Portland, ME – These days it would be very hard to criticize the work ethic and dedication of forward Mark Mancari.
By the end of the night, it would be hard to criticize the work ethic and dedication of the entire roster of the Portland Pirates.
Down to 14 skaters by the end of the game, Mark Mancari scored the game winner for his 27th goal of the season and extended his point streak to 12 games as the Portland Pirates held on for a 2-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals before 3,285 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Tuesday night.
At the end of the second period, the Pirates, who were already shorthanded, were down to nine forwards and five defensemen after losing Max Legault, Brian Roloff and Drew Schiestel with undisclosed injuries.
“Give the guys a lot of credit,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “We held on and it started with our goaltending. (Mancari) gets another big goal for us.”
“You can’t say enough to credit what the guys did today, said Pirates forward Derek Whitmore. “We finished the game with nine forwards and five defensemen. I don’t remember the last time I played a game like that maybe when I was in mites or pee wee.”
“It just shows the dedication and commitment to hard work this team has. That’s a real big identity of ours – our compete level – it definitely came through and showed tonight.”
The Pirates were nearly without Mancari after he took a shot in the face during morning practice while performing a routine drill. Down on the ice for several minutes, he eventually skated off with the assistance of team trainer Rob Frost, holding a towel to his face.
Mancari played in the game and at the 12:53 of the second period found the back of the net for his AHL league leading 27th goal of the season, incepting the puck in the neutral zone for a breakaway on Admirals’ goalie Mike Smith.
“When you get hit with the puck in the face,” said Dineen. “You want to give yourself that warrior effort, but it does stun you a bit and throws you off kilter so I knew he’d play, but you never know what you are going to get, but he sure proved me wrong tonight.”
Smith, currently with the Admirals on a conditioning assignment from the Tampa Bay Lightning, made 19 saves in the loss.
The win for the Pirates, which was their fourth straight come on the heels of wrapping up a jam-packed schedule where they played five games in seven days.
“We’re really proud of our players right now,” said Dineen.
Pirates’ netminder Jhonas Enroth, who finished the night with 27 saves, had his shutout bid snapped with 7:36 to play in the game.
A broken play in front led to Johan Harju finding the loose puck, jamming it past Enroth, cutting into Pirates lead at 2-1.
In the first period, while skating four-on-four, Derek Whitmore opened the scoring for the Pirates at 16:28 when TJ Brennan spotted Whitmore with a cross-ice feed for the one-timer past Smith.
NOTES: The Pirates were without defenseman Tim Conboy after the AHL announced today that he was suspended for two games for his actions in a game against the Worcester Sharks on Jan. 21 in which he was called given a five-minute major penalty for a headshot on forward Cory Quick. Conboy, who is serving his third suspension in the AHL, missed tonight’s game and will Friday’s game against Providence… Marc-Andre Gragnani returned to the lineup after being assigned to Portland by the Buffalo Sabres… Paul Byron scored his first career NHL goal in his home town of Ottawa, Ontario as the Sabres went on for the 3-2 win in OT against the Senators.