-snapped-at-bridgeport/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 19:24:01 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=826688 BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Bridgeport Sound Tigers scored four goals in the third period to defeat the Portland Pirates 5-2 on Tuesday, snapping Portland’s winning streak at four games.

Matt Finn scored at 6:39 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and give the Sound Tigers their first lead of the game.

Portland (35-25-5-2) took a 2-0 lead on goals by Jonathan Racine, in the first period, and Wayne Simpson in the second.

Bridgeport (37-24-4-3) outshot Portland 44-33, 25 coming in the second period against Pirates goalie Mike McKenna.

Bridgeport’s Kevin Czuczman scored at 7:43 of the second, and Mike Halmo tied the score at 5:31 of the third. Justin Florek and Halmo scored empty-net goals in the final two minutes.

The win gives Bridgeport a four-point cushion on Portland for fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. The Pirates have one game in hand.

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Well-traveled McKenna now a Pirates’ record-holder http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/28/well-traveled-mckenna-now-a-pirates-record-holder/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/28/well-traveled-mckenna-now-a-pirates-record-holder/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=825941 When Portland Pirates goaltender Mike McKenna turned pro 12 seasons ago, he was just looking to see how far he could go.

The answer was quite far, but the problem was that he seldom stayed long enough with one team to establish any continuity. McKenna has played for four National Hockey League teams, nine American Hockey League teams and one ECHL team.

If any one town has felt like home for the St. Louis native during his professional career, it’s Portland. McKenna has spent three seasons with the Pirates, including the last two, and he became the winningest goalie in the team’s 23-year history Saturday, making 17 saves in a 6-1 win over the Springfield Falcons for his 80th victory.

“To have as long a career as I’ve had and to be able to accomplish something like this is awesome,” he said. “I never expected that. I’m really proud of it, and it also makes me remember all the guys I played with along the way, all the great coaches and teammates that I’ve had.”

McKenna, who has been a part of three different NHL organizations while playing for the Pirates, now has one win more than Martin Brochu, who played parts of five seasons with Portland when it was the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

“I wouldn’t be standing here if we’ve won just 20 games and we’re sitting in the cellar,” McKenna said. “We’ve had three great teams when I’ve played here … Goaltending is so much related to your team. Success depends on everybody.”

McKenna first played for the Pirates during the 2007-08 season when they were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks, posting a 24-13-1 record.

He returned last season, which was the Pirates’ final year as an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, and went 27-18-6.

This season, the Pirates switched their affiliation to the Florida Panthers. McKenna, the only holdover from last year’s squad, is 29-14-5 following Saturday night’s win over the Falcons, which had 10 members of last year’s Pirates’ team on their roster.

McKenna, selected in the sixth round by the Nashville Predators in the 2002 NHL draft, has played a total of 22 NHL games. After four years at St. Lawrence University, his first professional stop was with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers during the 2005-06 season. He had no idea he’d still be getting paid to play hockey 12 seasons later.

“Going to the ECHL when I started wasn’t a negative to me,” he said. “I was just ecstatic that I was playing pro hockey. When I started, it was just a matter of playing for the fun of it and seeing how far it would get me.”

McKenna still loves playing hockey.

“He’s been around for a while, but he still treats the game as if it’s his first year,” Portland defenseman Cameron Gaunce said. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm. He brings a lot of energy to the (locker) room. Everyday he seems to be upbeat, which helps a lot during a long season.”

McKenna has been the second busiest goalie in the AHL this season. Only Peter Budaj of the Ontario Reign has played more games and logged more minutes.

The Pirates have 10 games remaining in the regular season and currently hold the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Beyond this season, McKenna is likely to have plenty of opportunities to add to his record number of wins. He expects to be with the Pirates for at least one more season, because he signed a two-year contract when he agreed to return to Portland.

“I’m ecstatic (this) has happened here because every time you skate out, you see so many faces that have been here the whole time,” McKenna said. “My career here spans 81/2 years now, and you see the same fans and the same flags being waved.”

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McKenna becomes Pirates’ all-time wins leader http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/26/mckenna-becomes-pirates-all-time-wins-leader/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/26/mckenna-becomes-pirates-all-time-wins-leader/#comments Sun, 27 Mar 2016 01:58:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=825661 Mike McKenna made 28 saves for the Portland Pirates and became the franchise’s all-time wins leader in a 6-1 victory over the Springfield Falcons on Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

McKenna now has 80 career victories for the Pirates, breaking the record by Martin Brochu, who won 79 games with a Pirates from 1995-2000.

Chase Balisy opened the scoring 1:46 into the game and finished with two goals and one assist for the Pirates, who led 3-1 at the end of the first period.

Wayne Simpson added a goal and two assists for the Pirates, and Michael Matheson collected one goal and one assist.

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Late goal lifts Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/25/late-goal-lifts-pirates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/25/late-goal-lifts-pirates/#comments Sat, 26 Mar 2016 01:43:37 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=825217 Portland forward Wade Megan and goalie Mike McKenna reached team milestones Friday night, but Connor Brickley stole the show by scoring his seventh goal of the season on a power play with 1:52 left to lift the Pirates to a 4-3 win against the Springfield Falcons at the Cross Insurance Arena.

Megan set up Brickley’s late-game heroics by scoring his franchise-record sixth short-handed goal of the season to forge a 3-3 tie.

McKenna made 41 saves to notch his 79th win in a Portland jersey, tying the franchise record set by Martin Brochu, who played for the Pirates in parts of five seasons.

Portland had to come from behind three times to pull out its third consecutive win. The Pirates have earned points in seven of their last nine games to remain very much alive in the race for playoff berth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

“It was absolutely a game of perseverance,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “They exposed our defensive zone and that was certainly disappointing, but I just felt if we could hang in there and keep it within one (goal) the whole way through we could continue to battle and battle. That is exactly what we did. We found a way to win.”

The Falcons, who now have lost five games in a row to remain in the Atlantic Division cellar, held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

Less than five minutes in, Dylan Reese, a veteran defenseman who had 10 goals and 30 assists while playing 70 games for the Pirates last season, got his stick on a rebound and put in a shot from the right circle for his first goal of the season. Three weeks ago, he returned to the Springfield lineup full-time after missing the first five months of the season earlier because of an unspecified injury during the offseason.

Less than two minutes later, Chase Balisy tied the score when he jammed in a rebound following a two-on-one break with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. It was Balisy’s eighth goal.

With less than eight minutes left, defenseman Derek Smith tipped in a rebound for his second goal after McKenna stopped Henrik Samuelsson’s slap shot from the top of the right circle.

Portland got a chance to score the equalizer during a power play that lasted 4:37, including two segments with a two-man advantage. Springfield goalie made Niklas Treutle made five saves to help kill off the three penalties.

Less than eight minutes into the second period, Rob Schremp made it 2-2 when he scored his team-high 20th goal on a wrist shot from the slot 19 seconds after stepping out of the penalty box.

Three minutes into the third period, Stefan Fournier sent the Falcons back into the lead when he tipped Greg Carey’s blast from just inside the blue line past McKenna after rookie center Laurent Dauphin won a faceoff in the left circle.

“(Springfield) played well enough to win,” Allen said. “They’re playing the spoiler role and we can’t allow that to happen.”

Less than three minutes after the Falcons moved into the lead, Megan tied the score with his short-handed goal to break the franchise record set by Trent Whitfield during the 2002-03 season.

“I’m just glad he was able to break the record in a win,” Allen said. “It means something when you do it in a winning cause.”

NOTES: A total of 11 Falcons suited up last season for the Pirates, who were in their third and final season as an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes … Attendance was reported at 4,237 … The Pirates are now 6-2-0-1 against the Falcons this season.

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Matheson leads Pirates past Sound Tigers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/23/matheson-leads-pirates-past-sound-tigers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/23/matheson-leads-pirates-past-sound-tigers/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 01:42:40 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=823888 The Portland Pirates may be trending in the right direction.

On Wednesday night, rookie defenseman Mike Matheson had a goal and had two assists to lead the Pirates to a 6-3 win against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in front of 3,266 at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was the first time the Pirates had back-to-back wins in more than five weeks.

On Sunday afternoon, the Pirates rolled to a 4-2 win at Lehigh Valley to snap an eight-game losing streak. Despite that losing streak, the Pirates remain very much in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s still one game at a time, one day at a time,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “It’s nice we were able to score some goals tonight, and it feels good.”

The Pirates moved into a 4-1 lead during the second period on the strength of solid special-teams play.

Portland killed off a seven-minute penalty after defenseman Sena Acolatse received two minutes for high sticking and five minutes for boarding. The Pirates limited the Sound Tigers to just four shots on goal while  short-handed.

Then the Pirates found the net themselves.

