By Jon Campbell, Special to Maine Hockey Journal
ALBANY, N.Y. — Three games. Three goals. Three losses.
Ryan Weston scored the game-winning goal at the 3:01 mark of the third period, leading the Albany River Rats past the Portland Pirates, 3-1 on Sunday.
The Pirates managed to score just once in each of their last three games — all losses on the road.
“It was our seventh game in ten nights, and we looked like a tired bunch,” Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the road with broken buses and travel issues that went along with it. Those are all good excuses, but good teams find a way to win no matter what the circumstances and we’re not finding ways right now.”
Things looked good for Portland early. Mike Kostka’s blast was deflected past Albany goalie Justin Peters to give the Pirates the lead on the power play after Albany’s Dwight Helminen was whistled for hooking early in the first period.
Helminen got his revenge just six minutes later. After Matt Macdonald was sent to the box for holding, Helminen’s shot from the point beat Portland goalie Jhonas Enroth behind a perfect screen by Albany’s Michael Ryan at 11:25 of the first.
After a scoreless second period, Weston, a fourth line winger, put the River Rats up for good when he cashed in on a long rebound off of a shot by defenseman Casey Borer. The goal was Weston’s first of the year and first of his professional career.
“That fourth line, they’re out there to create some energy and throw pucks at the net and crash the net, and that’s what they did,” Albany coach Jeff Daniels said.
The Pirates had plenty of chances to tie the game later in the third, but none were bigger than Matt Ellis’ shot from the left side of the net sailed wide after he was set up by Mathieu Darche from behind the net.
All hope of a possible comeback was lost late in the third, when the Pirates took two penalties in the game’s final five minutes. Dylan Hunter was caught first when he was called for tripping with 4:36 to play and Colin Murphy was whistled for interference at the 18:12 mark after he was tied up with Albany center Nick Dodge in the corner.
“It’s a shame,” Dineen said. “It was a well-played game and officiating plays such a huge part in it in marginal plays.”
After the game, Dineen had a heated exchange with the officials, though Dineen said the incident was a “non-issue.”
Already shorthanded, Enroth skated to the bench with the puck in the neutral zone, just before it was pushed back into the Pirates’ end. Borer calmly put the puck in the empty net, closing out the scoring with just 32 seconds left.
Enroth was strong in net after giving up five goals on 25 shots in the Pirates’ loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, stopping Nicolas Blanchard’s backhand attempt on a breakaway early in the first and keeping the Pirates in the game with several big saves late.
“He’s played very well for us in the big picture,” Dineen said. “You look at [Friday's] score and … you can say he didn’t play that well, but he actually played fine and it was more of a case of what was going on in front of him.”
The Pirates will look to get back into the win column when they head to Worcester to take on the Sharks on Friday night.
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