Portland, ME – Brian Roloff returned to the lineup for the Portland Pirates, scoring the game-winning goal in the third period to lift the Pirates over the Worcester Sharks, 5-2, in front of 3,639 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night.
Roloff missed Wednesday’s game in Worcester because of the death of his older brother, Eric, who had been battling cancer for some time.
“It’s good to be back,” said Roloff. “The atmosphere they have around here in this locker room is certainly very supportive. I couldn’t have asked any more of the guys and coaching staff.”
The goal came early in the third period when Maxime Legault fired a pass to Roloff’s stick, who shoveled a shot on net that beat Sharks’ goalie Carter Hutton.
“(Whitmore) was battling two guys and chipped it down to the corner and Max (Legault) just went into the corner and manhandled that guy and came out with the puck and made a nice pass to put it on my stick,” said Roloff. “Honestly, I was just threw it on net and it went in.”
Hutton was getting his second start against the Pirates in seven days after an 8-3 defeat last Saturday where he gave up five goals in the third period.
Worcester opened the scoring at 4:38 of the first period when Sharks forward TJ Trevelyan skated down the right side, snapping a shot from the bottom of the circle that beat Pirates goaltender David Leggio.
Portland responded tying the game at 1-1, as Derek Whitmore took several whacks at the puck in a scrum in the slot, beating Hutton at the 8:28 mark of the first.
Only 28 seconds later, Leggio, who was getting his third start in five games, gave up a goal to Frazer McLaren – his first of the season – as he fired a wrist shot from bottom of the left faceoff circle to give Worcester a 2-1 lead.
“I don’t think it was a fairly even played first period,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “I wasn’t crazy about the (first period) goals for one. We want to have those saves. Overall, I think David settled down.”
Leggio was solid from there not allowing another goal, making 20 saves to improve to 12-4-0 on the season.
With 4:34 left in the second period, the Pirates took advantage of a slow line change by the Sharks to tie the game at two goals apiece. Drew Schiestel fired a long pass up center ice to Mark Mancari, drawing both defensemen to the left side of the ice before dishing the puck to Denis McCauley, who redirected the pass as he crashed into the crease.
It was McCauley’s eighth goal of the season as he’s found ice time on the top line with Luke Adam and Mancari.
Besides Roloff’s game-winner, the Pirates added a pair of goals from Igor Gongalsky and Mancari.
Gongalsky, who has five-points (3G, 2A) in his last four games, scored at 15:21 of the third period after picking up the rebound from the left hash mark and beating a sprawled out Hutton.
“I really like McCauley’s game the other night in Worcester, and I think he answered again tonight with a nice goal,” said Dineen. “Igor continues to strive on the chance to play.”
Mancari extended his point streak to nine games with two assists and an empty net goal with a minute left in the game.
“We had a very slow start in Worcester and I feel that we didn’t have a great start tonight either,” said Mancari. “The big difference for us is if we can play the first period like we play a third, we’re going to be even a better hockey team.”
NOTES: Tim Conboy, who is a repeat offender, will certainly draw the ire of the American Hockey League with a high hit to Sharks’ forward Cory Quirk midway into the third period. Quirk was knocked out for several minutes after being caught near the far side boards by Conboy, who was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for the hit.