Wade Megan opened the scoring five minutes into the penalty kill by putting in his league-high fifth short-handed goal on a shot from the slot after Connor Brickley sent a centering pass from behind the goal.

“The big turning point of the game was obviously the seven-minute penalty kill,” Allen said. “We came out of it scoring a goal and kept them off the board.”

Megan has 10 goals this season and tied the franchise record for short-handed goals in a season set by Trent Whitfield during the 2002-03 season.

“To be able to kill it, and not only kill it but get our own goal is big for momentum within the game,” said Matheson, a first-round draft in 2012 by NHL parent Florida who played three seasons at Boston College.

About a minute after Bridgeport’s power play ended, Justin Valve beat Portland goalie Mike McKenna with a one-on-one move from the left side of the net to tie the score with his seventh goal of the season.

The Pirates scored three power-play goals in less than seven minutes to take a 4-1 lead.

Wayne Simpson finished off a rush down the right side with his sixth goal on a shot from inside the circle. Rob Schremp scored his team-high 19th goal from above the right hash mark while the Pirates skated with a two-man advantage. With less than two minutes left in the period, Matheson skated in from the left and slid a backhander under goalie Stephon Williams for his seventh goal.

“They took some tough penalties, and we were fortunate to capitalize (on them),” Allen said.

Less than two minutes into the third period, Mike Halmo made it 4-2 finishing off a three-on-two break with his 18th goal.

With less than three minutes left, Brett Olson and Shane Harper sandwiched short-handed goals around a power-play goal by the Sound Tigers’ Connor Jones to close the scoring.

NOTES: The Pirates signed Robert Morris University forward Zac Lynch and Penn State forward Eric Scheid to amateur tryouts. Neither played Wednesday night.

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Pirates snap winless streak http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/20/pirates-snap-winless-streak/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/20/pirates-snap-winless-streak/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 00:59:55 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=822137 LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. — Shane Harper and Wayne Simpson scored first-period goals to lift Portland to a 4-2 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in an American Hockey League game at the PPL Center on Sunday.

Portland snapped an eight-game winless streak.

The Pirates lead 2-0 after the first and pushed their lead to 3-0 when Rocco Grimaldi scored early in the second period.

Lehigh Valley cut it two one with a goal by Adam Comrie in the second period and by Chris Conner in the third. Simpson secured the win for Portland with an empty-net goal.

Mike McKenna made 28 saves for the Pirates, while Jason LaBarbera had 20 for the Phantoms.

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Sports Digest: Pirates lose in overtime, 3-2 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/19/sports-digest-pirates-lose-in-overtime-3-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/19/sports-digest-pirates-lose-in-overtime-3-2/#comments Sun, 20 Mar 2016 02:23:19 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=821906 HOCKEY

Bridgeport deals defeat to Pirates in overtime

Alan Quine scored a power-play goal 3 minutes into overtime to give the Bridgeport Sound Tigers a 2-1 victory over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night at Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Portland’s Michael Matheson forced overtime, scoring with 4:46 left in the third period on a nifty setup from Corban Knight.

Mike Halmo scored for Bridgeport in the first period.

The Pirates outshot the Sound Tigers 39-22, and were unable to take advantage of an edge in special teams, going 0 for 7 on the power play.

TENNIS

BNP PARIBAS OPEN: Novak Djokovic continued his mastery of Rafael Nadal on hard courts, winning 7-6 (5), 6-3 on his sixth match point to reach the final at Indian Wells, California, for the second straight year.

The world’s top-ranked player extended his advantage over Nadal on hard courts to 18-7. In the final Djokovic will meet Milos Raonic, who fired 10 aces on his way to overpowering David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

SKIING

WORLD CUP: Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States won another slalom by a huge margin, with her closest rivals more than two seconds slower at the season-ending World Cup finals in Switzerland.

The American is unbeaten in slalom since February 2015 but missed five races during an injury layoff and couldn’t capture a fourth straight crystal globe in the discipline.

It was an all-French podium in the men’s giant slalom at the finals as an impressive second run from Thomas Fanara saw him edge teammates Alexis Pinturault by 0.02 seconds and Mathieu Faivre by 0.14 at the finals.

BIATHLON

WORLD CUP: Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic won the women’s overall title for the first time as Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen clinched the 10-kilometer pursuit race.

Makarainen won in 30 minutes, 6.7 seconds but Soukalova’s fourth place was enough for her to secure the overall title with one race remaining.

 Simon Schempp of Germany won the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit in 33:27.8 – 8.5 seconds ahead of Norwegian Tarjei Thingnes Boe.

COLLEGES

MEN’S HOCKEY: Zach Aston-Reese scored the tiebreaking power-play goal midway through the third period, pushing Northeastern to a 3-2 victory over UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East championship game at Boston.

The title is the first for the Huskies since 1988, when they defeated the Maine 4-3.

HIGH SCHOOLS

BUS CRASH: A northwest Indiana high school basketball coach was airlifted to a hospital Saturday after a driver who spilled her drink sideswiped a bus carrying 27 players and staff, causing it to overturn on an interstate.

The Griffith High boys’ team was traveling to a state semifinal game in Lafayette. The bus landed on the side of the roadway with part of its roof smashed in.

Superintendent Peter Morikis said “several” players and coaches were injured and that everyone on the bus was taken to one of three hospitals.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

SOCCER

U.S. MEN’S TEAM: Forward Jordan Morris was picked for the under-23 roster for an Olympic qualifying playoff at Colombia on March 25 and will miss the Americans’ World Cup qualifier at Guatemala that night.

– From staff and news services

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Sports Digest: Wolf Pack come back, edge Pirates in OT http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/18/sports-digest-wolf-pack-come-back-edge-pirates-in-ot/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/18/sports-digest-wolf-pack-come-back-edge-pirates-in-ot/#comments Sat, 19 Mar 2016 02:41:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=821445 HOCKEY

Jensen’s hat trick sparks Hartford’s rally in overtime victory over Pirates

Nicklas Jensen scored three goals, including the winner 1:23 into overtime, as the Hartford Wolf Pack beat the Portland Pirates 4-3 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday.

Jensen also netted the tying goal on a power play with 7:44 left in the third period.

Portland’s Rob Schremp scored his 18th goal in the first period for a 1-0 lead.

Chris Brown and Jensen put Hartford ahead 2-1 with goals in the second period.

Chase Balisy and Connor Brickley each got their sixth goal in the third period for Portland.

Mike McKenna made 35 saves for the Pirates.

GOLF

PGA: Jason Day made it look easy in the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 7-under 65 at Orlando, Florida. Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose had to work hard to stay in the game.

Day stretched his lead to five shots when he finished his round at Bay Hill in the morning. Stenson was eight shots behind when he started his second round and shot 66 to close within two shots. Rose had a 66 and was three behind.

Day was at 13-under 131.

Rory McIlroy made the cut with a 67, though he was still 11 shots behind Day.

LPGA: Sei Young Kim shot a 6-under 66 in the JTBC Founders Cup to take a two-stroke lead into the weekend at Desert Ridge in Phoenix.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Woody Austin had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and shot a 7-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

TENNIS

BNP PARIBAS OPEN: Novak Djokovic dominated both tiebreakers to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) and reach the semifinals, where he will meet Rafael Nadal in a matchup of players who have won a combined seven titles at Indian Wells, California.

Nadal defeated Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3, connecting on 89 percent of his first serves in a match played in 91-degree heat under a relentless sun.

SKIING

WORLD CUP: Host Switzerland won the team event at St. Moritz, edging Germany by 0.04 seconds.

The finals continue Saturday and Sunday with slalom and giant slalom races. All the globes have been decided apart from the women’s giant slalom, which is between Eva-Maria Brem and Viktoria Rebensburg.

FOOTBALL

NFL: The New England Patriots announced the signings of running back Donald Brown, defensive end Chris Long and linebacker Shea McClellin on Friday.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden underwent surgery on his left ankle earlier this week and will be sidelined until training camp, yet another blow to a team trying to rebuild following a 3-13 season.

 Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is opposing a bill approved by the Georgia Legislature that protects opponents of same-sex marriage, a measure that could impact Atlanta’s bid to host the Super Bowl.

Atlanta is one of four finalists for either the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl, competing against New Orleans, Miami and Tampa.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR: Austin Dillon won the pole for the Sprint Cup race in Fontana, California, claiming the spot for the first time this season at a top speed of 188.482 mph.

Dillon turned a lap in 38.2 seconds in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, edging Kevin Harvick by .031 seconds for his second career pole.

– From staff and news services

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‘Nerd’ proves his toughness for Portland Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/16/nerd-proves-his-toughness-for-portland-pirates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/16/nerd-proves-his-toughness-for-portland-pirates/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=819293 The Portland Pirates were about to board a bus for yet another American Hockey League road trip when Wade Megan, their fourth-line center, realized he had forgotten something.

