Andy Miele and Brett MacLean each had two points as the Pirates defeated the Worcester Sharks, 4-2, before a sellout crowd of 6,759 on New Year’s Eve at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates have come out of the Christmas break strong by earning at least a point (2-0-1-1) in their last four games, taking six of a possible eight points.
“Overall, I’m really happy with the way we’ve played,” said Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “A week ago I wasn’t real happy, but the four games this week we’ve gotten back to playing the way we need to play with the effort and the attitude. I’m real excited with where we are heading.”
Because of injuries and players on recall to Phoenix, Edwards has been forced to shuffle his lineup with one move being to combine Miele, MacLean with Brock Trotter; the top-3 point produces for the Pirates this season.Miele, who was sent down by the Pirates’ NHL parent club, the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday, didn’t arrive until after the game had started in Adirondack and then bused back with the team, arriving in Portland around 4am Saturday morning.
“I wish I could have played,” said Miele about Friday night’s game in Adirondack. “Watching the game is not nearly as fun as playing in it. It was rough, which was why I was so excited to play tonight.”
The new line combination accounted for two of the first three goals as the Pirates built a 3-0 lead after the first period.
Brock Trotter opened the scoring for the Pirates, while skating backwards toward the goal line, he put a nifty backhander underneath the crossbar less than four minutes to game. MacLean and Miele each earned assist on goal.
At 5:17, the Pirates made it 2-0 when Ryan Duncan sent the puck out to the slot where defenseman Michael Stone ripped a shot by Sharks goalie Tyson Sexsmith for his third goal of the season.
With 2:35 to play in the period, the Pirates extended its lead to 3-0 when Taylor Doherty hauled down Miele, who broke past the Sharks’ defense for a breakaway, and crashed into Sexsmith, knocking the puck free into the net.
Worcester got on the board in the second period after Tommy Wingels, the leading goal-scorer for the Sharks, spun around in the slot and snapped a shot by Pirates’ goalie Justin Pogge, after picking up the initial shot from the point by John McCarthy for the power-play goal at 4:18 of the second period.
“The first thirty minutes of the game we pushed them exactly where we wanted it,” said Edwards. “We give them a little bit of life, but when you’ve played a lot of hockey and you get (a lead) in a game, it’s natural to sit back a little, but we managed the game pretty well.”
Pirates forward Ryan Duncan made it 4-1 with blast from between the hash marks at 11:27 of the second period.
The Sharks outshot the Pirates in third period, 12-4, scoring the only goal of the period as Jack Combs grabbed the puck in the right circle and spun around, snapping a shot past Pogge with 13:29 remaining in the game.
Pogge, appearing in his fourth straight game, stopped 33-of-35 shots in the win, while Sexsmith finished with 21 saves.
“We’ve come together a little bit more as a team,” said Stone. “Things didn’t go the way we wanted it too before Christmas. We’ve been a little more focused and have really come together. We come into the rink now expecting to win.”
NOTES: Portland is currently missing nine regulars out of the line because of either injury or currently with the Coyotes. Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Patrick O’Sullivan, Kyle Chipchura and Curtis McElhinney are in the NHL with Phoenix, while Colin Long (concussion), Mathieu Beaudoin (hand), Steven Bennett (wrist) and Alex Bolduc (shoulder) are out due to injury. Mathieu Brodeur and Nick Ross were the lone healthy scratches.