Portland, ME – Goaltender Marc Cheverie barely had enough time to get home and get a change of clothes after being on a long road trip with the Gwinnett Gladiators before getting a call that he was being recalled.
Little did Cheverie know that he was about to be thrown into the fire in his first game with the Portland Pirates.
Cheverie came into the game in relief of starter Curtis McElhinney and stopped all 17 shots as the Pirates came from behind to defeat the Adirondack Phantoms, 4-2, before 5,029 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
It the first time this season the Pirates have won back-to-back games this season, as they improve to 6-7-0-1 with 13 points, and move out of last place in the Eastern Conference.Cheverie, acquired by the Phoenix Coyotes in a preseason trade from the Florida Panthers, had spent more time in the air in the last week than on the ground – even on the ground he had his challenges – as Gladiators, the Pirates ECHL affiliate, were on a four-game road trip over five days with stops in Elmira, Toledo and Chicago.
The team flew out of Chicago early Monday back to Georgia and as soon as the plane landed, Cheverie was practically back in the air bound for Portland as Justin Pogge suffered a lower-body injury and is currently listed as day-to-day.
“It was a quick turnaround from Chicago, and it was a tough road trip because the hotel in (Chicago) caught on fire,” said Cheverie. “It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but I know what I signed up for.”
Curtis McElhinney got the start for the Pirates, but only last nine minutes into the game before head coach Ray Edwards made the switch as the Phantoms built a quick 2-0 lead.
“I didn’t like the way the game started so we had to change momentum somehow,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “Our guys really focused after that and we found a way to get the job done.”
Cheverie sympathized with McElhinney’s struggles.
“We’ve all been there,” Cheverie said. “He’s proven that he can play and win at the NHL level and he’s done it here at this level. I can sympathize because we’ve all been there. It’s just something you have to get through.”
The goals only came 38 seconds apart as Portland dug themselves into penalty trouble, giving the Phantoms back-to-back five-on-three’s.
Michael Stone went to the box for hooking, followed by Pirates’ captain Dean Arsene only four seconds later at 7:59 for a delay of game penalty.
Just 16 seconds later, the Phantoms struck when Ben Holmstrom beat McElhinney on the shortside, grabbing the 1-0 lead.With Adirondack still on the power play, Brett Hextall was called for slashing to give the Phantoms its second straight 5-on-3 for 38 seconds, but only 16 seconds was needed as Jason Akeson fired a bullet from the blueline, beating McElhinney with a rather soft goal between the legs at the 8:53 mark, adding to Adirondack’s lead, 2-0.
That ended the night for McElhinney as Cheverie came into the game.
“I thought both goals were goals he’d like to have back,” Edwards. “I didn’t like the way our bench was acting so I felt like I had to make a change to change the momentum in the game.”
With 3:59 to play in the first period, the lead was cut in half, 2-1, when Marc-Antoine Pouliot put the Pirates on the board, taking a feed from Tyler Eckford, spinning around and firing a shot from the slot over goalie Michael Leighton.
The goal ended Leighton’s shutout streak against the Pirates at 76:01 dating back to the Phantoms’ 3-0 win on Oct. 21.
“(Pirates’ assistant) Mike (Minard) had a nice plan to our guys,” said Edwards. “He watched a lot of video on (Leighton) and talked to our players about him. We were able to get four (goals) on him. We had a plan. We went hard to the net and we got second chances.”
The Pirates tied the game at 2-2 with a power play goal from defenseman Tyler Eckford at 12:38 of the second period.
Eckford took a pass from Pouliot in the slot, and snapped a shot from the left circle that beat Leighton on the inside post.
Arsene was whistled for his second delay of game penalty in the final minute of the second period, giving Adirondack a power play that carried over to the third period.
Just 26 seconds into the start of the period, Ryan Hollweg was handed a minor penalty for charging, giving the Phantoms another five-on-three – their third of the game.
In the past, the Pirates might have found a way to fold, but instead they killed off the two-man advantage and scored less than a couple minutes later to take their first lead of the game.
At 5:57, Mathieu Beaudoin worked the puck down low behind the net, finding Andy Miele in the slot, who flipped the puck over Leighton to give Portland a 3-2 lead.
“We’re trying to stay positive in those situations and stay positive with how the year has gone. We’re trying to keep working and tonight I thought we were persistent and very resilient.”
The Pirates added an insurance goal with 7:01 to play in the game as Jordan Szwarz corralled a pass from Miele and ripped a shot in the slot by Leighton as the Pirates had their all the offense they’d need.
Cheverie was solid in net to earn his first AHL win of the season.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “The guys played great in front of me and made it really easy with the transition. Overall, it was a really good game for us.”
Adirondack went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Pirates finished the night 1-for-7 with the man advantage.
NOTES: Alexander Bolduc is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but is expected to begin skating in the next couple of weeks with a hope of a Christmas return date. Forward Brock Trotter is expected to be out for at least a month with as upper-body injury. Matt Watkins, who has been skating with the team, is still listed week-to-week with an upper-body injury.