Fortunately, Megan is among the minority of Pirates who actually live on the Portland peninsula, so a text to his girlfriend resulted in her zipping to Spring Street to drop off what Megan considers essential road trip materials.

“Two books I was reading at the time,” he said. “She calls me a nerd.”

One of the tomes was the final novel in a trilogy about the Roman orator Cicero. The other was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point,” the only book of the author’s five that Megan hadn’t read.

A history major at Boston University, Megan is one of the more cerebral members of the local pro hockey team. He’s also one of its mainstays, a grinder who regularly kills penalties and has played in 59 of the 60 games, missing only a date in late December after a broken nose and broken finger.

“Consistency, plain and simple,” said Coach Scott Allen. “You know what you’re getting out of Wade Megan every single day.”

A top-line scorer in college, Meghan bounced between the ECHL and AHL for his first two seasons as a pro. At the lower level, he was a skill guy expected to score. Competition in the AHL is tougher, but Megan (pronounced MEE-gun) found his niche.

“I really had to change my game a lot,” he said. “Typically your top two lines are your most skilled players. Your top six (forwards) are expected to score goals. The third line is somewhere in between, I think, score goals here and there but also be very responsible defensively.”

And the fourth line?

“Finish checks, create energy, do all the little stuff,” Megan said. “If we can put the puck in the net, it’s a bonus.”

In addition to centering a fourth line whose wings seem in constant flux – since January, he has played with seven forwards – Megan regularly kills penalties and has four short-handed goals, tied for the AHL lead. The franchise record is five, set by Trent Whitfield in 2002-03.

“It’s not something I try to do,” said Megan, whose four other goals have come at even strength. “I try to kill the penalty first and foremost. But if you play well positionally and play hard, the opportunities are there to get some breaks. Fortunately, on a majority of them, I’ve been able to finish.”

Megan’s short-handed goals came in victories against St. John’s (4-1 on Jan. 9), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (3-2 OT on Feb. 14) and Springfield (4-2 on Feb. 28), and in a loss to Utica (5-2 on Feb. 17). Only the Springfield game was at home, where Megan scored despite a five-on-three disadvantage.

Portland’s penalty-killing unit, which started the season allowing three goals in three chances in a 6-4 loss at Providence, now is fourth of 30 AHL teams with an 86.2 percent success rate.

“He’s very intelligent,” Allen said. “He understands our system, which is a little bit different from what a lot of other teams do. Guys like him and Brett Olson and Jonathan Racine … understand what we want and how we want to kill (penalties). They’re hard workers and they have tremendous courage.”

Tony Turgeon has been playing left wing on Megan’s line as much as anyone.

“He’s dealt with different linemates almost every game,” Turgeon said. “But he’s going to bring his game each and every day. He’s taken on this role better than anyone I’ve seen.”

Raised in upstate New York, Megan started skating soon after he could walk. His father, Ron, played at Bowling Green and for two years in the minors.

“He still had a ton of passion for the game after he was done playing,” Megan said. “He passed that on to me. He was not over the top, pushing me too hard. He was just always available.”

Already this season a dozen teammates have seen action with the NHL Panthers, including two called up Tuesday for a game in Montreal. Megan, a 2009 fifth-round draft pick, plays under an AHL contract with the Pirates, meaning he would have to sign a new deal with Florida were he summoned.

“It’s probably a longshot but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Allen said. “In my eyes, he could go play on the fourth line and kill penalties in the NHL. Can he do it long-term? That’s what I don’t know.”

Whatever happens this spring, Megan plans to remain here beyond the Pirates’ playoff run, should they maintain or improve their current standing over the final 16 games. His girlfriend has a job in Portland. They like their place on the Eastern Prom.

“I’ll get my fly-fishing stuff together,” Megan said. “I’m going to get a mountain bike and enjoy the summer here in Maine. I think it’ll be fun.”

Portland also has a terrific library and no shortage of bookstores. This is one guy who, from a literary standpoint, will never be caught short-handed.

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Wolf Pack rallies to beat Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/13/hartford-rallies-to-beat-portland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/13/hartford-rallies-to-beat-portland/#comments Sun, 13 Mar 2016 21:29:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=817925 For the second time in about 20 hours, the Portland Pirates saw a third-period lead slip through their fingers, at a time of year when teams in the American Hockey League are scrambling for playoff berths.

The Pirates lost 4-3 Sunday afternoon to the Hartford Wolf Pack on a pair of goals in the third period by Ryan Graves before a crowd of 3,401 at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was the sixth straight loss for the Pirates, who fell 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night in Springfield after the Falcons forced overtime on a goal with 21.8 seconds left.

“It’s frustrating but we’re professional hockey players,” said Pirates defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. “This is our job. We’re going to face stuff like this and we’ve got to find ways to come out of this.”

Weegar’s power-play goal with five minutes left in the second gave Portland its only lead of the game at 3-2 and provided a shot of adrenaline to a team that had returned from its trip to Massachusetts at 3 a.m. Sunday on the day the clocks sprung forward one hour.

The Wolf Pack, by contrast, arrived in Maine following a Saturday matinee in Connecticut and appeared well rested, particularly in the game’s third minute when Chris Summers swooped in front to redirect a feed from Luke Adam past Portland goaltender Mike McKenna.

Both Summers and Adam are former Pirates, under the Arizona and Buffalo umbrellas, respectively.

Nevertheless, the Pirates responded with a tying goal and an 11-5 edge in shots for the period. Matt MacKenzie, called up from Manchester on Saturday, scored his first Portland goal to make it 1-1 and the Pirates killed off their only penalty.

“I certainly loved the way we responded and battled throughout the first period,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen. “These are two teams with a lot on the line. They’re nipping at our heels right now.”

Indeed, Hartford has won more games than Portland but remains one spot below the Pirates – and currently out of a playoff berth – in the Atlantic Division standings.

Adam put Hartford back on top 2-1 early in the second before Rob Flick, following up a foray by Chase Balisy, shoveled a backhand into the net to knot the score once more.

Three minutes later, Weegar’s blast, set up by Cameron Gaunce’s second assist of the day, gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

It did not hold. Graves connected on a slap shot from the right point a little more than six minutes into the third to make it 3-3.

“We can’t be screening our own goalie in those situations,” Allen said.

The game-winner came midway through the period when Graves, from the left dot, beat McKenna over his glove to the near side.

“I like Mike McKenna nine times out of 10 making that save,” Allen said. “He played a solid game for us and gave us a chance.”

McKenna finished with 25 saves to 29 for Wolf Pack netminder Magnus Hellberg, who withstood a late barrage after the Pirates pulled McKenna for an extra skater with 1:49 remaining.

“We’re not going to use excuses that the bounces aren’t going our way, because you create and make your own bounces,” Allen said. “When you go into the third period with a lead, just like we did (Saturday) night, you have to be able to close teams out.”

By winning only twice in the past 12 games, the Pirates now find themselves on the playoff bubble with a month remaining in the regular season. After Sunday’s game, the Pirates would be the crossover team that faces North Division leader Toronto in the first round, the same Toronto team that embarrassed the Pirates 9-2 Friday night at CIA.

“Obviously, some things aren’t going our way,” Weegar said. “We’re kind of hurting ourselves a bit. But we’re digging in and we’re going to find a way to get out of this.”

The Pirates hit the road next weekend for consecutive games in Hartford, Bridgeport and Lehigh Valley.

NOTES: Forward Kyle Rau will rejoin the Pirates after a nine-game stint with the NHL Panthers. In 48 games with Portland, Rau has 17 goals and 10 assists.

“He’s a heart and soul guy,” Allen said of Rau. “That’s why he’s been up there so long. He’s a guy who plays with a ton of courage.”

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Pirates beaten on eighth attempt in shootout http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/12/pirates-beaten-on-eighth-attempt-in-shootout/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/12/pirates-beaten-on-eighth-attempt-in-shootout/#comments Sun, 13 Mar 2016 03:51:12 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=817836 SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Domenic Monardo fired the puck past Portland goaltender Mike McKenna in a shootout Saturday night to give the Springfield Falcons a 3-2 win at the MassMutual Center.

Springfield (29-30-3-4) is last in the Atlantic Division with 51 points. Portland (31-23-3-2) is fifth with 67 points.

The teams went through seven sets of shooters before anyone could score on McKenna or Falcons goalie Niklas Treutie. Rob Flick, the eighth Pirates shooter, missed just before Monardo won it.

Portland took a 1-0 lead on Shane Harper’s late first-period goal from Rocco Grimaldi and Connor Brickley. Laurent Dauphin tied it 9:29 into the second period only to have Harper score an unassisted goal 56 seconds later for a 2-1 Portland lead.

