Maine Hockey Journal

2.) Pirates set North American record

Portland, ME – It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, the Portland Pirates were sitting atop the sports world.

In a time when ESPN2 was in its infancy and the internet was beginning to boom, the Portland Pirates became a daily topic of news on SportsCenter and water cooler talk across North America.

For 42 days, the Pirates never lost a game, going an impressive 14-0-3, setting an unofficial record – unofficial because it’s a record not really kept – for the best start of a season in any North American hockey league. The record eclipsed the previous start of the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers – a team that won the Stanley Cup with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr – and AHL start held by the Rochester Americans.

The streak began at home on Oct. 10 against the Fredericton Canadiens with a 7-4 win, a game that has its share of penalties and fights. The next night it was those same Canadiens, and the result was similar, a 7-2 Pirates victory.

It didn’t end there as Portland would head to Worcester, Mass, taking on the expansion Ice Cats, handing them a 9-1 drubbing.

The Pirates, themselves were just in their early years. Only a second-year franchise, they had the title of defending Calder Cup Champions. It was a title they wore with honor on their sleeve.

“Anytime you start the next year (after a championship) you have that swagger inside you,” said Todd Nelson in a Press Herald interview. “And that’s what happened with that run. We were a very talented team and everything seemed to go our way.”

With the NHL embattled in a labor dispute, the Pirates were a team stack with future NHL players. Beginning with Andrew Brunette, Ken Klee, Sergei Gonchar Bryon Dafoe and Kevin Kaminski, they all played a part in the amazing run.

“I guess you could say it was pretty unbelievable,” said Kaminski, now coaching for the Mississippi River Kings of the CHL.

It wasn’t only winning streak that made headlines for the Pirates.

A young rookie goaltender named Jim Carey came out of the University of Wisconsin and amazed the hockey world with his play.

After playing in the season opener, goaltender Byron Dafoe was loaned to the Phoenix Roadrunners of the former International Hockey League to give both Dafoe and Carey ample playing time and Carey made the most of it, playing in the next 16 straight games. He would eventually end up in NHL with the Pirates parent club, the Washington Capitals, but during his time in Portland, he was simply unbeatable in a Pirates uniform – at least for 42 days.

The streak would take the Pirates across the AHL landscape playing in cities such as Providence, RI, Springfield, MA, Cornwall, Ont, Glens Falls, NY and Rochester, NY.

During that span, the Pirates outscored their opponents 86-39, but they’d also outslug them. If the other team wanted to fight, they’d meet them in the alley for a fight.

In their 13th game of the season, on Oct 29, the Pirates eclipsed the AHL record in Glens Falls, NY with a 4-3 win over the Adirondack Red Wings.

A week later, the Pirates beat the Providence Bruins, 4-2, setting the record. It was a game the Pirates had to overcome a 2-0 deficit while being shorthanded because of injuries.

As with all good things, they must come to an end, but the streak still lives on with many of the former Pirates.

The Pirates were at home against the PEI Senators in game televised nationally on ESPN2 and head coach Barry Trotz knew his team was in trouble before they even took to the ice.

“We had no emotion,” he said.

He was right as the Senators skated away with a 4-2 win, ending the streak. The Pirates actually held a shots advantage on PEI, 42-23 and hit four posts.

But, it just wasn’t their night.

The expectations were high that season for the Pirates, but unfortunately, they would be eliminated by the Bruins in the first round, losing a seven game battle, but after the bitterness of the loss wore off, many on that Pirates squad realized they had accomplished something very special.

It’s a bond that still holds them together today.

“We had a mentality,” said Trotz. “It didn’t matter who was in the lineup, we were going to win. That’s why we were able to survive and do so well.”

“It was special to be a Portland Pirate.”

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9.) Pirates look within to eliminate Bruins
8.) Pirates’ Brochu wows the crowd in Binghamton
7.) Pirates set a franchise record for the quickest two goals in a period
6.) Pirates put up a dozen on the Bruins
5.) Boback rolls a seven in Albany
4.) Pirates and Bears engage in epic battle
3.) Hulst and Kolzig put Pirates in the driver’s seat

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