Portland, ME – Patience is a virtue and for the Portland Pirates to have any success in the future they’ll need plenty of patience.
Tonight was a good start for the Pirates as they hung in tough with the Manchester Monarchs before edging them out, 3-2, in a shootout victory in front of 2,620 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Tuesday night.
The Monarchs (27-14-2-5) currently lead the Atlantic Division by three points over the Lowell Devils, while the Pirates (22-16-5-2) are 10 points back in fifth place, but they also have games in hand against the rest of the Atlantic Division.
Still as Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen prepares for a busy month of February, he understands the games won’t get any easier from now until the end of the season.
“(Tonight) was a grinding game,” said Dineen. “That’s how the games are going to get as we move into the later stages of the season.”
“It doesn’t get any easier, and the schedule has been nice to us in the last three or four weeks, but now we’re gonna catch up.”
Despite being held scoreless in the first period after having three power play opportunities including a double minor after Kyle Wanvig was clipped by Jon Rheault, Dineen didn’t show concerned for the lack of production.
“The power play wasn’t the problem,” Dineen said. “I think for the most part we accomplished a lot of things.”
With 46 seconds left in the period, Manchester found a way to get on the board first when John Zeiler’s shot from the left hash mark was tipped by Richard Clune, beating Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth as he crashed the net from the opposite post.
In the second period, the Pirates stormed back scoring a pair of goals in the span of 2:16.
Portland’s first goal came at 14:10 of the second period after a nifty behind –the – back pass from Mark Mancari made its way to the stick of Brad Larsen as he was streaking in from the high slot where he drilled a one-timer by Monarchs’ netminder Jonathan Bernier.
“Mancari is a big body who can score goals, but he’s an underrated passer,” said Pirates’ captain Brad Larsen. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for that. He’s very patient; he gets in good position to shoot all the time. Everybody talks about his shot, but I think one of his best assets is he finds the open guy all the time.”
Travis Turnbull gave the Pirates the lead, 2-1, a short time later when he followed up the play, drilling the rebound from Matt Generous slap shot from the right point past Bernier at 16:26 of the second period.
“The best thing you can do is get pucks to the net and find rebounds,” Larsen said. “Goalies like that tend to make the first save so it’s either screen shots, broken plays or rebounds. Nobody is invincible, but if you throw enough pucks on net you hope one goes in.”
It was a short-lived lead for the Pirates as Manchester scored while on an extended two-man advantage.
Gabe Gauthier, behind the net, found Corey Eakins to the right of Jhonas Enroth as he tapped a quick shot into the net at 17:42 of the second period.
The game remained tied, eventually needing a shootout to decide the contest. Even then, it went down to the final shooter for Manchester.
With Mark Mancari’s goal standing as the game-winner, Jhonas Enroth stopped Tom Cavanagh on the shortside, giving the Pirates the extra point.
“Everyone talks about Bernier, but I put (Enroth) at the same level,” said Larsen. “He’s a great goalie. He plays big for us in shootouts. He works extremely hard for us in games, and he never gives up on shots.”
Enroth made 24 saves in the victory, while former Lewiston Maineiac Jonathan Bernier stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced in the loss.
NOTES: Nathan Gerbe missed his second straight game with a groin injury. Dineen said that he’s listed as day-to-day and his availability for this weekend was still yet to be determined.