Portland defenseman Josh Brown was called for roughing with 2:14 left in regulation. The Pirates killed 1:52, but Alex Grant slipped the puck in with 12 seconds left.

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Pirates get pasted in Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/11/pirates-get-pasted/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/11/pirates-get-pasted/#comments Sat, 12 Mar 2016 02:34:27 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=817317 The Toronto Marlies visited Portland for the first time in 10 years and wasted little time in showing why they sport the best record, by far, in the American Hockey League.

Scoring 43 seconds apart early in the first period, the Marlies jumped all over the Pirates and skated to a 9-2 victory before a crowd of 2,639 Friday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

Tobias Lindberg scored twice and seven other players scored once as the Marlies got three goals more than any other Pirates opponent this season. It was 3-1 after one period and 8-2 after two.

“Our whole team was feeling it (Friday),” said Toronto Coach Sheldon Keefe, whose team snapped a season-long three-game losing streak, “and when our whole team is feeling it we’re fun to watch and we’re hard to play against.”

Scott Allen, coach of the Pirates, called it the most embarrassing loss in his two decades of coaching professional hockey.

“You don’t give up nine goals in your building, in front of your fans,” he said. “I want to publicly apologize to the fans because that’s not good enough.”

After the quick goals from Mark Arcobello and Lindberg near the five-minute mark, Colin Smith made it 3-0 in the 11th minute and Allen pulled goalie Mike McKenna after seven saves in favor of Sam Brittain.

The Pirates responded with 10 solid minutes that included a Wade Megan goal on assists from Wayne Simpson and Cameron Gaunce.

The rest of the game belonged to Toronto, whose 44 victories are 10 more than any other AHL team had earned entering the weekend. Arcobello racked up three assists and the Marlies scored as many goals in the second period (five) as the Pirates managed shots on net.

Brittain finished with 22 saves and Toronto goalie Antoine Bibeau, who played for the Lewiston Maineiacs as a 16-year-old, made 23.

Greg McKegg scored Portland’s second goal on a deflection of a Shane Harper shot with Gaunce picking up a second assist.

“The only thing positive for me was when the final buzzer rang and the game was over,” Allen said. “I’m not one of those coaches who throws the tape away and moves on to the next game. It’ll probably take a couple more months, maybe a year off my life by watching this one again, because of the stress, but I am going to do it. Because we can’t just move by it that easily.”

Former Pirates T.J. Brennan (two assists) and Andrew Campbell (one assist) got in on the act. Campbell played here last winter in the Arizona system. Brennan played here from 2009-11 with the Sabres organization.

“Portland means a lot to me,” said Brennan, who played with the NHL Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Toronto before meeting the Marlies in Maine. “It’s a pretty good milestone, where I started professional hockey and learned a lot, not only from the city but the players and the coaches who were here. I love coming back.”

The loss was the fourth in a row for the Pirates, who next play at Springfield Saturday night before returning to Portland for a Sunday matinee against Hartford.

“As disappointed as I am in our team, that’s a heck of a hockey team,” Allen said of the Marlies. “We helped them look better, but I’m not going to take away anything from that team. I don’t even know if it was men against boys. It was almost like we were non-existent a few times.”

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Pirates assistant stands alone with unusual goal http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/07/pirates-assistant-stands-alone-with-usual-goal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/07/pirates-assistant-stands-alone-with-usual-goal/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2016 16:35:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=814349 Sure, it was a fluke. One of those crazy things that keep us watching sports, the faint possibility we might see something unprecedented.

Twenty years ago today, Nick Vitucci – now an assistant coach with the Portland Pirates – accomplished something that, as far as we can tell, has yet to be replicated.

As a goalie for the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL, Vitucci was credited with a goal against the Louisville RiverFrogs. It’s the only time in modern pro hockey history a goalie has been credited with a goal on a tended net.

“Scoring as a goalie has an almost mythical quality to it,” said Pirates goalie Mike McKenna, who has four assists this season. “We all dream of it, but the circumstances have to be perfect for it to happen.”

There are 14 instances in modern hockey history of NHL goalies scoring, all of them involving an empty net with the opposing goalie off the ice in favor of an extra attacker. Ron Hextall of Philadelphia scored the first, in 1987, and Mike Smith of Arizona the most recent, in 2013.

Both Hextall and Smith intentionally shot at the empty net 180 feet away, as did five others. The remaining seven times goalies received credit because they were the last to touch the puck before an opposing player mistakenly put it in his own net.

ALWAYS A HOCKEY PLAYER

Which brings us to Vitucci. When asked last week about the 20th anniversary of his historic goal, Vitucci was surprised.

“Is it?” he said. “Oh, gosh. I did not know that. Am I ever old.”

Vitucci grew up in Welland, Ontario, where he still lives. He was a die-hard Maple Leafs fan who so loved goalie masks that he would doodle their designs in his notebooks.

“I probably got slapped in the back of my head by a lot of teachers,” he said, “because instead of paying attention to the schoolwork that we were doing, I was drawing goalie masks and scribbling goalie masks everywhere and anywhere.”

His dream was to someday play for the Welland Cougars, the local Junior B team, and wear a mask with their red and black colors, looking not unlike the Darth Maul character from Star Wars. Alas, by the time he made the team, goalies were required to wear helmets with cages.

“But the first mask that I wore as a pro had that same paint job that I envisioned as a little kid to play for my Junior B team,” said Vitucci, referring to the 1988-89 Carolina Thunderbirds, whose roster also included Pirates head coach Scott Allen.

Vitucci enjoyed a 12-year minor-league playing career, most of it in the ECHL, although he flew to Portland to play one game for the Maine Mariners in the 1991-92 season when they were affiliated with the Boston Bruins. It was a 3-3 tie. He made 22 saves and returned to Greensboro the next morning with a copy of the Portland Press Herald that included a description of Vitucci in net.

“Obviously, I’m not a big guy,” he said. “I just remember the one line: ‘He fit like a loaf of bread in a bread basket.’ It was referring to my height (5-foot-9), which is fine. I thought it was good.

“I’ve kept all the newspaper articles that I’ve been in.”

‘SO I JUST SHOT IT DOWN’

Now 48, Vitucci is married with a 16-year-old son who also tends goal. Their basement is filled with hockey memorabilia, including more than 5,000 pucks, old equipment, his own game-worn jerseys, toys, rod-hockey games and plaques.

Somewhere among that collection is a videocassette of his goal, which became a CNN Play of the Day back when the cable news network was attempting to compete with ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“So at the end of the year they came out with a CNN Play of the Day year in review kind of thing,” Vitucci said. “I got hold of that tape and I have it somewhere, but I haven’t looked at it in a long, long time.”

What he remembers about March 6, 1996, is that Charlotte was either short-handed or hemmed in early in the game. Because it was the first period, Charlotte’s bench was closest to Vitucci.

“We had the close line change, so rather than cover (the puck), I had time to play it,” Vitucci said, “So I just shot it down.”

Louisville’s goalie, Alain Morissette, came out of his crease to intercept the puck near the faceoff circle to his right. The Checkers took the opportunity to change lines.

“Our first guy over the boards went down at it hard and pressured him,” Vitucci said of Morissette. “He turned around to shoot it behind his net.”

Morissette’s aim was off, however, and the puck slid inside the near post for a Charlotte goal. The last Checker to handle the puck was Vitucci, so he received credit for it.

“I knew right away,” said Vitucci, who immediately raised his arms in celebration. “Mind you, you’re in Charlotte, North Carolina – great fan base but when it went in, everybody sort of cheered, but didn’t cheer because they didn’t know what happened.”

Morissette dropped his head in resignation. Fist bumps along the bench weren’t yet a thing, so his teammates swarmed the goal to congratulate him. The box score lists an even-strength, unassisted goal at 3:23 of the first period.

“We got a good laugh out of it,” said Vitucci, who doesn’t remember the final score, only that Charlotte won. “I know I’ve got the stick and the puck somewhere.”

Ah, the stick. A photo from that season shows Vitucci hefting a wooden Louisville stick with what appears to be a straight blade, but he said it actually had a pronounced curve.

“You look at the goalie’s equipment now and how advanced it is,” he said. “But we really didn’t have curved goalie sticks until just a few years prior to that. So goaltenders didn’t really handle the puck or shoot the puck that often.”

In hockey’s early days, goaltenders occasionally came out of net to join the attack. That ended in the late 1960s, after a goalie was injured by a body check and a rule was put in place prohibiting goalies from advancing past the red line in the center of the rink.

“So you never thought about shooting it, but I did a lot in practice,” Vitucci said. “My goaltender partner that year and I, we fired pucks down to each other all practice long, just to do it.”

