PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Keep the champagne on ice.

With a chance to clinch the AHL Atlantic Division championship and home ice for the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Portland Pirates came up short Friday night and dropped a 5-4 decision to the Providence Bruins.

All the Pirates needed was one point or a Manchester loss to Adirondack. But the Monarchs beat the Phantoms 4-1, which means the Pirates will have to wait until tonight’s game at Albany for another chance to clinch.

“You don’t backdoor these things,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said of the opportunity to clinch with a Monarchs loss. “You’ve got to take care of it yourself. You have it in right in front of you and you have to go out and win your games.”

The Pirates appeared to have survived a major problem in the second period when they were leading 2-1 but had to kill off a five-on-three power play for 1:38, during which David Leggio (32 saves) made five saves.

But 11 seconds after the second penalty expired, Providence tied it on Jordan Caron’s slap shot from just inside the blue line.

Caron also gave his team a 3-2 lead at the break when he stuffed the puck past Leggio at 17:48.

“When you kill off a five-on-three like that, usually it’s a good sign that you’ve got your composure and you’re ready to go,” Dineen said. “As soon as we killed it, within a few seconds they scored and that one definitely hurt.

“And then we got sloppy from there. It comes back and haunts you.

“You like the way we played to finish the game, but it was unfortunate we had to play that hard to get there.”

Portland built a 2-0 lead early in the second on a power-play goal by Mark Parrish, who tapped in a Luke Adam pass at 3:01, and a goal by Alex Biega, who converted a drop pass from Joe Whitney at 3:51.

Providence then reeled off five unanswered goals including third-period scores by Zach Hamill and Stefan Chaput, the latter goal coming at 7:02.

Portland then dug itself out of that 5-2 hole when Trent Whitfield snapped home a wrist shot from the slot at 9:22 on a power play and Paul Byron scored a short-handed goal at 14:49.

Byron split two defensemen and lifted a backhander over Anton Khudobin (26 saves) to pull his team within 5-4.

“We’ve had 78 games and that’s the beauty of it,” Dineen said. “We’re professionals. We’ve got a chance. We pushed hard at the end but they have a good team.

“It wasn’t as much what they did. We made some costly errors that ended up in our net, and they were the difference in the hockey game.”


THE PIRATES signed forwards Joe Whitney and Shawn Szydlowski to amateur tryout contracts.

The 25-year-old Whitney helped Boston College win NCAA Division I championships in 2008 and 2010, recording 40 goals and 102 assists in 142 games.

The 20-year-old Szydlowski scored 94 goals and had 103 assists in 258 games in four junior seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.

In another roster move, the Pirates released former University of Maine defenseman Matt Duffy from his tryout agreement. The Windham native played two games for the Pirates without registering a point.


COREY LOCKE of the Binghamton Senators was named winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player.

In 69 games, Locke has scored 21 goals with a league-high 65 assists to help the Senators to their first Calder Cup playoff berth in six years.


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