Portland, ME – Nobody can fault the Portland Pirates for their effort against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Despite a valiant effort, playing with piecemeal roster, the Pirates held on for nearly half the game before the Wolf Pack scored three unanswered goals, en route to a 3-1 win before a Monday matinee crowd of 3,933 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
It’s been one thing after another for this franchise, who started the season off strong, but has since come crashing back to earth with a rather hard thud. No one could really blame the Pirates if they chose to pack-it in for the season.
“Can’t critique the effort, that’s for sure,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “There’s not a lot of energy in the tank right now and that the nature of the situation.”
The Pirates have been riddled with injuries since about the second month of the season and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. To make matters worse for the team, they’re dealing with a flu-like virus that’s running rampant through the locker room.
Several players have fallen ill in the last week, including Marc-Andre Gragnani, Derek Whitmore and Nathan Gerbe, who was listed as a scratch because of the illness. Mike Card played the first and part of the second period, but left the game after feel too ill to continue.
“We play 10 (forwards) and 5 (defensemen) and we have a lot of guys from the (ECHL), who play that way pretty much every night,” said Dineen. “It’s a lot to ask of the guys to play with a lot of energy when you are shorthanded that much, but we’re happy with the amount of effort they put into the game.”
Dineen didn’t know if he would have to bring in anybody from the ECHL until the team gathered on Wednesday for the morning skate.
This is a team that already has six players in the lineup on a PTO (Profession Try-out) seeing regular minutes for Portland.
“You’re happy for the guys who are up and you are hoping the guys from injury are getting healthy and ready to come back, but you can’t complain because all the guys who have come up have done an extraordinary job.”
“Tough thing is these guys are coming in and playing a lot of minutes right away.”
Mark Mancari scored the Pirates lone goal of the game, giving the Pirates an early 1-0 lead in the second period. Mancari, at the top of the left face off circle, spun around, snapping a quick shot that caught Wolf Pack goalie Matt Zaba off guard at 2:22 of the second period.
“You can come up with every excuse in the book,” said Mancari. “We’ve had every situation thrown at this team and I don’t think we can take any negative from tonight.”
“We know we loss, but the effort was there.”
At 12:16, former Pirate Pierre Parenteau scored his 19th of the season when he connected on a cross-ice feed from Artem Anisimov, for the one-timer by Jhonas Enroth, tying the game at 1-1.
Anisimov made it 2-1 less than three minutes later as he scored on the power play with a shot from the slot that trickled, five-hole on Enroth at 15:09 of the second period.
In the third period, Tommy Pyatt added a goal to seal the victory at with 4:13 left in the game.
Portland has fallen from the top of the standings to fighting for a playoff spot over the last six weeks as Hartford overtook them with the win. The Pirates currently sit in fourth place, four points behind the division-leading Providence Bruins with three games in hand.
NOTES: Marc-Andre Gragnani returned to the lineup after missing one game due to a flu-like illness. Tim Kennedy missed the game after undergoing dental surgery to repair his mouth after taking a two-handed hit in the face by Manchester’s Gabe Gauthier. Gauthier was given a double minor, but no word from the league if a suspension is coming down.