The Pirates were victorious, 3-2, over the Whale as Ryan Duncan scored the go-ahead goal midway into the third period before 4,731, Saturday night, at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Off the ice, time will only tell how successful the Pirates will be in their quest to make the Calder Cup playoffs.
“If we do everything the right way, we can live with the consequences,” said Pirates’ General Manager Brad Treliving. “We have enough talent to make the playoffs. If we give an effort every game we’ll get what we deserve, if we don’t, we’ll get what we deserve. It pretty much that simple.”
The Pirates, who are three points behind the Manchester Monarchs for eighth and final playoff spot in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, put the finishing touches on a deal during the game that loaned forward Brock Trotter to the St. John’s IceCaps for forward Kenndal McArdle and goaltender Peter Mannino. Trotter, who was acquire in early October from the Hamilton Bulldogs for defenseman Garrett Stafford, was the Pirates’ leading scorer (14g, 24a) until recently when rookie Andy Miele surpassed him after missing six games due to an upper-body injury.
“It’s one of those deals,” said Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards. Brock has been out and (St. John’s) knows the situation with (his injury). It could be a week, two weeks, a month before we’d even get him back in the lineup and we can’t wait. We have to win games now.”McArdle, a first round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, appeared in 35 games with the IceCaps, scoring seven goals, five assists for 12 points with a plus-2 rating. The 5-11, 190-pound forward from Toronto, Ontario had a breakout season with the Rochester Americans last season, recording 14 goals, 12 assists for 26 points with 106 penalty minutes.
Mannino appeared in 10 games with the IceCaps where he went 4-5-0 with a 2.77GAA and .909 save percentage, recording one shutout.
“(Mannino) has had some success in the league, but he hasn’t been able to play much in St. John’s and we just felt we needed to have another goaltender to push,” said Edwards. “We don’t have a lot of grit, and McArdle is a harder player who has got some experience. He finishes every check and plays at a high level of intensity. We’ve got skill (in the lineup), but we need a little more toughness.”The Pirates completed a second deal just after the conclusion of the game that sent forward Patrick O’Sullivan to the Peoria Rivermen for highly-touted offensive forward Brett Sterling.
Sterling comes with a reputation of being a high-powered offensive player.
In 54 games with the Rivermen, he was second in team scoring with 22 goals, 26 assists for 48 points with a plus-7 rating.
The 5-8, 183-pound native from Los Angeles has 193 goals, 169 assists for 362 points in 371 AHL games with Chicago, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Peoria.
“We had a chance to improve the club in Portland,” said Treliving. “We’re creating competition in net, we’re creating competition for ice time and in the case of Sterling we are getting a player have is a 50-goal scorer, a skilled player and a player that loves to compete and chase the puck.”
“We want to win and hopefully this is a start to us righting the ship.”
O’Sullivan, who made it public on more than one occasion to the media that he had no desire to play in Portland, will get a fresh start with a new organization for the next several weeks. He received word of the deal after the Pirates victory against the Whale, in which he finished his final game in a Pirates uniform with a goal and an assist.
O’Sullivan’s goal opened the scoring for the Pirates early in the second period after taking a feed from Marc-Andre Pouliot, streaking in alone and snapping a shot by Whale goalie Chad Johnson. Mark Louis was credited with the second assist on the play.
The Whale scored twice in a 25 second span to take a 2-1 lead after forty minutes of play.
Connecticut defenseman Wade Redden racing down the left side of the ice and ripped a laser from outside the left circle, beating Pirates netminder Justin Pogge at the 12:19 of the second period.
At 12:44, the Whale took the lead, 2-1, as Casey Wellman beat Pogge from down low by tipping a shot past the netminder.
“I thought Pogge made some big saves in the first period, said Edwards. “On the nine shots, (Connecticut) had four scoring chances in the first that he was big on which we needed. That gave us some life. Obviously, I didn’t like the first goal, but he responded after it and made big saves for us down the stretch, which we’ve got to have. The second goal was a breakdown. We left him out to dry. We lost our coverage and left the net wide open. We asked for better goaltending and we got it tonight.”
Pogge stood tall from that point on, despite several freelance moments, stopping the puck as he finished with the night with 26 saves.
In the third period, the Pirates evened the game, 2-2, when Nathan Oystrick caught a piece of O’Sullivan’s slap shot from the left point, tipping it by Johnson at the 6:29 mark of the period.
A little over four minutes later, Andy Miele dished the puck to Ryan Duncan, who beat Johnson with a forehand-backhand deke, sliding the puck into an empty net and putting the Pirates back out front, 3-2.
“I think we’re in playoff mode, for sure,” said Pirates forward Ryan Duncan. “We’re right in the thick of things and we can’t afford to give up any points. I think the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff and everyone in the organization; we’re not giving up, even though we’re on the outside looking in. I think we have a lot of belief in the guys in the locker room. We’ve got a good team here, guys with a lot of experience, and up to this point we’ve kind of underachieved.”
The deadline for AHL teams to declare their Clear Day 22-man roster is Monday at 3pm. McArdle, Sterling and Mannino are expected in Portland for Sunday’s contest against the Worcester Sharks.
NOTES: Pirates defenseman Max Goncharov returned to the lineup after dealing with an upper-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for nearly a month, missing 11 games.…. The Phoenix Coyotes announced on Friday that they’ve signed forward Brendan Shinnimin to a three-year entry-level contract. In 60 games with Tri-City (WHL) this season, Shinnimin has 52 goals, 65 assists for 117 points and currently leads the WHL in scoring. The dynamic player had an impressive February, recording 43 points in 14 games, including a 10-game goal streak and 11 multi-point games. In 258 regular season games with the Americans, Shinnimin has recorded 125 goals, 195 assists for 316 points. The Coyotes had Shinnimin in Coyotes camp last season and really liked him enough to consider offering him an AHL contract to start the year in Portland, but Treliving has no complaint about him going back to juniors for his overage season…The Pirates have inducted Brad Church in the Pirates Hall of Fame after a fan vote. Church, who is currently the General Manager for the Portland Jr. Pirates – a Tier III junior franchise – played six seasons with the Pirates where he recorded 40 goals, 64 assists in 281 games. Church, who was drafted in the first round (#17 overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, totaled 402 career penalty minutes which ranked ninth overall in Pirates history. Church will be officially inducted on March 10 when the Manchester Monarchs come to town.