PORTLAND — Despite the extremely vocal support of more than 3,000 elementary and middle school students, the Portland Pirates let an important victory slip away Tuesday during the annual School Day game at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

John McCarthy scored 16 seconds into overtime to lift the Worcester Sharks into a 5-4 victory.

The Pirates, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win, built a 3-0 lead during the first 16 minutes before a series of Portland mistakes enabled the Sharks to get back into it.

“Maybe a little cockiness got into our game when we went up 3-0, and guys kind of got away from our game, trying one-on-one moves and trying to stickhandle through guys,” veteran Portland right wing Mark Parrish said. “That’s not our game. Even though we’ve got skilled players, our game is playing simple-style hockey.”

“We want our guys to have a high confidence level and to make quality hockey plays, but the hockey IQ was skewed today,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “There were some chances given up that weren’t necessary when you’ve got a one-, a two- or even a three-goal lead.”

The Pirates got off to their fastest start in team history when Corey Tropp converted a turnover into his 10th goal 13 seconds into the game to cut one second off a team record Mark Murphy set on Nov. 24, 2000, against the old Quebec Citadelles.

Portland’s troubles began shortly after Derek Whitmore and Dennis McCauley scored goals within a minute of each other for a 3-0 lead with less than four minutes left in the first period.

Less than a minute after the Pirates opened up their lead, four fights broke out among the players on the ice.

As a result, Tropp and Portland left wing Colin Stuart and Worcester defenseman Sean Sullivan and right wing Tommy Wingels received game-misconduct penalties.

Pat Davis started Worcester’s rally when he scored a short-handed goal with less than two minutes left in the first period after intercepting Portland defenseman T.J. Brennan’s chip pass along the right boards. Dan DaSilva made it 3-2 when he flipped in a power-play goal during the opening minutes of the second period.

“We give up a sloppy breakaway short-handed goal that was unnecessary, and things followed from there,” Dineen said. “(Worcester) just kept on pecking away at us. We had a decent response, just not a consistent one.”

Portland seemed to regain momentum less than eight minutes into the second period when Paul Byron got behind the defense to score his 20th goal on a shot from the slot during a three-on-two break.

But the Sharks, still in contention for a playoff berth, kept coming.

With less than eight minutes left in the second period, defenseman Nick Schaus made it 4-3 by finishing off a three-on-one break.

With less than four minutes left in regulation, defenseman Joe Loprieno tied the score when his slap shot from the top of the slot eluded Portland goalie David Leggio.

“We didn’t finish how we started, unfortunately,” Parrish said. “We were doing well at the beginning getting pucks in, getting it deep and playing simple-style hockey that we got away from.”

The loss came after the Pirates returned from winning three straight road games.

“Worcester is a good team,” Parrish said. “They took advantage of the turnovers and our not getting the puck out from behind our blue line and getting it inside their blue line. Maybe, it’s a good thing we learn this lesson now as opposed to in the playoffs.”

“One thing that was great was the enthusiasm with the kids in the stands,” Dineen added. “The game had a great tempo there, and we just couldn’t finish it off.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:
[email protected]