The Pirates squeezed out a passing grade as they earned a 2-1 shootout victory over the Varsity Reds Thursday afternoon at Portland Ice Arena.
Jordan Szwarz, in his second professional season in the AHL, led the way by scoring for the Pirates in regulation, and later added the game-winning goal in the shootout.
Szwarz also wore the “C” for the Pirates, while Chris Summers and Alexandre Bolduc were assistant captains in the contest.
“He had a really good summer,” said Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards. “His back and shoulder are in good shape and he’s come into camp with a fresh mind. We’re going to look to Jordan for a lot this season. He’s always been a good player defensively, but I think he can do more than that. He’s a guy we’re going to lean on to be a leader. He’s also been a player that does things by action and leads by example.”
UNB has been a perennial powerhouse in Canadian University hockey, winning the last two AUS championships, and they looked the part for 65 minutes, keeping pace with the Pirates.
Unlike the NCAA where players must maintain amateur status, players in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sports) can have played major junior or professional hockey. UNB have several players on its roster that have played in either the American Hockey League or ECHL, including former Lewiston Maineiacs defenseman Chad Denny.
“That’s one of the aspects of CIS hockey that isn’t appreciated as much,” said defenseman Mark Louis, who played four seasons with UNB rival St. Francis Xavier University. “There are a lot of pro players playing hockey in Canadian colleges and its growing more and more every year.”
The Pirates were provided with a good test by UNB as they kept the game scoreless for nearly two periods, but Szwarz broke through, scoring with 4:14 remaining in the second period, stuffing the puck past Varsity Reds’ goalie, and another former Maineiac, Travis Fullerton.
“It was a nice measuring stick for us,” said Louis. “It was our first game. I thought guys worked hard on both sides of the puck. UNB came to work. They played a hard game and they have such a good group of players and it showed.”
UNB tied the game at 8:01 of the third period as Cam Breas cut through the crease area, lifting a backhander over Pirates’ goalie Mike Lee, who shared duties with starting goalie Mark Visentin.
After a five minute overtime period, the game went to a shootout where UNB scored first on a goal by Braes.
Jordan Martinook, the fifth and final shooter for the Pirates, beat Fullerton past the right post to send the shootout to sudden death. UNB’s Bryce Swan, a second round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2006, was stopped by Lee.
Szwarz ripped a shot under the crossbar past Fullerton to seal win for Portland.
Although the game gave locals a scare, the Pirates coaching staff knew going into this game it was more a game of evaluation and testing player’s progression than trying to trounce UNB by double digits.
“They’re a hard working team,” said Edwards. “I thought our guys handled it well. It took them about 10 minutes to get into the game. We had a good second period and in the third period they came at us. It was a good game for both teams because gives them a sense of where their team is at and it helps us with some of our younger guys to see where they are at.”
The Pirates will skate Friday morning before making potential more roster cuts before Sunday’s exhibition game at Portland Ice Arena against the Manchester Monarchs.
NOTES: Coyotes’ General Manager Don Maloney was in Portland along with the majority of the coach staff for Thursday’s game. Head Coach Dave Tippett traveled back to Phoenix on Wednesday, while assistant coach Jim Playfair arrived on Thursday.