Maine Hockey Journal

McKenna ice cold under pressure

Hartford, CT – It’s really starting to feel like the Pirates are turning a corner and beginning the process of catching the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, while building some separation between the lower seeds.

For much of the early part of the season, it was difficult to discern what type of team the Pirates would be. Would they be a high-skill team who could put up enough offense that if the defense faltered they could still get the victory? On the other hand, would this be a team that relied on their “D” to get the job done?

A bigger question was could the team’s netminder be counted to on to win games at crucial times.

I think those questions are beginning to answer themselves and all for the positive I might add. The Pirates have earned at least a point in their last six games, taking home 10 of a possible 12 points.

Mike McKenna stopped 16 shots on Monday to earn his first career AHL shutout, beating the Lowell Devils 3-0. On Wednesday, he kept his shootout streak alive as he went to 3-0, stopping five out of six shooters from the Hartford Wolf Pack. (McKenna has stopped 15 of 16 shooters in the shootout.)

Andrew Ebbett tallied two goals in the shootout, as the Pirates were able to grab a 3-2 win against the Wolf Pack at the XL Center on Wednesday night. The Pirates also nabbed the extra point, which is a big point in a division that is tightening up as the playoff races heat up.

Hartford was relentless in their forecheck all night against the Pirates and Portland knowing this going into the game tried to exploit Hartford when they could.

The Pirates first goal of the game came as a result of a turnover from Andrew Hutchinson and the Wolf Pack not having a secondary coverage to back him up. Petteri Wirtanen picked Hutchinson’s pocket and found Geoff Platt streaking down the right side wing. Wirtanen just flipped a quick little saucer pass to Platt, who wasted little time getting the shot off which beat Miika Wiikman to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

The Pirates second goal came when Matt Waddell and Michael Sauer collided into each other, which sent Platt in on a breakaway. He deked Wiikman so bad – that he still looking for a certain piece of male apparel – and lifted a shot over the top of the Finnish goalie for his second goal of the game, restoring the Pirates lead back to one goal.

The Wolf Pack fighting back, came back to tie the game twice in the second period. The first time was on the power play when Hugh Jessiman, at the left post, stuffed the shot by McKenna who tried to get back to the other side. If there was any downfall to the game, it was the officiating. In the first period, it was well done as there were only a couple whistles the whole period and both teams were allowed to play. However, in the second and third period Nygel Pelletier called both team extremely close and it burn Portland –not that they didn’t help the situation either. The Pirates had just killed off a 5-on-3 only to be called for another penalty as Andy Schneider headed to the box for slashing. It only took 20 seconds later for the Pack to tie the game.

With the Pirates up 2-1 and on a power play of their own, the period was about to come to a close when Hugh Jessiman stole the puck off Michal Birner’s stick and beat McKenna on a breakaway. Ebbett said it was the first time anybody in the locker room could remember McKenna giving up a breakaway goal.

In the third period, it was a very tense game as the Wolf Pack continued to apply the pressure. McKenna stopped 29 shots in the first 60 minutes and another five in the OT before stopping all but one-shot attempt by Greg Moore.

Look for McKenna to get the start again on Friday against the Senators as Dino made it perfectly clear that starting job for goalie is clearly open. I’d expect him to step away from is normal routine of rotating goalies, although he has done that so much lately and ride the goalie who is giving the effort and the wins.

Official Scoresheet:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply