Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates have Bruins facing elimination.

Portland, ME – Who would have thought the Pirates would ever be in the position to clinch this playoff series after losing the first two games the way they did in Providence.

The players did….

In what was perhaps their best game of the season, the Pirates defeated the P-Bruins, 3-2, for the third straight game at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The series now shifts to Providence on Friday night, where the Pirates have an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons.

“We played solid hockey the last couple of games, but I thought tonight this was our best 60 minutes we put out there,” said Joe Callahan, who scored the tying goal in the second period. “We came out strong right off the bat; we knew (Providence) was going to come with a lot tonight. We’ve taken two in a row from them and they came out strong, but we matched it.”

At 8:45 of the second period, Providence opened scoring when they Petteri Nokelainen scored his fourth of the playoffs off a deflection in front of the crease.

The Pirates bounced back a little over two minutes later when Callahan fired a blast from the top of the right circle, beating Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, tying the game at one goal apiece.

“We went down 1-0, but something we’ve worked on was how to handle those deficits and respond,” Callahan said. “I thought we did really well with that tonight. The (Providence) goal did nothing to us, we came right back on the next shift and we’ve been like that all night.”

Really, from the start of the game, Portland was able to match the Bruins tempo and really dictate the play for long stretches of time especially in the first period and third periods. Providence once again outshot the Portland, which is something the Bruins have been able to do all series. They led the league in shots taken, but to the Pirates credit, they kept the scoring chances down and the chances the Bruins did have, Pirates netminder J.S. Aubin stopped.

Momentum is a hockey team’s best friend or worst enemy, which could be the case for the Bruins.

After winning games one and two by a combined score of 11-1, they looked to be cruise control in the series, but due to scheduling conflicts, the series would go on hiatus for a week, effectively killing any momentum the Bruins had coming into Portland.

In the eyes of the Pirates, the series never started until they played a game in Portland, now they’ve played three and can move on with a win in Providence.

“We’ve been such a great home team all year,” said Callahan. “The coaching staff stressed to us that the series doesn’t start until we got back to our own home rink. We couldn’t really pinpoint why we weren’t on our game down there in Providence, no excuses, but we had a nice week to regroup.”

However, the Bruins still had a chance to win game three, but with :57 left Bobby Ryan was able to get the tying goal to send the game to OT where Brendan Mikkelson netted the OT winner.

“It comes from within the room,” he said referring to pressure. “When they’ve scored 11 goals to our one in games one and two, it’s hard not to let that creep into your head, but we knew with those four days off what we were going to bring for games three and four and we did exactly that. Maybe the pressure is on them a little bit, but it doesn’t necessarily off of us… when you still look at it as a three game series, we only have one game at home.”

Ryan, who leads the Pirates in scoring, scored a goal and an assist in game five, but more importantly, he has really come into his own over the course of this series. It’s not something that’s been lost on management and the Pirates coaching staff.

“Big player’s play big games for us,” said Pirates’ coach Kevin Dineen. “What I’ve said about Bobby all year long is every time he’s made an appearance in Maine, he’s come down full of enthusiasm, full of sincere care for his team and guys read off of that. Now he’s not doing much talking, he’s doing with it his play and that’s all you can ask out of a guy.

“Go out and give that kind of determined effort. He’s got such wonderful skill, but if you watch video and watch what he’s done, he’s done is he’s won a lot of battles. He’s getting those pucks on the board and going to the dirty places, which is what you need all your players to be doing at this time of year. When your most talented player does that, people follow.

For all the naysayer’s, people are following the Pirates now….

NOTES: The AHL’s Board of Governors held their annual Spring Meeting in Chicago, and unanimously granted approval of the transfer of controlling interest in the Rochester Americans franchise to Arrow Express Sports.

Arrow Express Sports is owned by Curt Styres, a businessman from Ohsweken, Ont.

It’s been suggested the Amerks, second-oldest team in the AHL, has been under financial stress for much of this season and hasn’t been able to pay all their bills. Former owner Steve Donner will retain a 40% share of the team, but his role with the team hasn’t been determined by Styres.


The AHL has also approved the Edmonton Oilers request to remain dormant for one more season. Which means the league will operate with 29 franchises, meaning one NHL team will again have to share an affiliation with another NHL team. In recent weeks, the Dallas Stars and Iowa Stars have announced they will split, with Dallas looking elsewhere to place their prospects. It’s long been rumored they would purchase the Edmonton franchise with the intent of moving it to Austin, TX in time for the 2009-10 season, but with the announcement they were leaving Iowa, it had been speculated they may purchase the franchise early and move it to Reunion Arena in Dallas until construction on the new facility in Austin was complete.

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