Maine Hockey Journal

Live Game Blog 02/08/09 — Portland @ Hershey

Hershey, PA — Who doesn’t love a little chocolate, especially with valentine’s day just around the corner. As much as the Hershey loves their chocolate, they love their Bears even more. This is one of the best, if not the best AHL arena in the league. It’s a first-class operation all the way around. The team leads the league in attendance and they have a pretty good team on the ice as well. This will be a good test for Portland, taking on the top team in the AHL. What’s pretty neat is when you drive to the arena and you can smell the chocolate in town. It’s really breathe-taking for a moment.

The Pirates will only have five defensemen today as Cliff Loya will be out for a while with a leg injury… I’ll have more on that after the game. Up front, it should be close to what they skated with last night. Dylan Hunter is the wildcard at the moment. Felix Schutz is also under the weather, but he dressed last night and didn’t see any action.

In goal, it’s a good chance we may see John DeCaro get a start in order to keep Enroth fresh for Tuesday’s game in Buffalo.

Again, Dineen has shuffled the lines as they will skate with 18 skaters for today’s game.

Gerbe-Kennedy-Darche; Mancari-Zagrapan-Slattengren; Fretter-Schutz-Bouck; Hunter-Whitmore-Rank are the line up front. On the back, Dineen had Gragnani-Macdonald; Kostka-MacAuley and Tarkir is the fifth defenseman. We may see Mancari take a few shifts on the blueline.

Scratches for Portland is Loya (leg), Baier (jaw),Murphy (concussion), Dennis (hip) and Funk (concussion).

5:05pm — The key for Portland tonight is going to be the Pirates’ defense. The Bears have tried to catch the Pirates off-guard with a couple long ice passes. If the Pirates get caught pinching, it will be more than one breakaway chance for Hershey and with Giroux, Aucoin and Gordon, that may make for a long night.

5:07pm — As I was saying… Kostka takes a tripping penalty as he stopped Bourque on a rush down the wing.

5:09pm — Bears lead 1-0 on a pretty goal by the former Pirate Graham Mink. Keith Aucoin fed a pass to Mink in the crease, who tipped the shot over DeCaro. So far, this shows the deficiency in the Pirates lineup on defense.

5:13pm — The Pirates had a good chance to tie it with a 4-on-1, but Gragnani couldn’t handle the pass from Bouck as the puck rolled off his stick in front of Neurvirth.

5:15pm — Derek Whitmore tied the game at 1-1 for the Pirates. Dylan Hunter fired a shot on Neurvirth from the left face off circle, but Whitmore crashed the net, batting the rebound for the goal at 6:50 of the first period.

5:24pm — Hershey gains a 2-1 lead as Quintin Laing scored, taking the shot from the low slot area, beating DeCaro over his glove… For those who heard on the radio broadcast Thomas Vanek is going to be out for three-to-four weeks with fractured jaw. It’s possible somebody will be staying in Buffalo after Tuesday’s game.

5:33pm — The Pirates find themselves down a man again as Slattengren heads off for boarding. The Bears are 1-for-1 so far in the game on the PP.

5:35pm — It’s hard to believe that Alexander Giroux is still in the AHL. How this guy isn’t in the NHL full-time is beyond me. He leads the league in goals (36) and is second in AHL scoring.

5:38pm — It’s a tied game, again, as Nathan Gerbe out-skated Dean Arsene, shooting a backhand on Neuvirth, but he couldn’t stop Aaron Slattengren, who was following the play, slamming the puck into the net with 2:40 left in the game. Some in the pressbox are wondering if the goal should count because of the scoreboard malfunction. With 6:36 left in the game, the scoreboard stopped working for several minutes. When it was fixed, only 1:30 was taken off the clock so the question has to be asked. Was the period over?

5:46pm — You should check out the Pirates radio broadcast during the first intermission as Ryan Messick will have an interview with Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen’s father Bill Dineen. It’s a great interview as he talks about the game today and some of his past experiences as a head coach and player in Adirondack.

Shots are 13-12 in favor of Portland.

6:05pm — Mathieu Darche and Gerbe have found a certain chemistry together as they’ve had several good chances.

6:11pm — The Pirates have their first lead of the game. With the extra attacker on the ice for a delayed call against Hershey, Mike Kostka let a bullet go from the point. It didn’t look like Neuvirth was screened, but he might have had a little traffic in front. Pirates lead 3-2.

6:14pm — The Pirates could have made it 3-1, but Gerbe missed an open net as Portland skated with a three-on-one. At the other end of the ice, Felix Schutz is whistled for tripping with 10:41 left in the second period.

6:20pm — Tyler Sloan is in the box for tripping, giving the Pirates a power play. Gerbe just rang the puck off the post as Neuvirth didn’t see the shot.

6:29pm — Second period is in the books in Hershey. Shots are 24-22 in favor of the Bears. It’s a question that has to be asked. Can the Pirates hold on to the lead or will they lose it for the third straight game in the final period.

6:51pm — The Pirates aren’t backing off…. This will not work as the Pirates should know by now. They are sitting four guys back on the blueline. They took the lead by pressing the Bears, they need to keep pressing.

7:00pm — Portland had a couple of chances to add a goal in the period. Gerbe fed the perfect pass to Kennedy, but the composite exploded on the one-timer, not getting a very good shot on net. Darche, Kennedy and Gerbe are just buzzing tonight. They’ve been the best player’s on the ice.

7:05pm — The Pirates friend was the official’s whistle. The Bears thought they scored, but the referee blew whistle stopping the play.

7:09pm — It’s a very precarious position for the Pirates… It’s an eerie feeling for the Pirates that the Bears are close to goal.

7:12pm — There is 5:25 left in the game with the Pirates holding — I mean holding — on to the lead. DeCaro has made several very good save in close including stonewalling Jay Beagle in the slot.

7:18pm — 45 seconds left in the game… Fretter just missed the open net as icing was called.

The Pirates hold on to win, 3-2, beating the best team in the AHL, the Hershey Bears. The guys were pretty happy for DeCaro as well as themselves as they played well against the Bears.

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