The victory by Portland eliminated Springfield, Worcester, and Albany from playoff contention as they now have sole possession of eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 79 points, two points ahead of the Manchester Monarchs, who were idle on Wednesday.
Adirondack, who currently sit in 10th place in the conference, needs to essentially sweep the weekend as their elimination number falls to four points.
The Pirates have played consistently well over the last month and a half to put themselves back into playoff contention. During that span, the Pirates have earned a point in 10 of 13 games and have taken 17 of a possible 26 points.
“It’s been our best stretch of the year,” said Edwards. “They’re playing with some confidence and they’re all buying into what we need to do.”
“Our guys have been really good staying in the moment. It’s a big reason why we’ve been able to get points the last 12, 13 games. We managed to start earning points and muck our way back into the playoff race.”
The Pirates have two games left in their regular season with a game at home on Friday against the Hershey Bears, and Sunday afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island. The Monarchs have three games remaining in their regular season with games at Connecticut and home against Hershey and St. John’s.
The Pirates have taken 12 of 16 points (5-1-1-1) against the Whale this season, including winning all four games at the Civic Center this season.
It was a slow start for the Pirates, who were held without a shot for the first six minutes of the game, but they made their second shot count as Ashton Rome, in the slot, tipped Nathan Oystrick’s blast from the left point at 6:36 of the first period.
The Pirates extended the lead to 2-0 midway into the second period.Portland skating with a two-man advantage for a full two minutes took advantage as Marc-Antoine Pouliot scored his 11th goal of the season, his fourth goal (4g, 2a) in as many games, snapping a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Whale goalie Cam Talbot.
“We looked tentative at times,” said Edwards. “We finally put ourselves in a position where we have a real opportunity (to make the playoffs) and there was some pressure (on the players). We were tense. It wasn’t a well-executed game, but I liked how we hung in there, the power play got a big goal, the penalty kill did a nice job and (Mannino) was good for us. We found a way to win. We’ll move past this game and get ready for Friday.
With 2:39 left in the game, the Whale finally got on the board, snapping the shutout bid of Pirates’ goalie Peter Mannino (34 saves) as Marek Hrivik scored his first professional goal.
“Individual stats like shutouts come and go, but the most important thing is getting the win,” said Mannino. “I could really care less about the shutout right now. I’m just really happy we got the win and we’re in the picture to make the playoffs.”
NOTES: Coyotes’ prospect Chris Brown finally arrived in Portland after the being assigned by the Phoenix on Wednesday. Brown had to wrap up classes at the University of Michigan before traveling east. The 21-year-old, who was drafted in the second round (#36 overall) of the 2009 NHL draft, recently finished his junior year with the Wolverines, scoring a career-high 29 points (12g, 17a) in 38 games.