That’s the sound of the time left in the Portland Pirates season if they can’t find a way to stop throwing away important games.
The Pirates were in a prime position to put heat on teams directly in front of them for one of the last remaining playoff spots only to fall completely flat, losing 5-2 to the St. John’s IceCaps before 6,287 at Mile One Arena in St. John’s Newfoundland.
The loss left Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards stunned and embarrassed as they were outshot 48-33, including 36-18 in the first forty minutes of play as the IceCaps led, 5-1.
“I’m shocked to be honest,” he said. “I never thought we’d come out that poorly. We’d been playing so well lately and I thought we were ready. It felt like we were ready. We knew it was a big game. They were invested (into the game plan).”
The Pirates, who have earned points in four consecutive games, and in seven of their last eight, had an opportunity to pull within a point of the idle Syracuse Crunch and Manchester Monarchs, seventh and eighth place respectively in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
Instead, the Pirates are now facing the realm of being eliminated from the playoffs as their tragic number dropped to seven points.
Edwards said the team knows what’s at stake as they’ll face the very same team in less than 24 hours.
“We know where we are at, and we know that we’ve got to win tomorrow,” said Edwards. “The great thing is we get to play tomorrow. Our guys care. They’re embarrassed and they’re disappointed and as much as I am (disappointed and embarrassed). I know they are twice as disappointed and embarrassed.”
I really expect a response in tomorrow’s game. I’d be shocked if we didn’t get it.”
It didn’t take the IceCaps long to get on the board as they led 2-0 on goals by Aaron Gagnon and John Albert, both scoring on rebounds in the first 4:41 of the first period.
“We looked like we were doing the right things (in pregame meetings) and playing the parts, but when the puck dropped we stood around,” said Edwards. “We weren’t moving our feet and it looked like we had played 10 games in 10 days and was gassed. We had no energy.”
Marc-Antoine Pouliot pulled the Pirates to within a goal at 15:38, but the IceCaps weren’t fazed by any stretch of the imagination.
Former Maine defenseman Will O’Neill recorded his first professional goal, firing a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Pirates’ goaltender Peter Mannino just 1:45 in the second period, putting the IceCaps back up by two goals, 3-1. O’Neill finished the game with his first two professional points as he recorded an assist on the opening goal of the game.
Just 15 seconds later, Danny Dries nailed the Pirates’ hopes of winning the game shut by picking off an errant pass by Mannino behind the net and scoring St. John’s fourth goal of the game as they led, 4-1.
That ended the night for Mannino, stopping 17 of 21 shots, in his first game back in St. John’s since being loaned to the Pirates by the IceCaps parent club, the Winnipeg Jets.
Justin Pogge entered the game in relief, but it wasn’t much relief as St. John’s continued the pressure, scoring at the 6:51 mark of the second period on a goal Zach Redmond.
“It’s 4-1 at that point,” said Edwards on the goalie switch. “Maybe I should have done it when it was 1-0, but our team game wasn’t good enough early in the game. For 30 minutes, we weren’t quick enough. We didn’t play with any pace. We didn’t compete hard enough. We looked slow and tired and not very good.”
The Pirates were able regroup in the third period and scored the only goal of the period with a power-play goal by Brett Sterling less than five minutes in, cutting the lead to three goals, 5-2.
Pogge was busy the rest of the way as he finished the game with 26 saves on 27 shots in the no decision.
NOTES: Alden Hirschfield played his first game since being signed to an ATO by the Pirates over the weekend. Prior to joining the Pirates, Hirschfield played for the University of Miami (OH) where he was a teammate of rookie Andy Miele… Jordan Szwarz did not accompany the team on the trip to St. John’s as he is dealing with an upper-body injury.