NOTHING LIKE WINNING A TITLE

Years later, when both were playing in a short-lived roller hockey league, Vitucci and Morissette found themselves teammates at an all-star game.

“We had a giggle over it over dinner,” said Vitucci, who took part in NHL training camps for St. Louis and Buffalo and once scored an empty-net goal in a preseason game with an accurate rink-length shot.

“But they’re way down on the list of things I’m proud of,” he said. “Being part of five (ECHL) championship teams is the ultimate. You set goals at the start of the season, to win a championship or compete for a championship, and 10 months later when that comes to reality, there’s nothing better than that. There really isn’t.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

Gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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Pirates lose to Providence in overtime http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/06/pirates-lose-to-providence-in-overtime/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/06/pirates-lose-to-providence-in-overtime/#comments Sun, 06 Mar 2016 23:16:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=814048 PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Frustration occupied a seat on the Portland Pirates’ bus during the drive back home after Sunday’s game against the Providence Bruins.

Providence center Frank Vatrano registered a hat track, including a goal 40 seconds into overtime, and Providence handed the Pirates their third loss in 48 hours, 4-3.

What really irked Portland Coach Scott Allen was that Vatrano’s second and third goals came off Pirates turnovers.

“I don’t know how many times we’ve got to talk about Frank Vatrano,” Allen said of a opponent who has scored 10 goals against Portland this season. “There really is no excuse.

“The first goal is what it is. It was scored from behind the goal line. That’s what goal scorers do. The next two resulted from poor individual play.”

Vatrano leads the American Hockey League with 29 goals despite playing in only 28 games for Providence.

Portland’s Mike McKenna (41 saves) and Providence’s Jeremy Smith (27 saves) matched each other until the latter stages of the first period, when the Bruins erupted for two goals in a span of 19 seconds.

First, Justin Hickman slid the puck to Joonas Kemppainen, who jammed it inside the left post at 17:13.

Then Vatrano pounced on a loose puck in front of the crease and stuffed it past McKenna for a 2-0 lead.

Even though Providence’s Ben Sexton was penalized for elbowing at 19:55, it appeared the Bruins would still lead 2-0 at intermission. But Rob Schremp won the faceoff to defenseman Dylan Olsen, who unloaded a slap shot that deflected off Smith’s shoulder and flopped into the goal with a mere second left on the clock.

The assist was Schremp’s 400th AHL point.

Providence outshot Portland 23-7 in the second period, yet the Pirates emerged with a 2-2 tie, courtesy of Brett Olson and McKenna.

Olson was skating down the slot when he was dragged down from behind but somehow managed to shovel the puck past Smith at 16:52.

McKenna, meanwhile, stopped all 23 Providence shots, including three during a flurry seconds after Olson’s tying goal.

The Bruins regained the lead, though, when Vatrano stole the puck from a Portland defenseman and beat McKenna with a wrist shot at 8:48 of the third.

The Pirates forced overtime, when Rocco Grimaldi banged home the rebound of a Cameron Gaunce shot with 57.8 seconds left in regulation.

“We showed some resolve to battle back,” Allen said. “But unfortunately we didn’t do enough to get the win.”

In overtime, Vatrano stole the puck at his own blue line, broke in alone on McKenna and scored with a wrist shot to complete his hat trick.

Even though the Pirates are in playoff position as of now – with the seventh best points percentage in the Eastern Conference – they’ve been struggling over their last 10 games, going 3-4-2-1.

“Again, we’re one day at a time,” Allen said. “We lost two key players (defenseman Brent Regner and forward Chase Balisy) today. We were down to five defensemen for most of the day.

“It is what it is. We’ll get through this.”

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Pirates fall at home against Providence http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/05/pirates-fall-to-a-tough-goaltender/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/05/pirates-fall-to-a-tough-goaltender/#comments Sun, 06 Mar 2016 02:49:46 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=813870 Jeremy Smith made 46 saves and three players scored for the Providence Bruins in a 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was Smith’s largest save total in six games with Providence since being acquired from the Iowa Wild when Providence’s regular starter, Malcolm Subban, was hurt Feb. 6.

Smith made 22 saves in the second period.

Max Talbot scored the winning goal with 3:46 left in the second period for a 2-0 lead.

Colin Miller scored his third goal in the first period.

The Pirates, who outshot the Bruins 47-31, made it 2-1 when Rocco Grimaldi scored his 14th goal at 8:15 of the third, just 20 seconds after Portland killed a double-minor against Jonathan Racine for high-sticking.

But Brandon DeFazio made it 3-1 with 9:05 left.

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Pirates stopped by Crunch http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/04/pirates-stopped-by-crunch/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/04/pirates-stopped-by-crunch/#comments Sat, 05 Mar 2016 02:39:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=813165 Trailing by a goal late in the third period, the Portland Pirates had several chances to tie.

Wade Megan drove hard on net. Gregg McKegg made a deft pass to John McFarland, who shot wide.

A Syracuse penalty set up what promised to be a final 1:35 with the Pirates having at least one skater advantage, two when they pulled their goaltender.

And then, after only 17 seconds, a retaliatory jab by McFarland prompted a roughing call and the Pirates wound up with a 3-1 loss to Syracuse on Friday night after the Crunch scored an empty-netter with a five seconds remaining.

“I know I let my team down there,” McFarland said. “I’m disappointed obviously in myself, too. It’s a penalty I can’t take. Umm, there’s not really much else to say about that other than you can’t take it.”

A crowd of 3,198 at Cross Insurance Arena saw the Pirates jump to a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Connor Brickley not quite five minutes into the contest. MacKenzie Weegar and Cameron Gaunce assisted.

Because of a double minor, the Pirates had another two minutes of a man advantage but their best chance struck iron when Rocco Grimaldi’s shot caromed off the crossbar.

For Syracuse, Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard turned rebounds into goals, late in the first and even later in the second, respectively.

Syracuse dominated the second period, outshooting the Pirates, 18-6. Only stellar work from Sam Brittain (30 saves) kept Portland close.

“I thought the first period we were fine,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “I thought the first five minutes of the second we were OK. And then they outworked us for 15 straight minutes of that second period. That was certainly a concern because now you’ve got to play from behind.”

The Pirates had back-to-back power plays early in the third, generating plenty of chances the first time but struggling in the second to set up an attack.

“On that second one we couldn’t get steady puck control,” Allen said. “We couldn’t even get out of our own end, made some poor decisions, turned it over. Give credit to their penalty kill. They got the job done when they needed to get it done.”

Adam Wilcox made 29 saves for Syracuse, which lost 4-1 at home to the Pirates in their only previous meeting this season.

The biggest missed opportunity of the third was McFarland shooting wide with Wilcox out of position.

“It was one of those ones where the puck kind of rolled,” said McFarland, whose 14 goals are second on the team to Rob Schremp’s 17.

“(McKegg) made a great play. Nothing else he could really do. But when it came off my stick, it just didn’t come off flat and I ended up flubbing it and it went wide.”

A kneeing penalty on Richard with 1:35 left gave the Pirates a man advantage and a faceoff in the attacking zone. Allen opted to leave Brittain in net rather than go with a sixth skater against Syracuse’s four.

“I’ve just seen it way too many times when it doesn’t work in your favor,” Allen said. “When you’re on the penalty kill, you can obviously ice the puck. If we don’t get somebody tight on the puck all the time, all it takes is one clean clear, and there’s a good chance it’s going in the net to end it.”

Allen pulled Brittain with 42 seconds remaining, but by then the teams were skating four-on-four.

The Pirates return to action Saturday night against the visiting Providence Bruins before a rematch Sunday in Rhode Island.

NOTES: Mike McKenna, called up to the NHL Panthers for two games to back up Roberto Luongo, has returned to Portland and is expected to be in uniform Saturday night. Promoted when Florida backup Al Montoya left Sunday’s game in Minnesota after taking an elbow to the head, McKenna suited up in Winnipeg and Colorado but saw no action. … With 76 victories as a Pirate, McKenna is three shy of the franchise record held by Martin Brochu.

 

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NHL’s Panthers recall Pirates goalie McKenna http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/29/nhls-panthers-recall-pirates-goalie-mckenna/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/29/nhls-panthers-recall-pirates-goalie-mckenna/#comments Mon, 29 Feb 2016 20:51:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=810351 The NHL’s Florida Panthers have recalled Portland Pirates goalie Mike McKenna, the team announced Monday.

McKenna, 32, has appeared in 40 AHL games this season with Portland. He has a record of 25-11-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts.

It will be McKenna’s first recall with Florida. He has 22 career NHL appearances with Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Columbus and Arizona.

