Maine Hockey Journal

Connecticut leave Pirates heartbroken

Portland, ME – In a rare loss on home ice, the Portland Pirates let a prime opportunity to put space between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division get away.

Chad Kolarik scored a pair of goals in the second period for the Connecticut Whale as they prevailed 4-3 over the Pirates before a crowd of 5,709 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night.

The Pirates, back on the ice for the first time in seven days after the all-star break, entered the night with a league best .792 win percentage at home (17-3-3-1) after finishing the month January with a 7-1 record.

Mark Mancari gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead when he opened the scoring at the 9:12 mark of the first period with the team’s ninth shorthanded goal of the season.

Both Whale defenders mishandled a pass at the point, springing Mancari loose on a breakaway where he beat Connecticut goalie Dov Grumet-Morris between the legs with a quick wrister.

In the second period, just a second after the Pirates finished killing off a penalty, Tomas Kundratek fired a slap shot from the right point, beating Pirates’ netminder Jhonas Enroth at the 5:22 mark of the period to tie the game at 1-1.

At 6:51, the Pirates regained the lead, 2-1, on a play setup by Dennis McCauley dishing a pass from behind the net out front to Justin Bowers as he ripped a snap shot by an unsuspecting Grumet-Morris.

Kolarik finished off the rash of quick goals in the span of 2:25, taking a rebound left in the slot and firing a shot under the crossbar past Enroth to tie the game at two goals apiece at 7:47.

“I didn’t think we were very rusty in the beginning,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “We had a good tone to our game. We got caught up in a little bit of a back and forth game.”

The back and forth continued at 12:37 when Dennis McCauley recorded his second point of the game after a hard second effort by Pirates defenseman Nick Crawford led to Bowers taking a shot from the slot, leading to a rebound for McCauley into an open net, giving Portland another one goal lead, 3-2, in the game.

With 1:20 left in the game, Connecticut tied the game for a third time when Max Grachev slid a cross-ice pass across the front of the net to Kolarik where he redirected the puck over an out of position Enroth.

In the final period, Kris Newberry, who just returned from the New York Ranger where he spent the last eight games, scored his seventh goal of the season while on a power play just 2:40 in to the period, breaking a 3-3 tie.

“As the game wore on, their good players were really good. Ours were just average,” said Dineen.

“We play a certain style of hockey, and they have a high payroll-type team and they want to play a skill game. If we play that, and we have the ability to play that, it’s a toss-up.”

“We can play that way and get a chance or we can be a little bit harder to play against and improve our odds.”

Enroth finished the night with 25 saves to fall to 16-12-2-1 on the season. Dov Grumet-Morris, who has spent time with the Pirates including one game this season, made 22 saves for his first AHL victory of the year.

NOTES: The Pirates signed former Boston College defenseman Brian O’Hanley to a professional tryout agreement after the loss of Drew Schiestel for the year due to a knee injury.

O’Hanley, a teammate of former Pirate Nathan Gerbe, spent four years with the Eagles, scoring six goals, 19 assists for 25 points. The 26-year old native of Quincy, MA made his AHL debut with the Rochester Americans earlier this season where he scored a goal in two games. At 5-11, 191-pounds, O’Hanley has been playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL where he has six goals, 20 assists in 43 games. In 195 career ECHL games, he’s tallied 13 goals, 54 assists for 67 points… Alex Biega will be out for a minimum of two weeks with a knee injury that according to Dineen happened last week against the Whale.

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