Much like the rest of the Portland Pirates, Justin Hodgman has struggled at times this season.

His first game of the new year was not one of those times.

Hodgman set up three goals Friday night to lead the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the Springfield Falcons before a crowd of 2,487 at Cross Insurance Arena.

“I wish I could have been producing all year,” Hodgman said, “but things are clicking now so I’m just going to try to keep it rolling.”

The Pirates (18-16) have won three in a row and improved their home record to 11-5. Springfield, which leads the AHL’s Northeast Division, falls to 22-12.

Mike McKenna made 23 saves against his teammates from last season and the Pirates jumped to a 3-0 lead in a first period that saw them outshoot Springfield by 17-4.


“I didn’t think they had their best game, but I think that was partially because we stymied them early,” said Pirates defenseman Dylan Reese, who netted a backhand goal 18 seconds before launching a slapshot that was tipped in by Jordan Martinook with a minute left in the first. “It’s still two points in the standings, but it’s something we talk about before the game. ‘We’ve got to win tonight and people see we beat Springfield.’ ”

Alexandre Bolduc, in his second game back since returning from the NHL Coyotes, opened the scoring with his 10th goal after Hodgman had done some fancy maneuvering through the slot. Springfield pulled to within 3-2 with a short-handed conversion and a power-play goal in the second before Hodgman set up a one-timer by Jordan Szwarz on a power play to make it 4-2 headed into the third.

Hodgman’s third assist came on another power-play goal, by Lucas Lessio five minutes into the third. The Pirates were 2 for 9 on the power play, the third straight game in which they have scored twice while a man up.

“We’re moving the puck quicker, pretty simple,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “We’re no stalling it. We’re not letting them get set up when we’re shooting the puck so we get second-chance opportunities. We’re attacking right away instead of stopping and dusting it off and holding it and letting them get back into structure.”

The return of Bolduc and Szwarz, who rejoined the lineup in New Year’s Eve 3-1 victory over Hartford, has given Edwards more options and the rest of the team more confidence.

“Two top-six forwards who play big minutes and score goals,” Reese said. “I can’t say enough about how important the last two games have been with those guys back.”


Portland’s lineup included three healthy scratches. During December’s six-game skid, healthy scratches were rare.

“We need to have accountability here,” Edwards said. “For a long stretch of games, we never did. It was like, you’re here, you’re in. You’ve got to have people champing at the bit to get in the lineup.”

Springfield’s David Tyrell scored on the power play about a minute after Lessio’s goal to make it 5-3 but the Falcons couldn’t get anything else past McKenna despite playing most of the final three minutes with an extra skater instead of goaltender Anton Forsberg (15-4).

It was the 10th straight start for McKenna and 18th in 19 games.

“If they want me to play every minute of every game from here on out, I’m fine, I’m ready to do that,” he said. “Ultimately, I don’t ever get to decide who’s in there, other than by playing the best I can.”

NOTES: The Pirates sent goalie Louis Domingue to Gwinnett (Georgia) of the East Coast Hockey League. Domingue is returning to action for the first time since he was injured against Albany on Nov. 14. … Center Tyler Gaudet was reassigned to the Pirates after playing two games with the Coyotes. He made his NHL debut Monday against Philadelphia.

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