Portland, ME – It wasn’t the best start for the Portland Pirates, who will play four games over the next five nights as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Worcester Sharks before a Thanksgiving eve crowd of 3,343 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
It the was the Pirates third loss in a row, second in regulation, after winning eight straight games and they’d like to stop the bleeding now before this becomes an epidemic of losing.
“We won for the first couple of weeks,” said Pirates’ forward Felix Schutz. “It’s not like we’re going to win 80 games. We’re still in first place and we just have to remain confident and find ways to win again. Who knows maybe in a couple weeks we have luck on our side and we win this game 5-4.”
The lone goal of the period was scored by Worcester’s Riley Armstrong, his ninth of the season at 7:21 of the first period.
A scrum ensued in front of the Pirates net as the rebound squirted to Armstrong, who picked the puck up at the right post and shoveled it past Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Just 23 seconds into the second period, Felix Schutz tied the game 1-1 with third goal in his last three games. He’s found his scoring touch; scoring seven points (4g, 3a) in his last six games as Dineen has rewarded him with more ice time.
“That’s the kind of guys were looking for right now,” said Pirates’ coach Kevin Dineen. “It’s a shame the wins aren’t falling with him playing so well, but they’ll come. He’s playing some solid hockey.”
A result of the ice time has also been due to a depletion of forwards with the Pirates over the last week. Dylan Hunter has been out since Oct. 25 with a broken toe, Mark Mancari was recalled to Buffalo a week ago Thursday and now the Matt Ellis is out due to an undisclosed injury. Dineen didn’t commit to finding anybody else to replace the injuries.
“We’ll get some feedback tomorrow (from the doctors) and see where we are at,” he said.
Worcester made it 2-1 when Lukas Kaspar’s shot changed direction in front of Enroth at 12:46 of the second period.
At 15:58, Mike Moore scored for the Sharks just as their power play expired when he sent a quick shot over Enroth’s glove, extending Worcester’s lead to 3-1.
Portland pulled back to within a goal when defenseman Mike Kostka scored his first professional goal, beating Sharks goalie Taylor Dakers between the legs at 6:32 of the third period.
At 13:46, Steve Zalewski regained the two goal lead for Worcester as he came streaking down the left wing, snapping a shot that beat Enroth on the side post.
“We made the game hard for ourselves,” said Dineen. “We worked hard and the difference being I like to work hard in their end instead of doing all the hard work in our end.”
With 2:59 left in the game, the Pirates again pulled to within a goal, 4-3, as Kostka scored his second goal of the game when he fired a shot from the top of the right harsh mark, it deflected off a Shark in front of Dakers.
“They (players) worked their tails off and really pushed back and simplify their game,” said Dineen. “We just need to continue doing the little things better.”
NOTES: The Pirates were already shorthanded skating with 17 players, but for the third period they skated with only 16 as forward and tough guy Jimmy Bonneau suffered a hand injury as a result of a fight late in the second period. Pirates’ forward Marek Zagrapan has been struggling as late going scoreless in his last three games. In 17 games, he’s only scored three goals, five assists for eight points and has a plus/minus rating of -1. Last season, he scored 40 points (18g, 22a) in 76 games with the Amerks. This year, the final year of his entry-level contract, he was expected to show improvement, taking a larger role in the offense. So far, that hasn’t happen.
Dineen’s only response was silence.
It’s dangerous when your coach is left speechless.