A week ago at Cross Insurance Arena, the Portland Pirates raised their hockey sticks in salute after winning a playoff game in what would be their last home appearance of the season.

The center-ice tribute was for fans who welcomed the team back after it played the previous season in Lewiston. It also served as a farewell from those employed by the Arizona Coyotes, who will base their AHL team next season in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“It’s sad,” said Ray Edwards, the Pirates’ coach for all four seasons of the Arizona affiliation and who made a home for his family in Gorham. “There’s a lot of great people in Portland, a lot of people we’ll miss.”

Several players used Twitter to express their gratitude.

“It’s been a pleasure playing in front of you and you will be missed,” wrote Brendan Shinnimin, a three-year Pirate.

“This is a special place,” wrote goaltender and team MVP Mike McKenna. “It was an honor to represent this great city. I love it here.”

The Pirates wriggled into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and stunned top-seeded Manchester by winning twice at home – their first playoff victories since 2011. In the decisive Game 5, the Pirates rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie it entering the third period before losing at Manchester, 5-3.

The turnaround from a team with the AHL’s worst record in 2013-14 carried from the ice into the stands. Although the Pirates finished last in attendance among 30 AHL teams for the second year in a row, the team saw a 36 percent increase from a season ago, when home games were in Lewiston. The average crowd at the CIA, including two playoff games, was 2,960. The capacity is 6,733.

“Our attendance is encouraging,” said Brad Church, the chief operating officer, noting a second-half increase of 253 fans per game. “Even though our attendances were down, revenue was up.”

According to figures obtained from the Pirates and the CIA board of trustees, revenue from ticket sales in 2012-13 – the year before they went to Lewiston – averaged $35,503 per game on reported attendance of 4,576. This season the average take was $40,448 on reported attendance of 2,972. Under a five-year lease signed last February, the Pirates also received 57.5 percent of concessions, a new revenue stream for the team.

So although attendance was lower this season than two years ago, ticket prices rose slightly and a higher percentage of fans paid for their seats.

When Church and owner Ron Cain took control of the franchise last winter, they spoke not only of making the business viable but also of re-engaging with Greater Portland. Toward that end, Church deemed the first year back in town a success.

“If you go back to July of last year when we started tracking it, the organization had over 100 appearances in the community,” he said, “from being present at a festival somewhere to players visiting the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital to a day trip with half the team up to Camp Sunshine. So the positive part for me is that we re-established a connectivity with our fan base.”

Church said that effort to reach out paid off in the second half’s increased attendance. He and Cain are big believers in continuing that effort.

“We see the team as a vehicle to do positive things in the community,” he said. “All in all, I think it was a real successful season on and off the ice. I’m looking forward to this new affiliate coming to town and looking forward to Pirates hockey for years to come.”

The Florida Panthers, who signed a four-year deal in March to be Portland’s parent club, will bring in their own staff and players, many of them part of the current San Antonio Rampage.

The Rampage, under head coach Tom Rowe and assistant Scott Allen (a pair of Massachusetts natives), won the West Division title and earned the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a record of 45-34-7-1. In the playoffs, however, San Antonio was swept in three games by No. 6 Oklahoma City.

“I think what happened in the playoffs is because we haven’t been there in a bit, our guys jumped from getting there to expecting to win,” said Eric Joyce, the Florida assistant general manager who was the San Antonio GM and will do likewise in Portland. “We got there. We learned. Now we have to figure out how to win there. That’s what we plan on next year.”

Joyce said Rowe and Allen will coach the Pirates next season, and support staff – from equipment manager to strength and conditioning coach – will also head north from San Antonio.

“Those guys are all coming,” he said.

As for potential prospects bound for Portland, Joyce was more circumspect.

“I’m very Belichickian in that regard,” he said. “We consider every player in our system a prospect, from 15-year veterans to rookies drafted in the first round.”

The Rampage ranked seventh in attendance at a reported average of 6,579 fans per game. The team also shared a building with the San Antonio Spurs.

“The Spurs are a fantastic organization,” Joyce said. “Their location was the big impediment. There’s not too many hockey rinks in San Antonio, so if you just look at practice time, the differences are pretty stark. Factor in travel and the things we really try to train our guys to be professional about – rest, recovery, nutrition, sleep – Portland offers that more than San Antonio did.”

Besides, Joyce said, San Antonio is a basketball market.

“We want our guys in a hockey market,” he said. “What Portland offers is a group of fans who know a ton about the game. They will hold our guys accountable.”

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Thursday May 7 to correct the last name of Eric Joyce, the general manager of the San Antonio Rampage. A previous version misidentified him as Eric Young.