Portland, ME—The Portland Pirates entered Sunday afternoon’s tilt against the Hartford Wolf Pack with a playoff spot secured, but without their three top forwards.
Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari were recalled to Buffalo on Sunday morning, following Tyler Ennis being recalled on Friday.
“Hopefully this is just temporary,” said Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier, who was in attendance. “Right now they are all emergency recalls.”
The Pirates were also finishing a three-in-three weekend. Head Coach Kevin Dineen wasn’t worried though, drawing confidence from the fact that his players have stepped up all season long in the absence of key players.
“We really worked hard and it’s a good compliment to our team that they keep finding ways to win game,” said Dineen. “There was a lot of enthusiasm in that there was going to be some opportunity in high offensive spots and I think that enthusiasm showed in our game.”
Kyle Wanvig scored the eventual game-winning goal in the second period and Todd Ford made 28 saves to pace Portland to a 3-2 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 4,751 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“It just shows the depth of our team,” added Pirates forward Kyle Wanvig. “We have guys who can get it done on any given night.”
Six different skaters figured into the first two goals of the game, propelling the Pirates to a 2-0 lead through twenty minutes.
Derek Whitmore opened the scoring just 22 seconds into the game. Felix Schutz started the play with a wraparound shot that was stopped, but the rebound came to Whitmore in the slot.
“(Whitmore) is a lot of our identity with the way he plays the game,” Dineen stated. “When you have guys who have that much try to them, they really add a strong character dimension to your team.”
Approximately 12 minutes later, Mike Weber doubled Portland’s lead with his team on the power play. T.J. Brennan worked the puck to the left point where Weber waited with his stick cocked back for a shot. Weber scorched a slap shot through the pads of Chad Johnson and into the net. Paul Byron picked up the secondary assist.
Following Murphy’s Law of Thermodynamics, which suggests that anything which can go wrong, will go wrong, Hartford rallied back in the second period.
Ryan Garlock and Dale Weise struck within a span of 0:49 to tie the game 2-2.
Garlock’s goal was a blooper, but it counted just the same. Garlock dumped the puck in and watched as it slipped underneath Pirates goalie Todd Ford. 48 seconds later, Dale Weise drove to the net and stashed the loose puck across the line with Ford sprawled in the crease.
Portland would reclaim the lead with 25 ticks on the clock in period two. Kyle Wanvig chugged down the ice on a breakaway after a Hartford skater missed the net and the puck ricocheted to center ice. Wanvig whipped a shot from twenty feet out that found daylight through Johnson’s legs to send the Pirates into the final frame with a 3-2 advantage on the scoreboard.
“I was straight-legging it down the ice,” said Wanvig. “That was the slowest breakaway of all time, but I like to shoot just inside the circles. Sometimes you can catch the goalie before he is set.”
Todd Ford made several key stops in the third and the Pirates (6-0-1-1 over their last eight) held on for their 42nd win of the season.
“The first goal was a stinker, but we tightened out belts, played hard in the third and ended up with the win,” Dineen said.
“We’re a good team up and down the lineup and we’re proving right now with our record,” added Wanvig.
|POR||1/7||10 min / 5 inf||8||10||8||26|
|HFD||0/3||26 min / 9 inf||7||12||11||30|
UP NEXT: Friday, April 2 @ Springfield 7:00 PM
NEXT HOME GAME: Sunday, April 4 vs. Providence 4:00 PM