The Panthers also reassigned forward Greg McKegg and defenseman Mike Matheson to the Pirates. In addition, the Pirates announced the recall of goalie Colin Stevens from the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL.

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Pirates edge Falcons with big third period http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/28/pirates-edge-falcons-with-big-third-period/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/28/pirates-edge-falcons-with-big-third-period/#comments Sun, 28 Feb 2016 23:07:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=809983 The Portland Pirates scored in just about every situation imaginable Sunday afternoon to skate to a 4-2 win against the Springfield Falcons at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Pirates got a short-handed goal, a power-play goal, an even-strength goal and an empty-netter to retain their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference and snap the Falcons’ two-game winning streak.

“We hit for the cycle, and that was big,” Portland Coach Scott Allen said. “Unfortunately, we gave up a short-handed goal against.”

It was just the second win for the Pirates in their last six games, but they’ve earned at least a point in seven of their last nine.

The Pirates were 1 for 5 on the power play and killed off all four Springfield power plays, including a two-man disadvantage in the first period.

“I thought our special-teams play was the difference in the game today,” Allen said.

Portland’s penalty killing was tested early.

A tripping penalty against Rocco Grimaldi and a high-sticking call against Brett Olson gave the Falcons a five-on-three advantage less than seven minutes into the game. But Pirates center Wade Megan stole the puck in the neutral zone right after the call against Olson and beat everyone down the ice. He took a shot from just above the hash marks that slipped under the pads of goalie Josh Robinson for his eighth goal of the season.

“I don’t know how often you see a five-on-three short-handed goal,” Allen said. “(Megan) is playing outstanding hockey for us right now.”

It was the fourth short-handed goal of the season for Megan, tying him for the American Hockey League lead with Zach Hyman of the Toronto Marlies.

“He cares about keeping the puck out of own end first,” Allen said. “He knows his responsibility is to not let them score. Anything after that is gravy.”

The Pirates limited Springfield to two shots during the 51-second, two-man advantage.

Eric Selleck, one of nine former Pirates on the Springfield roster, made it 1-1 early in the second period when he finished a rush with a rising shot from the top of the right circle that eluded the grasp of Portland goalie Mike McKenna.

The Pirates regained the lead, however, on Connor Brickley’s fourth goal of the season, just 1:11 into the third. Using a defender for a screen, Brickley put in a shot from the top of the right circle.

Grimaldi got the eventual winner at 7:58, on a shot from the left circle during a Portland power play.

Springfield’s Jordan Szwarz, another former Pirate, finished off a two-on-one break at 10:59 to make it 3-2, but Grimaldi put the game out of reach with his empty-net goal from center ice with 1:05 remaining.

NOTES: Springfield defensemen Philip Samuelsson, Dylan Reese and Justin Hache, right wing Phil Lane, left wing Henrik Samuelsson and centers Brendan Shinnimin and Laurent Dauphin also suited up last season for the Pirates in their final season as the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. … The Pirates are 5-2 against the Falcons this season, outscoring them 28-15. The teams play five more times. … The announced attendance was 3,955.

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Sports Digest: Pirates fall in shootout http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/26/sports-digest-pirates-fall-in-shootout/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/26/sports-digest-pirates-fall-in-shootout/#comments Sat, 27 Feb 2016 04:09:14 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=809244 HOCKEY

Pirates fall in shootout to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Dominik Simon and Kael Mouillierat scored in the shootout, and Matt Murray stopped both shots he faced to lift the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 3-2 AHL win over the Portland Pirates on Friday night at the Cross Insurance Arena.

The Pirates rallied to take a 2-1 lead on goals by Connor Brickley and Rocco Grimaldi in the first 4:29 of the third.

Mouillierat tied the game less than two minutes later.

Portland’s Mike McKenna made 38 saves. Murray stopped 32 shots.

COLLEGES

BASEBALL: Tyler Schwanz went 3 for 3 with a double, two RBI and a run to lead Maine (2-2) to a 3-1 victory at New Mexico State (3-1).

Justin Courtney had two strikeouts and no walks while giving up one run on seven hits in seven innings to earn the win for the Black Bears.

Brendan Fox had three hits and scored a run for Bates (1-2) in an 8-2 loss to Lewis & Clark (6-4) at Whittier, California.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Makenna Newkirk had two goals and an assist to lead top-seeded Boston College (35-0, 24-0) to a 5-2 win over visiting Maine (10-22-2, 6-17-1) in the opening game of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.

Meghann Treacy made 47 saves for the eighth-seeded Black Bears, who were outshot 52-22 by the Eagles.

Maine got goals from Nicole Arnold and Victoria Hummel.

TENNIS

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Stan Wawrinka will play for his second title of the year when he faces Marcos Baghdatis in the final at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Wawrinka advanced when Nick Kyrgios retired with a back injury while trailing, 6-4, 3-0. The Swiss player will meet the unseeded Baghdatis, who came from a set down to beat sixth-seeded Feliciano Lopez, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

QATAR OPEN: Carla Suarez Navarro restricted third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska to two games, reaching the final at Doha with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

The eighth-seeded Suarez Navarro needed only 1:02 to beat Radwanska and will next face Latvian 18-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, who reached the final when German Andrea Petkovic retired with a leg injury while trailing, 7-5, 1-0.

HORSE RACING

AMERICAN PHAROAH: The Triple Crown winner is a dad in waiting.

Coolmore’s Ashford Stud said Friday that Untouched Talent is in foal to American Pharoah. The announcement came two weeks after the 12-year-old mare became the lucky first lady to be bred to racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

American Pharoah was retired after the Breeders’ Cup Classic and stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky, with a $200,000 stud fee.

SKIING

WORLD CUP: Alexis Pinturault of France built on a big first-run lead to comfortably win a men’s giant slalom at Hinterstoder, Austria, 0.79 ahead of Marcel Hirscher of Austria for his 13th career win.

BOXING

PORTLAND BOXING CLUB: Gabriel Morales lost a unanimous decision to Jacob Marrero of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the open featherweight final of the Golden Gloves New England Tournament of Champions on Thursday night in Lowell, Massachusetts.

PBC’s Lindsay Kyajohnian won the women’s open class light welterweight division when her opponent failed to make weight.

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Pirates complete long trip with win http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/24/pirates-complete-long-trip-with-win/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/24/pirates-complete-long-trip-with-win/#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2016 04:18:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=807771 HARTFORD, Conn. — The Portland Pirates combined Sena Acolatse’s first-period goal with Mike McKenna’s 35 saves Wednesday night for a 1-0 victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center.

The game ended a seven-game trip – the team’s longest of the season. Portland went 4-2-1-0.

The victory gave the Pirates (30-20-2-0) sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division with 62 points, two ahead of the Providence Bruins. The Wolf Pack (27-25-2-0) are in sixth with 56 points.

Acolatse scored 13:50 into the game, taking a feed from Wayne Simpson and blasting a shot past Wolf Pack goalie Magnus Hellberg. Jonathan Racine also had an assist on the play.

McKenna made that lead stand up, stopping 24 shots over the final two periods for his 75th victory as a Pirate, four behind Martin Brochu for the franchise record. Hellberg had 26 saves.

McKenna had missed the past two games while attending the birth of his second child, necessitating the call-up of goalie Colin Stevens from Manchester.

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Three unanswered goals sink Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/20/three-unanswered-goals-sink-pirates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/20/three-unanswered-goals-sink-pirates/#comments Sat, 20 Feb 2016 21:02:14 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=805366 TORONTO — Brendan Leipsic scored two goals as Toronto scored three unanswered goals to race past the Portland Pirates 3-1 on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.

Portland jumped ahead 1-0 when Brent Regner scored 1:25 into the second period. Sam Brittain made 30 saves in goal for Portland.

Frederik Gauthier also scored for Toronto while Garrett Sparks made 37 saves,

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Sports Digest: Clarke leads hot Red Claws in win over Delaware 87ers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/19/sports-digest-clarke-leads-hot-red-claws-in-win-over-delaware-87ers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/19/sports-digest-clarke-leads-hot-red-claws-in-win-over-delaware-87ers/#comments Sat, 20 Feb 2016 04:23:40 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=805184 BASKETBALL

Clarke leads Red Claws in win over Delaware

Coty Clarke finished with career-high totals of 32 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Maine Red Claws (19-13) to a 127-109 victory over the Delaware 87ers (17-17) at Newark, Delaware on Friday.

Malcolm Miller added 28 points, and Omari Johnson finished with 21 points and seven rebounds for the Red Claws, who have won five straight games and six of their last seven.

HOCKEY

AHL: Jason Akeson scored off assists from Cal O’Reilly and Evan Rodrigues 2:03 into overtime to lift the Rochester Americans (24-27) to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Pirates (29-21) on Friday night at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.

