The Pirates (32-29-3-5), who are 5-2-0-2 in their last nine games, won their second straight game as they now sit only a point behind the Manchester Monarchs, who were idle on Friday, with 72 points for the last playoff spot in AHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Adirondack Phantoms, who remain tied in points with the Pirates, completed a home-and-home series with the Syracuse Crunch, which went into overtime for the second straight game as the Phantoms came from behind to earn a 4-3 OT win. The standings from seventh to 11th place are only separated by three points.
“Our mindset doesn’t change,” said Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “We just have to worry about the next game and play as well as we can tomorrow night. We’ll evaluate where we are after that game and go from there.”
Worcester, who has lost six of their last nine games and has lost touch with the main playoff pack, struck first in the opening period as Brodie Reid scored the only goal midway into the period.
Mark Louis was called for hooking in the opening minute of the second period and the Sharks made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at the 1:02 mark as Matt Irwin’s shot deflected off Pirates’ goalie Peter Mannino, but only nine seconds later, Brett MacLean responded with a quick strike with a slap shot from the right circle between the legs of goalie Harri Sateri.
“We were cognitive of momentum swings,” said Edwards. “Regardless, whether it was good or bad, our focus was to manage the momentum of the game and I thought we did a good job with that.
A scary incident happened midway into the second period as Sharks’ defenseman Matt Pelech slammed rookie Andy Miele from behind into the boards. Edwards said the coaching staff will review the tape and make a decision on whether they will send it into the league to be reviewed for supplementary discipline.
Nathan Oystrick answered the bell defending his teammate, taking two minutes for roughing, while Pelech received two for roughing and two for boarding.
The Pirates responded, not with one goal, but two quick goals only 10 seconds apart to grab a 3-2 lead.
The first goal was a power-play goal as defenseman Tyler Eckford picked up the rebound, beating Sateri at the 15:51 mark of the second period.
At 16:01, Kenndal McArdle jumped on a loose puck shortly after the faceoff as Ashton Rome, who earned an assist on the play, took the initial shot from the left circle.
Rome has nine points (7g, 2a) in his last 11 games.
The Szwarz line with McArdle and Rome gave us a real boost tonight,” said Edwards. “Our younger players are really playing well for us right now. They are driving our group at the moment because we haven’t had Pouliot, Stone, Bolduc and those types of guys. It’s been the younger players that have stepped up and have had an impact on the game and the work ethic has been consistent.”
With 1:13 to play in the second period, the Sharks evened the game at three goals apiece as Sena Acolatse tipped Mike Moore’s shot for their second power-play goal of the game.
The Pirates outshot the Sharks, 27-12, over the last two periods of the game and took the lead for good with 5:13 to play in the game on a goal by Miele, who showed no ill effects from the hit by Pelech.
Miele was driving to the net as Ryan Duncan curled and simply threw it on goal where it was tipped past Sateri, putting the Pirates up 4-3.
Brett Sterling added an empty net goal with 15 seconds left in the game, giving the Pirates a 5-3 lead.
Mannino finished with 24 saves on the night.
“We didn’t necessarily like the start of our game, but I thought in the second and third period we played with much more purpose,” said Edwards. “We held them to five shots. I thought we frustrated them a little bit. (Miele’s) goal was huge for us.”
NOTES: The Pirates are unsure when newly signed forward Chris Brown will arrive in Portland. He has to finish up a class at Michigan and they will be en route to meet the team in Portland… The Pirates are potentially getting some help as Marc-Antoine Pouliot was placed on waivers and assigned to the Pirates. If he clears waivers, which is expected, he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night when the Pirates play Bridgeport.