Manchester, NH – If the Portland Pirates didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.
After being on a holiday break for nearly a week, missed opportunities and mounting injuries continue to haunt the Pirates on Saturday as the Manchester Monarchs held on for a 3-2 win in front 5,606 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Pirates, already facing a depleted lineup, lost forward Tim Kennedy earlier in the day after he was called up by the Sabres to Buffalo as the hometown kid made his first NHL start. Head coach Kevin Dineen scrambled to find Chase Trull from the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL, in order to give the Pirates 11 forwards.
Portland found themselves down to 10 forwards when they lost Kyle Rank midway through the game with either a right ankle or knee injury. They’d also lose Colin Murphy to reduced duty after he was hit with a bone-jarring check along the center-ice boards by Drew Bagnall in the first period and left woozy.
After a scoreless first period, the Monarchs jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the second period. Ryan Murphy fired a shot from the point that was tipped several times before Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth could get a leg on the puck, but Brian Boyle scooped up the rebound and dished a backhand shot by Enroth for his third goal of the season.
Manchester made it 2-0 as Alec Martinez finished off the give-and-go from Dusty Collins just over five minutes later.
It was the second time in two games; the Pirates fell down by two goals in a game before mounting any type of a comeback.
“(Falling behind) makes it one of those games where you seem to be working so hard all the time and we’d like to think some of those goals (against) are preventable,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen.
Manchester fell into penalty trouble midway into the second period when they’d take three straight penalties within a span of 49 seconds, giving the Pirates a pair of extended five-on-three chances.
Mark Mancari took the feed from Marc-Andre Gragnani from the left point and ripped a bullet over the glove of Jonathan Bernier, cutting the Monarchs lead in half, 2-1, at 8:15 of the second period.
The line of Mancari, Zagrapan and Darche ate plenty of ice time for the Pirates due to the shortage. It didn’t hurt that they’d produce both of Portland’s goals, either.
At 5:08 of the third period, Zagrapan chipped the puck out of the defensive zone, catching the Monarchs flat-footed. Mancari jumped into the rush creating a two-on-one as Zagrapan completed the give-and-go with Mancari’s as he crashed the net, tipping the shot by Bernier to tie the game at 2-2.
“I thought that line played well tonight,” said Dineen. “We pushed back when we were behind and I was happy with the effort.”
Unfortunately, while the Pirates had plenty of chances especially in the first and third periods, they couldn’t beat Bernier, who made 30 saves on 32 shots in the win.
Instead of keeping it simple due to the Pirates having a roster with player’s who began the season in the ECHL, they tried to get cute, at times, with passing and bit them as the winning the goal was a result of a turnover late in the third period.
With Boyle pressing the Pirates defense off the faceoff, he created a turnover that turned into a two-on-one rush with Scott Parse.
Parse — cocked and loaded – connected on Boyle’s cross-ice pass blasting a one-timer by Enroth, who had little chance to slide over and make the save as the Monarchs regained the lead at 3-2 with 3:22 remaining in the game.
“(Simple) is a big word right now,” said Dineen. “Simple is easy when spoken, but simple doesn’t mean you don’t work and don’t try to accomplish the things we are trying to do as a coaching staff. With a faceoff in (Manchester’s) zone, we’d like to think that we could have contained it especially when dealing with limited players.”
“We need to minimize their chances.”
NOTES: Beginning tonight, the Pirates will play 10 games in the next 16 days as they begin a stretch of four games in five nights. The Pirates will return to the CCCC for a game tomorrow afternoon against the Worcester Sharks before traveling to Worcester on Monday to play the game that was rescheduled due to last Friday’s snowstorm.