Portland, ME – In front of the largest crowd at the Cumberland County Civic Center since Feb. 2008, Mark Mancari recorded a hat trick to lead the Portland Pirates over the Providence Bruins, 5-2, before 7,126 to move into a first place tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Manchester Monarchs.
The win comes on the heels of the Pirates losing forwards Paul Byron and Matt Ellis after the Buffalo Sabres recalled them earlier in the day, leaving the team short a forward.
Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen felt there are several players including Mancari, who is worthy of getting a shot with the Sabres at some point this season.
“We’re really happy to see Matt Ellis and Paul Byron, who is going to be getting his first NHL games so we’re extremely excited about that,” he said. “We have about a half dozen candidates in the (locker room) that could have been called up and the professionalism that was shown here tonight really makes me proud and extremely honored to coach these guys and I mean that in all sincerity.”
“I think these guys came to play, and they all showed they were true professionals.”
In the first period, the Pirates capitalized while on a five-on-three to open the scoring at 7:13 when Colin Stuart scored his ninth goal of the season, picking up the rebound from the slot to beat Bruins’ netminder Matt Dalton.
“The 5-on-3, there is no design to it,” said Dineen. “I think you have skilled players out there and you let them move the puck. You react to what (Providence) is doing. You’ve got to have the guys not only with the skill, but the ability to see what going on around them.”
At 11:57, the Bruins responded to tie the game at 1-1 on a goal by Lane McDermid.
McDermid batting his own rebound beat Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth after he worked the puck out of the left corner, getting a shot off from the edge of the crease.
After a rather dull second period, Mancari put the Pirates out front, 2-1, beating Dalton on a breakaway with 3:42 left in the period.
Providence, again came back to tie the game, 2-2, on a goal by former Pirate Trent Whitfield, who fired a shot to the right of Enroth, while leaning to the left, beating the Swedish netminder early in the third period.
With 4:06 left in the game, the Pirates regained the lead, 3-2, on a power play goal by defenseman Dennis Persson, wiring a shot from the top the slot past Dalton, who was entering the game on a four-game winning streak.
“We’ve been encouraging our (defense) to shoot the puck so it was really nice to score a goal from the point like that,” said Dineen.
At 18:14, Mancari record his second goal of the night when Dennis McCauley set up the play dishing a cross-ice feed to Mancari for the easy tap-in by Dalton, giving the Pirates a two-goal lead on the night at 4-2.
Mancari added the empty netter to seal the hat trick with five seconds left in the game.
Mancari, one of several players Dineen indicated that was deserving of a recall to Buffalo, tied a professional high, extending his point-streak to 10 games with nine goals, seven assists for 16 points during that span, and now hold the AHL league lead in goals with 23 on the season.
“I think Mark Mancari has decided to take care of what he can control,” said Dineen. Mark Mancari knows that I’m a believer in him as a player and we continue to work to make him a full time NHL player. We both believe it’s going to happen.”
“When there is a call-up you’re obviously hoping it’s you,” said Mancari. If you’re not, you’re a little down, but there nothing you can do but keep working. You’ve got to look at the big picture and it’s not always going to happen for you. I’ve learned that over the last six years. I’m happy for (Paul Byron, Matt Ellis and Marc-Andre Gragnani), and if there is another one I hope I’ll still get my shot.”
Enroth improved to 14-10-2-1 on the season after making 33 saves in the win.
“He’s playing a real solid brand of hockey,” said Dineen. “I think this is the first time he’s had an internal challenge to not play 60 games. (Leggio) is demanding his (time) in the net.”
Portland finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play.
NOTES: Pirates defenseman Tim Conboy played tonight as no decision has been made by the AHL on any potential suspension as a result of the high check to Worcester Sharks forward Cory Quick. League spokesperson Jason Chiamovitch said by email that no decision has been made and the hit was still under review by league officials.