The Americans opened the scoring 2:49 into the second period when Akeson and Chad Ruhwedel assisted on a goal by Dan Catenacci.

Corban Knight scored the equalizer for the Pirates with assists from Rob Schremp and John McFarland with 3:06 left in the second period.

Sam Brittain had 36 saves for the Pirates, who outshot the Americans, 44-38.

SKIING

WORLD CUP: Swiss racer Lara Gut won a downhill by a large margin and reclaimed the overall lead from Lindsey Vonn, who fell and did not finish at La Tuile, Italy.

TENNIS

DUBAI CHAMPIONSHIPS: Sara Errani of Italy advanced to her second Dubai tennis championships final with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina.

OPEN 13: Top-seeded Stan Wawrinka lost to eighth-seeded Benoit Paire in the quarterfinals at Marseille, France.

SOCCER

U.S. WOMEN: Alex Morgan scored three goals and the United States secured a spot in the Olympics this summer with a 5-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament at Houston.

The World Cup champions are seeking their fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

GOLF

PGA: Dustin Johnson and Troy Merritt tied for the lead at the Northern Trust Open at Los Angeles.

But Jordan Spieth was out the door, missing the cut for the first time since September despite shooting a second-round 68.

LPGA: England’s Holly Clyburn shot a 7-under 65 to take a share of the second-round lead in the Women’s Australian Open with 46-year-old Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew at Adelaide, Australia.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Australia’s Nathan Holman shot a 6-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead in the Maybank Championship Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur.

BASEBALL

MAJOR LEAGUES: Tony Phillips, an infielder and outfielder who made the final defensive play in the Oakland Athletics’ sweep of the Giants during the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series, died. He was 56.

Jim Davenport, a longtime third baseman for the San Francisco Giants who later managed the team and worked in the front office, died. He was 82.

BOXING

GOLD GLOVES: Gabriel Tito Morales, Northern New England novice Gold Glove champion (12-1) in the featherweight class, won a unanimous 5-0 decision over Marquis Fowler at Lowell, Massachusetts.

Morales, of the Portland Boxing Club, fights next on Tuesday, again at Lowell.

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Pirates fall to Utica http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/17/pirates-fall-to-utica/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/17/pirates-fall-to-utica/#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2016 03:02:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=803549 UTICA, N.Y. — Alexandre Grenier had a goal and two assists and Joe Cannata stopped 33 shots for the Utica Comets in a 5-2 win over the Portland Pirates Wednesday night at Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Grenier scored his eighth goal midway through the second period to give Utica a 3-0 lead before assisting on third-period goals by Jon Landry and Hunter Shinkaruk.

Joseph LaBate and Chris Higgins scored in the first period for the Comets, who won three straight against the Pirates and took the season series, 3-1.

The Pirates got both goals in the third period. Wade Megan scored his seventh goal short-handed at 6:52, and Tyler Sikura picked up his first of the season from Chase Balisy and Mackenzie Weegar with 6:30 left.

Mike McKenna made 26 saves for the Pirates, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Portland outshot Utica 35-31 and was 0 of 5 on the power-play.

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Pirates beat Penguins again http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/14/pirates-beat-penguins-again/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/14/pirates-beat-penguins-again/#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2016 02:00:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=801758 WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Dylan Olsen scored 3:31 into overtime to send the Portland Pirates to a 3-2 victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, completing a weekend sweep.

Rocco Grimaldi and Wayne Simpson assisted on the winner.

The Pirates’ Kyle Rau forced overtime, scoring a short-handed goal with 19 seconds remaining in regulation with the goalie off for an extra skater and Portland killing a Chase Balisy slashing penalty.

After a scoreless first period, the Pirates took a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal from Wade Megan 13:08 into the second.

Tom Kostopoulos tied it on a power play, and Shair Gill put the Penguins on top 5:08 later.

Mike McKenna stopped 32 shots to record his 74th career win, tying him with Jhonas Enroth for second on the Pirates’ career list.

NOTES: The Pirates beat the Penguins 2-1 in overtime on Saturday, gaining four points on the Atlantic Division leaders on the weekend. … The NHL Panthers recalled center Gregg McKegg from Portland. McKegg has nine goals and 12 assists in 31 games for the Pirates this season. … The Pirates signed ECHL forward Tyler Sikura to a PTO.

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McKenna proves double threat for Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/12/mckenna-proves-double-threat-for-pirates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/12/mckenna-proves-double-threat-for-pirates/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 04:12:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=800991 ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mike McKenna not only stopped 45 shots, he assisted on two goals as the Portland Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak Friday night with a 3-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center.

McKenna earned a second assist on Rocco Grimaldi’s 10th goal with 2:20 left in the second period and set up Greg McKegg for a short-handed empty-netter with 11 seconds remaining.

Wayne Simpson also assisted on Grimaldi’s goal.

McKenna’s saves total matched the team’s season-best, set by Sam Brittain in a 2-1 overtime win at Providence.

McKenna made 40 saves in a 4-1 win at St. John’s on Jan. 9.

McKenna stopped 20 shots in the second period, during which Chris Connor scored the lone goal for the Phantoms on a power play.

Kyle Rau scored his 16th goal, from Grimaldi and Michael Matheson, 7:57 into the game.

Lehigh Valley outshot the Pirates 46-22.

The Pirates killed off four power plays and were 0 for 1 with the man advantage.

NOTES: The Florida Panthers recalled forward John McFarland and reassigned forward Corban Knight to Portland. The Pirates reassigned forward Steven Hodges to Manchester of the ECHL.

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Pirates lose to Bruins, 3-1, in Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/06/pirates-lose-to-bruins/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/06/pirates-lose-to-bruins/#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 03:05:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=797459 Chris Casto scored in the first period and Alexander Khokhlachev got the winner early in the second period Saturday night as the Providence Bruins earned a 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates at Cross Insurance Arena.

Providence peppered Pirates goalie Mike McKenna with 20 shots in the first period and took the lead on Casto’s goal 14:10 into the game. Khokhlachev made it 2-0 with his 14th goal of the season just 31 seconds into the second period.

Portland outshot the Bruins 16-5 in the second period but couldn’t break through until the final minute of the period when Greg McKegg got his eighth goal of the season, assisted by Connor Brickley and Josh Brown.

Frank Vatrano’s empty-net goal with 34 seconds remaining clinched the victory for Providence.

Mike McKenna finished with 36 saves. Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre stopped 35 shots.

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Pirates fall to Wolf Pack, 5-0, in return from break http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/05/pirates-fall-wolf-pack-return-break/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/05/pirates-fall-wolf-pack-return-break/#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 02:31:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=796969 The Portland Pirates entered the five-day American Hockey League All-Star break on a sour note, losing by four goals in Springfield.

They returned from the break Friday night, and looked even worse.

For only the second time this season, the Pirates failed to score and lost 5-0 to the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack before a crowd announced as 2,769 at Cross Insurance Arena.

“Not good,” said Coach Scott Allen. “It was like we were still on the break.”

Hartford won for the 10th time in 11 games. Saturday night’s guests, the Providence Bruins, have yet to lose in regulation in 12 games of the new year.

And then the Pirates board a bus for a seven-game trip, their longest of the season.

“Toughest month of the year,” Allen said. “This month is going to tell us a lot about our team.”

Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg made 35 saves for his third shutout of the season. One of those came on a slap shot from the left dot by Rob Schremp that caught Hellberg flush in the facemask, just above his eyes.

“He’s got a pretty hard shot so I’m aware of that,” Hellberg said. “Luckily I saved it, even though it was with my head.”

The Pirates were 0 of 4 on the power play. They trailed 1-0 after the first period on a slap shot from Tommy Hughes that was tipped by Nicklas Jensen 13 seconds after the expiration of a high-sticking penalty on MacKenzie Weegar.

The game unraveled for Portland in the second, when Ryan Graves scored short-handed to spark a three-goal outburst. Pirates goalie Mike McKenna went prone to stop a breakaway by Brian Gibbons but Graves outskated the nearest Portland defender in the race for the rebound.

McKenna later stopped a penalty shot by Shawn O’Donnell but was pulled midway through the period with Hartford ahead 4-0.

“I thought our (defense) as a whole played their worst game of the year,” Allen said. “We had too many guys who weren’t prepared to dig in up front.”

McKenna, who lost for only the second time in 17 starts, departed with 21 saves. Sam Brittain relieved and stopped all 14 shots he faced. The only goal of the third period was an empty-netter with 6:35 remaining.

“He didn’t get pulled because he was playing bad,” Allen said of McKenna. “We just needed a wake-up call and there’s only so many things you can do as a coach.”

The loss was the second straight and fourth in six games for the Pirates, who had won 14 of their previous 16.

