Portland, ME – A new era has begun in Portland, but it’s still safe to say the Pirates still don’t like the Manchester Monarchs.
(Imagine when the Providence Bruins come to town next week.)
This game had so many story lines tonight, but Mark Mancari has to be the highlight scoring the hat trick along with two assists as the Pirates shot down the Monarchs, 6-3, in front of 5,136 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Pirates coach Kevin Dineen had the line of Mancari, Michigan State standout Tim Kennedy and Boston College phenom Nathan Gerbe together all week as he was trying to sort out other line combinations and it paid off with an impressive effort tonight.
Only 59 seconds into the first period, Mancari netted the first of his three, assisted by Gerbe and Kennedy.
Kennedy, playing center, drove to the net, getting the shot with Gerbe getting a small piece of the puck as it went behind the net. Mancari picked up the rebound and lifted the shot over the top of Monarchs’ goaltender Jonathan Quick for the “Quick” 1-0 lead…. (Try the veal I hear it’s fantastic.)
A short time later, referee Chris Brown managed to find away to insert himself into the game as he gave the Monarchs a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
With his back to the play, Pirates defenseman Mike Weber was hit by Drew Bagnall sending him flying into the boards, which should have been called for boarding, but it wasn’t. Tyler Bouck came into defend his teammate, hit Bagnall in a similar fashion before both dropped the gloves. Bouck was given two for charging and five for fighting, while Bagnall only got the five for fighting. When Weber got up from the hit gave a smelly glove face wash to somebody in purple and was called for roughing.
Portland could have rolled over, but they did an excellent job on the penalty kill despite the Monarchs scoring on the two-man advantage with only three seconds left to kill.
“I really liked the 5-on-3 kill we had for a 1:57,” said Dineen. I thought we were in good place and I don’t think Adam (Dennis) had a chance on the goal because one of our defenseman was in the shot lane.”
At 13:59, Gabe Gauthier picked up his own rebound from the left face-off circle, beating Dennis upstairs to give the Monarchs a 2-1 lead.
With 3:43 left in the first period, Mancari scored his second of night to tie the game at 2-2 as he finished off a play from Marc-Andre Gragnani in the slot.
“It’s a new beginning for all of us,” said Mancari. “We all get new scenery, new city, new team and I think a lot of guys are going to take that and run with it. We had a hard time last year in Rochester and it was really hard to focus on hockey.”
In the second period, the Pirates put the hammer down on the Monarchs scoring three unanswered goals. Something that can be instantly taken out of this game is the Pirates style of play under the Sabres organization as compared with the Ducks. Although Portland was coached by Dineen under both affiliations, the Pirates, under the Sabres, have more of an upbeat flow to their game. The forward’s aren’t shy about getting into the dirty areas on the ice, and most times, they’re rewarded.
That was the case in point with Tim Kennedy, who scored his first professional goal at 13:52 of the second period when Manchester was hemmed deep into their zone, Mathieu Darche fired the puck on net and Kennedy found the rebound for the easy goal past Quick. Mancari was also credited with an assist for his third point of the night.
As I said, Quick wasn’t so quick tonight.
Tyler Bouck, who is the only returning player to the Pirates from last year’s team, scored his first of two on night, with a trickling puck across the goal line, giving Portland a two-goal lead with 2:52 left to play in the second period.
Mancari earned his fourth point of the night with an assist.
“(Bouck) played extremely well tonight and led by example and I think every guy on the ice did the same thing and I think that’s why we had so much emotion,” said Mancari.
Bouck wasn’t done, only 22 seconds later; he added a shorthanded goal for his second of the night, converting on a two-on-one break with Dylan Hunter after Colton Fretter fed the puck up to Hunter on a Manchester turnover.
At 5:09 of the final period, Mancari capped off the scoring for the Pirates when he found an open-net rebound, beating Quick for the right hash mark to extend the lead to four goals.
“To (Mancari’s) credit, he’s improved every year and he’s worked hard on his skating and it’s shown,” said Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who was in attendance at the game. “I’ve given him a lot of credit for the work he’s done in the off season. He had a good training camp and he continues to get better. As long as people keep improving, they get closer to the opportunity (of playing in the NHL.)”
Manchester added a late goal by Bud Holloway, Adam Dennis stood tall and played well; stopping 28 of 31 shots he faced on the night.
After the game, Dennis spoke that he had something to prove from last year in Rochester and being under one system is going to help his progress and confidence. Something he said that he was lacking at times last year.
Portland will have the week off before traveling to Springfield Mass. where they will take on the Springfield Falcons at the MassMutual Center.
NOTES: Regier spoke after the game about the injury status of Sabres forwards Tim Connolly and Paul Gaustad and the affect it may have in Portland.
“With this group (in Portland), we really want to leave this alone for now and let them be together and let them play,” said Regier. Not so much the older players, there are guys who can play the wing and do the same thing that Ellis can do, but in the middle we didn’t want to bring the younger guys up.”
Josh Vatri was released from the Pirates on Friday, but would remain within the organization should a need arise for him to be recalled. Mike Funk arrived in Portland on Thursday and was the lone scratch for the Pirates. He is currently battle concussion symptoms and a no return date has been given.