Hartford, CT – It was a game made for Generation Z.
If you don’t like the results hit the reset button, and that was exactly what the Portland Pirates did. After a rough start, the Pirates found a way to right the ship.
Paul Byron and Mark Parrish each recorded three points on the night as the Pirates put the Connecticut Whale away in Game 6 of the Atlantic Division semifinals with a 6-4 victory in front of 4,514 at the XL Center on Saturday night.
The Pirates win the best-of-seven series, 4-2.
The Whale knowing they needed a win to keep their season alive, played like it through the first 20 minutes, as they grabbed a 2-0 lead.
Just four minutes into the game, the Whale got on the board first as Jeremy Williams scored on the power play, ripping a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat goalie David Leggio over the shoulder.
With 1:18 left in the period, the Whale made it 2-0 with their second power play goal of the period as Dale Wiese, who returned to the lineup after a one game absence, fired a quick wrister from the left circle past Leggio.
“It’s frustrating to come out and have such a good start like we did and get a 2-0 lead,” said Whale forward Dale Wiese. “We obviously were feeling pretty good after the first period. Then they come out and get the power play goal, and that kind of swung things. Obviously it’s very disappointing to lose that way. You can rest your hat if you go out and play five-on-five and just get beat by a better team, but I don’t think we did that in this series. I don’t think that’s a better team over there. I just think we hurt ourselves.”
Entering the series, the Pirates were 9-2 in Game 6, while in Game 7 they were 1-7.
They didn’t want to play a Game 7.
“It’s a big relief,” said Pirates forward Derek Whitmore. “It was nice to get it out of the way in Game 6 and not have to worry about a Game 7.”
The Whale took a too many men on the ice penalty only 33 seconds into the second period and that was the jumpstart the Pirates needed.
Paul Byron took a feed from Mark Mancari, who was assigned the Pirates earlier in the day, snapping a shot that beat Whale goalie Dov Grumet-Morris at the two minute mark of the season period.
Just 2:05 later, the Pirates tied the game at 2-2 when Colin Stuart’s shot bounced out to Mark Parrish, shoveling the puck into the open net.
“We knew what to expect,” said Whitmore “We didn’t want to give up a lead early, but our response was excellent. The way this team has battled from adversity all year. It’s just a testament to every guy in the room, even the guys who weren’t playing. We got so much character in the room and so much depth on this team.”
“Paulie Byron doesn’t have a goal all playoffs and comes up with a big game. It was just a great effort that the fact we didn’t falter when we were down. It just speaks about our resilience and our cha
Mancari gave the Pirates their first lead of the game, 3-2, at the midway point of the second period.
Luke Adam won the faceoff, getting the shot on net where Derek Whitmore piled into the scrum. The puck popped out to Mancari, who drilled a shot from about a foot out into the net.
The Whale came back just 1:22 later as Carl Hagelin stepped into a loose puck in the high slot, blasting a shot by Leggio as the former Michigan forward recorded his first career AHL goal.
As the period wound down, the Pirates, who controlled the majority of the middle stanza, regained the lead when Alex Biega converted a 4-on-2 opportunity from the slot, taking a pass from Parrish and drilling it by Grumet-Morris for a 4-3 lead.
“I know we’ve had some success here, but this place has been good to me in a lot of different ways,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. The problem is you know you’re going to come here and have your hands full. They’ve got some good character, and they wear you down through attrition and pound you pretty hard, which is always frustrating as a coach. But I think my skilled players really rose to the occasion.”
In the third period, the Pirates put the game out of reach as Byron added his second of the night when Stu Bickel and Tomas Kundratek collided, giving Byron and Parrish a 2-on-0 opportunity inside their offensive zone.
Parrish dished off to Byron, who made sure not to miss a wide-open net like he did in the first period.
Corey Tropp sealed the victory for the Pirates with a goal at the 14:14 mark of the third period.
With 17 seconds left in the game and with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, the Whale scored, just improving the cosmetics of the final score as Chad Kolarik recorded his third of the playoffs.
Connecticut went 3-for-7 with the man advantage, while Portland finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play.
NOTES: The Pirates will face the Binghamton Senator in the Atlantic Division Finals, starting this Wednesday with Game 1 at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Game 2 will be the next night (Thursday) at the Civic Center before going to Binghamton for Games 3, 4 and 5… Pirates captain Matt Ellis was recalled on Saturday by the Buffalo Sabres as a result of leg injury sustained by Jason Pominville in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against Philadelphia.
Atlantic Division Final – (best-of-7)
A1-Portland Pirates vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 27 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 30 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
Game 4 – Mon., May 2 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Tue., May 3 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 6 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 7 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00