Fitchburg, Mass. – Marek Zagrapan scored two goals and an assist for the Portland Pirates as they battled past the Albany River Rats, 5-3, at the Wallace Civic Center on the campus of Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg Massachusetts.
Zagrapan, who arrived in Portland late Saturday, was playing in his first action since being sent to the Pirates on Friday, but despite being demoted he was still excited to get on the ice.
“I think we have a bunch of young and fun guys,” said Zagrapan. This was just our first day together as a team; hopefully we’ll have all week to practice and get together and try to have a good start (of the season).”
After a scoreless first period, the Pirates found themselves down 1-0 on a goal from Matt Murley at 8:07 of the second period, but just a little over three minutes later Zagrapan tied the game for the Pirates when he found puck at his feet for the easy tap-in at the left post, beating River Rats goaltender Justin Peters
At 14:52, the Pirates made it 2-1, as Nathan Gerbe, Buffalo’s 2005 fifth round draft pick, was in alone on a breakaway, beating Peters with a forehand-backhand deke. Tim Kennedy would receive an assist on the play.
Just 38 seconds later, the game was tied at 2-2 when Mike Angelidis found the back of the net on Adam Dennis, who replaced Jhonas Enroth after the first 30 minutes of play.
Enroth played exceptionally well in his first AHL action. In 30 minutes of play, Enroth stopped 14 of 15 shots including an amazing paddle save, while on his stomach.
“He played real well, he didn’t have any chance on that goal,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “This was an area (goaltending) I had to evaluate to see if our comfort level was there.”
At 1:52 of the third period, Zagrapan netted his second of the night for the Pirates. While skating down the right side he let a weak shot go from the hash mark, catching Peters by surprise to put Portland up 3-2.
Later in the period, with the Pirates killing off a 5-on-3 on penalties from Mike Kostka and Mike Card, Matt Murley scored his second of the night with a quick cross-ice shot, beating Dennis high glove side to tie the game back at 3-3.
Due to Mike Funk being out of the lineup due to injury, the Pirates needed to play Tyler Bouck on the blue line and while he held his own, it was an experience at times.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the game, Bouck would turn the puck over in the neutral zone, hauling down his player, sending the River Rats on the power play.
Instead of the River Rats taking advantage, it was the Pirates who capitalized when Felix Schutz broke free of Albany’s defense, beating Peters for the 4-3 lead at 14:07 of the third period.
Mathieu Darche added an empty net goal in the waning moments of the game to seal the victory for the Pirates.
The preseason win for Portland was very important because this will be Portland’s only preseason game before the season starts on Saturday against Manchester and for Dineen it was one final chance for him to evaluate his players in the heat of battle.
“It’s good they get a chance to go out and play somebody else because the next one’s for real, the next one’s for points,” said Dineen.
Dineen also said after the game, he would be looking to bring another defenseman due to Mike Funk’s undisclosed injury. Funk is still in Buffalo receiving medical treatment and is not expected to be ready in time for Portland’s season opener against Manchester on Saturday.
Adam Dennis played 29:30, stopping 17 of 19 shots faced for the win.
Portland was 0-for-2 on the power play, while Albany was 1-for-8.
Colton Fretter – Marek Zagrapan – Mathieu Darche
Derek Whitmore – Tim Kennedy – Nathan Gerbe
Jimmy Bonneau – Felix Schutz – Mark Mancari
Josh Vatri – Dylan Hunter – Colin Murphy
Chris Butler – Paul Baier
Marc-Andre Gragnani – Mike Kostka
Tyler Bouck – Mike Card
Scratches: Mike Funk (injury)
Notes: Earlier in the day, the Worcester Sharks defeated the Manchester Monarchs, 5-4, in AHL preseason action. Former Lewiston MAINEiac goaltender Jonathan Bernier played the first 45 minutes, only allowing two goals.