Portland, ME – On most Sunday afternoon’s, it usually time to pop the popcorn, open the chips and dip and settle in for a little football action, but not in the case of the Portland Pirates.
For the 2,997 in attendance who braved to come out to the Cumberland County Civic Center, instead of staying home to watch the Patriots lose to the Steelers, they were rewarded with a Pirates, 4-0, blue-collar victory over the Monarchs.
“That how we have to play to get out of the muck,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen.
The Pirates, who’ve lost their last five games, needed to get on the board first in order to seize the momentum and confidence that’s been so fragile as of late.
They’d do just that…
At 2:51, Derek Whitmore scored his third of the season on an easy tap-in, beating Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier for the 1-0 lead.
The Monarchs had a really good chance to tie things up midway into the first period as they’d have an extended 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 man advantage, but Portland killed both penalties off, as they’d head to the locker room with the lead for the first time in 10 periods of hockey.
In the second period, the Pirates would extend their lead as Colton Fretter picked up the rebound, putting the puck into the open net, for a 2-0 lead with 10:17 left in the period. Aaron Slattengren and Mike Funk were credit with assists on the play.
“We weren’t playing bad the last week or so,” said Slattengren. “We were just giving (opposing teams) a break here and there and they’d put it in the net. Tonight we just tightened up and it showed.”
The Pirates would add a pair in the third period as Nathan Gerbe scored his first goal in since Nov. 14, a span of nine games. He also snapped his scoreless point streak at three games with the goal at 11:55 of the period.
Felix Schutz racing down the right wing fed Gerbe a crisp cross-ice pass, ripping a quick one-timer by Bernier for the 3-0 lead.
At 16:38, the Pirates put the game away when Fretter scored his second goal of the game.
“The team really followed the lead of Whitmore, Slattengren and Fretter, our workman like guys,” said Dineen. “We had a lot of good things from different people.”
Jhonas Enroth made 23 saves for his second career AHL shutout.
NOTES: Manchester played most the game shorthanded as they lost Matt Moulson and Justin Azevedo to injury. Moulson went down midway in the first period with an apparent knee injury. Azevedo fell awkwardly into the boards after being checked by Mike Weber and needed help to the bench by his teammates. He didn’t return as Monarchs coach Mark Morris was not encouraged by the news afterward, indicating it could be long-term injuries for both players. The Pirates will have the week off before returning to action on Friday night when they travel to Springfield Mass. for a game against the Falcons. It will be the beginning of a stretch of games where the Pirates will play the next eight games away from the Civic Center. Portland’s lone home game during that stretch will be played in Orono, home the UMaine Black Bears on Dec. 9.