Portland, ME – The power play came through for the Portland Pirates when they needed it most to end 2008 on a positive note with a 2-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals in front of a near sell-out crowd of 6,374 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Wednesday evening.
At 14:09 of the second period, with the Admirals up 1-0, Portland tied the game on a Mark Mancari goal, his 13th goal of the season.
Going into the game, the Pirates were 4-for-48 with the man advantage, as it’s become a point of concern for the coaching staff of the Pirates.
“It’s pretty obvious that it’s a big issue for us right now,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “The power play goal wasn’t a thing of beauty or a set play, but a lot of effort that made the difference.”
Mathieu Darche began the play when he tried to stuff the puck by former Pirates’ goaltender Mike McKenna, but it bounced out to Mancari at the bottom of the right faceoff circle where he snapped a quick shot on net. It hit McKenna’s glove and trickled into the net, tying the game at 1-1.
Mancari has five points in his last five games after hitting a dry patch when he returned from Buffalo.
In the first period, like with most first period’s for the Pirates, they found themselves consistently outplayed only to be the better team for the last 40 minutes of the game, but by then the damage is done.
“The number one thing we have to start changing is how we start games,” said Pirates’ forward Mark Mancari. “We have to figure out why we’re not starting out like we should and that will settle out everything else.”
Not heeding Mancari’s advice, the Pirates found themselves outshot badly (13-6) in the first period, however, Jhonas Enroth kept Portland in the game, stopping all 13 shots, but in the second period Enroth gave up a rebound that led to the first goal of the game.
At 5:01, Ty Wishart fired a shot on Enroth from the left circle, but he kicked out to the slot where Chris Gratton banged it home for the 1-0 Admirals lead.
After Mancari tied the game at 1-1, the winning goal came from an unlikely candidate as Trent Campbell scored his first AHL goal with 2:04 left in the second period.
Colton Fretter carrying the puck into the zone, fired a slap shot toward the net, but it was redirected by Campbell between the legs of McKenna for the 2-1 Pirates lead.
“I’ve been very fortunate to come up,” said Campbell. “It’s about working hard and going to the dirty spots. I’ve also got to make sure I’m defensively sound.”
Dineen found Campbell playing for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL and admired his gritty game with the ability to do a bunch of task.
“Trent has stood out in a lot of good ways,” said Dineen. “He’s physically involved and just goes out and plays the game. “He plays hard and is doing a lot of good things for us.”
The Pirates with the win improved to 5-0 at home against East Division opponents and stayed undefeated against the Admirals (3-0-0) this season. More importantly, the Pirates now have the lead back in the Atlantic Division race as the Providence Bruins lost to the Manchester Monarchs, 4-2, on Sunday night. The Pirates still have two games in hand on the Bruins as well.
NOTE: The Pirates injury situation has taken its toll on all aspects of the lineup including in goal. Adam Dennis has been sent to Buffalo where he will have surgery this week for a hip flexor injury that will keep him out for at least one month, mostly likely the rest of the regular season. Dineen said he would be re-evaluated on a month-to-month basis. As for the backup role, those duties will be given to Ray Jean for now as Dineen is happy with his performance in practice, but he said he was evaluating talent and something could happen in the next few days. Mike Funk will be leaving to go back to his home in Abbotsford, BC where he will continue his rehabilitation from his second concussion in less than three months. Pirates’ captain Tyler Bouck will also be out for an extended period of time after a collision with the goal post left him with a concussion. Kyle Rank (leg) and Colin Murphy (concussion) are also both out indefinitely, with no timetable for a return. However, not all news is bad for the Pirates on the injury front as Zach Tarkir returned to the lineup without missing a game due to a hand injury and Aaron Slattengren and Jimmy Bonneau have been skating extensively the last week or so and are close to returning. Mike Card has been cleared to begin skating on his own.