Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates take down top team in AHL

A four-goal outburst in the second period by the Portland Pirates propelled them over the top team in the AHL, Rochester Americans, by a 6-3 margin before a less than stellar crowd (4,685) at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY on Thursday night.

The Amerks, currently with a 12-1-1 record, were going for their 12th consecutive victory of the season, which would have set a franchise record for the longest win streak, a franchise that has existed in the AHL for the last 54 years.

While the record would have been nice, nothing is for certain, as the Pirates can point to based on last season, when they started the year 12-1-1, only to finish with a record that barely made the playoffs.

This was the first meeting between these two teams since 2001, and the first since Buffalo ended their 29-year affiliation with Rochester prior to last year when they moved to Portland.

Portland opened the scoring at 17:24 of the first period with a power play goal by Mark Mancari, who blasted a shot by Alexander Salak, but it was short-lived as Rochester bounced back to score a pair of goals in the final 2:30 of the period.

“They’ve (special teams) been an issue for us,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. “Certainly getting one right off the bat … gives you a little confidence. Even though we didn’t get another power-play goal, I liked the flow of our power play.”

“I thought our penalty killing we had a little breakdown. It ended up in our net, and it’s been a real stickler for us. It’s something that we have to continue to work on.”

Just 17 seconds after, Mancari’s goal, Jeff Taffe snapped a shot into the top-left corner of the net, beating Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth, tying the game at 1-1.

Enroth, who re-assigned to the Pirates by Buffalo earlier in the day and is expected to make the trip back to Portland as Sabres’ backup goalie Patrick Lalime is skating full-time in practice, wasn’t cut much slack as Jamie Johnson tipped Jason Garrison’s shot into the net with 27 seconds left on the clock as Rochester grabbed a 2-1 lead after the first period of play.

In the second period, Portland’s offense finally came alive, scoring four goals in the period.

“Our guys recognize not only that we can compete, but how we have to compete … that we have to play as hard as we did tonight to have any kind of success,” said Dineen.

At 4:43, Paul Byron scored a shorthanded goal when he skated around the net, picking up the rebound from Cody McCormick and slipping the puck by Salak to tie the game at 2-2.

It was Portland’s first shorthanded goal of the season.

At 12:56, the Pirates regained the lead, a lead they previously only held for 17 seconds, as Philip Gogulla continues to get comfortable with the North American game, scoring his third goal of the season. In his last 10 games, including tonight, he’s scored nine points (3g, 6a).

Less than a minute later, the Pirates made it 4-2 when Derek Whitmore scored from a tight angle at 13:47 of the second period.

Whitmore’s goal ended the night for Salak, who allowed four goals on 14 shots, in favor of Chris Beckford-Tseu.

Cody McCormick scored with 3.5 seconds left in the period after Keaton Ellerby fell down with the puck, allowing McCormick to skate untouched, slipping the puck by Beckford-Tseu as Portland held on to a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.

In the third period, Chris Taylor scored a power play goal, pulling the Amerks back to within two goals at 12:21 before Kyle Wanvig iced the game with an empty-net goal with 1:17 left in the game.

Enroth made 23 saves in the win, while Salak took the loss for the Amerks.

“Anytime Jhonas gets exposed to (Sabres’ goalie coach) Jim Corsi and gets to work on his technique, instruction, I think those are good things,” said Dineen.

NOTES: The Pirates are still without Felix Schutz (shoulder), Nathan Gerbe (concussion), Marc-Andre Gragnani (right leg) and Brad Larsen (fractured right foot), who are dealing with injuries. Justin Donati, who was signed to PTO yesterday, didn’t play as Paul Byron returned to the lineup after a one game absence.

(Bill Hoppe contributed to this report)

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