Hughes, Ryan Bourque and Adam Tambellini also scored for Hartford.

“It disappoints me more than it surprises me,” Allen said. “In the course of a 76-game season, you do have some bad games.”

This one hurt more, Allen said, because the Pirates’ undoing was largely of their own making.

“We forced turnovers,” he said. “We threw pucks into coverage and they capitalized. They had opportunities because of it and then we were playing from behind. We were chasing them.”

The Pirates return Saturday night against a team that’s playing even better than Hartford. As Allen said, it’s a tough month.

NOTES: The Florida Panthers promoted defenseman Brent Regner to the NHL. Regner, the Pirates’ captain, played all 43 games with Portland prior to Friday night and scored two goals to go with 10 assists. He’s expected to make his NHL debut Saturday night in Sunrise, Florida, where the Panthers host the Pittsburgh Penguins. … Replacing Regner on the Portland roster is Josh Brown, called up from Manchester of the ECHL for the third time this season. … Friday night marked the Portland debut for new Pirates assistant coach Nick Vitucci, who formerly served seven seasons as director of hockey operations for the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, including five as head coach. His 13-year playing career as a goalie included one game for the Maine Mariners and four ECHL championships, playing with four teams.

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Pirates hire new assistant coach http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/04/pirates-hire-new-assistant-coach/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/02/04/pirates-hire-new-assistant-coach/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:54:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=795751 The Portland Pirates have hired Nick Vitucci as their new assistant coach, the team announced Thursday.

Vitucci had served as director of hockey operations for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye for the past seven seasons. He will take over the position vacated by Scott Allen when Allen was promoted to head coach on Jan. 1.

Vitucci, 48, served five seasons as the Walleye’s head coach, compiling a 294-275-8-48 record. He played briefly for the Maine Mariners during the 1991-92 season.

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Springfield power plays doom Pirates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/30/springfield-power-plays-doom-pirates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/30/springfield-power-plays-doom-pirates/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 03:13:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=793674 SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Coach Scott Allen of Portland changed goalkeepers Saturday night but even that couldn’t slow the Springfield Falcons, who scored four consecutive goals, a pair on the power play, and downed the Pirates 6-2 at the MassMutual Center.

Craig Cunningham put the Falcons on the board with a power-play goal, beating starting goalie Sam Brittain with a shot through a screen from the left circle.

Greg Carey scored 3:40 later, beating Brittain just under the crossbar as Springfield took a 2-0 lead though the first period.

Michael Bunting scored his power-play goal 3:14 into the second. The Pirates then changed goalies, but Mike McKenna was welcomed with an odd-man rush just 1:09 later as the Falcons made it 4-0.

Rob Flick answered from Chase Balise and Jonathan Racine at 13:17 for Portland.

MacKenzie Weegar added a third-period goal to make it 4-2 before Corey Potter scored twice for Springfield.

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Pirates sweep IceCaps http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/29/pirates-sweep-icecaps/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/29/pirates-sweep-icecaps/#comments Sat, 30 Jan 2016 03:28:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=793163 Rocco Grimaldi scored twice in the third period as the Portland Pirates reeled off three straight goals for a 4-2 win over the St. John’s IceCaps Friday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

Grimaldi broke a 1-1 tie 1:59 into the third. Rob Schremp got his 17th goal of the season on a power play at 12:07 before Grimaldi picked up his ninth goal 46 seconds later.

The Pirates led 1-0 after one period on a goal by Cameron Gaunce.

St. John’s converted a power play for the only goal of the second period, by Bud Holloway. Mark MacMillan scored the IceCaps’ final goal with three seconds left.

Mike McKenna made 27 saves for his 16th win in his last 17 games.

Portland outshot St. John’s 35-20, including 17-9 in the third period.

The Pirates swept the four-game season series, outscoring St. John’s 17-5.

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Pirates goalie named to AHL All-Star team http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/28/pirates-goalie-named-to-ahl-all-star-team/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/28/pirates-goalie-named-to-ahl-all-star-team/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 21:38:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=792192 Portland Pirates goaltender Mike McKenna has been named to the Atlantic Division team for the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday and Monday in Syracuse, N.Y.

McKenna’s will join Pirates’ defenseman Cameron Gaunce and center Rob Schremp in his first ever all-star appearance.

“Rob, Cameron and Mike have been leaders both on the ice and in our community,” said Brad Church, chief operating officer for the Pirates. “They will represent the Pirates and the Florida Panthers very well and I am excited to see them compete with the AHL’s best players in Syracuse.”

McKenna has appeared in 30 games this season and has a record of 20-8-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and one shutout.

Originally drafted by Nashville in 2002, McKenna is in his 11th professional season. He has played 362 career AHL games (179-138-21, .2.69 goals-against average, .913 save percentage, 23 shutouts). He’s made 22 appearances in the NHL with Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Columbus and Arizona.

“I am first and foremost very proud of him,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen. “Just like with our two other guys, I am very happy for not only them but their families; it’s a huge honor. Mike has played well for us lately and this opportunity is well deserved.”

McKenna, 32, has won 14 of his last 15 starts, including a franchise-record 13 in a row from Dec. 12 to Jan. 22. Schremp leads the Pirates in scoring with 16 goals and 16 assists, and Gaunce has a goal and 19 assists.

“Having an All-Star at all three positions is a great testament to our overall team’s performance in the first half and a bright reflection of the Panthers’ commitment to their player development plan and continuing organizational success for many years to come,” said Church.

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Pirates end two-game skid http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/27/pirates-end-two-game-skid/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/27/pirates-end-two-game-skid/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 02:27:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=791810 They may have lost the shutout bid late in the third period, but the Portland Pirates walked away from Wednesday night’s 4-1 American Hockey League victory over St. John’s a happy bunch.

A crowd of 3,718 at Cross Insurance Arena saw them snap a two-game losing streak in which they had allowed more goals (nine) than in their previous six games, all victories.

“It’s huge,” said center Rocco Grimaldi, “especially after going two losses in a row. Sometimes those can get out of hand. You lose one, then two, and eventually it can be five.”

Speaking of huge, the 5-foot-6 Grimaldi ran up against NHL veteran John Scott, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward voted by fans to the upcoming All-Star Game in Nashville, Tennessee, despite a career long on penalties and short on goals (five).

Late in the first period, Scott checked Grimaldi into the boards and was called for elbowing.

When the veteran argued for too long, an additional two minutes was added for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I didn’t even know it was him at first, to be honest,” said Grimaldi, who weighs 160 pounds. “I saw him coming so I tried to pull the puck and get out of the way but he just kind of clipped me. I’m glad he didn’t get all of me or that could have been pretty bad, I’m sure.”

St. John’s managed to kill off the first two minutes of Portland’s power play but Grimaldi buried a feed from Shane Harper 15 seconds into the second penalty to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Later in the period, Connor Brickley sent John McFarland on a breakaway and McFarland converted to make it 3-0 entering the third.

Mike McKenna’s bid for his second shutout of the season ended with 4:22 remaining when Nikita Scherbak was left alone in front. St. John’s nearly made it 3-2 on a scrum with 1:30 left but McKenna smothered the puck.

He finished with 26 saves to win for the 14th time in his last 15 starts.

“Obviously, McKenna’s been playing great hockey for us back there,” said MacKenzie Weegar. “He makes the defensemen’s jobs a little bit easier, a little more stress free.”

It was Weegar who tallied the game’s first goal, tapping in a feed from Brett Olson that zipped across the goal mouth to cap a lengthy Pirates barrage on the St. John’s net.

“It was a great shift,” Weegar said. “I think we were in there for about a minute.”

Olson dashed any comeback hopes with an empty-net goal from his own end with 17 seconds left.

NOTES: Scott, playing in his last game before heading to Nashville to captain the Pacific Division entry at the NHL All-Star Classic, also was called for interference early in the third period. Although his selection resulted from an Internet-fueled joke, he’s not without hockey savvy. “I don’t think I would be in the NHL for eight years and playing pro for 10 … if I didn’t have the skills to play,” he said. “Obviously, fighting is something I have in my tool bag but there’s a lot of tough guys around the world and they’re not in the NHL.”

Portland Coach Scott Allen has seen plenty of Scott, dating back to when Scott turned pro after finishing his college career at Michigan Tech.

“There’s been so much controversy these last few weeks with him and this whole All-Star thing,” Allen said. “I’m happy for the guy. You know what? He’s done it the hard way. It’s not easy to make a living how he’s made his living.”

Allen said he doesn’t know Scott personally but “anytime I’ve coached against him, he’s always been a respectful guy who plays the game a certain way – and he has to play the game a certain way – so for him to get the opportunity he’s getting this weekend, it’s the chance of a lifetime. Good for him.”

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