Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates fall in season opener in Providence

It’s a good thing for the Portland Pirates that first impressions don’t count for much on the road.

Three times the Providence Bruins were on the power play, and three times they scored en route to a 6-4 victory over the Pirates in their season opener Sunday afternoon before 5,704 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Pirates, who are entering their first year of a new four-year affiliation agreement, were the last team to start its AHL season.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to get on the scoreboard. Only seven seconds to be exact. On the opening faceoff, both Pirates’ defensemen pinched on the play allowing Alexander Khokhlchev to break free in the offensive zone for the Bruins, dishing the puck to Frank Vatrano to cap off a two-on-zero.

The goal set a new Pirates record for the fastest goal allowed in franchise history. The previous record was 15 seconds set back on Oct. 8, 2000, against Syracuse at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“The opening faceoff wasn’t exactly what we drew up,” said Pirates’ coach Tom Rowe. “It was a play I wanted to run. We’ve done it in the past so we got off to a bad start there, but shouldn’t have matter. We should have been able to come back from that.”

With 1:12 left in the first period, Vatrano, who ended the game with four goals, struck again by putting the rebound past Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna while the Bruins were on their first power play of the game.

“He’s a good player,” said Rowe. He scored the other night and had a couple of good games. It’s only one player though and we should have been able to shut him down.”

It looked like the Pirates put a slow first period behind them by dominating the second period. At one point, Portland outshot Providence, 11-1, through the first 11 minutes of the period.

Kyle Rau put the Pirates on the board at the 9:44 mark of the second period, picking up Sena Acalotse’s initial shot in the slot, beating rookie Bruins’ netminder Zane McIntyre.

At 15:55, Acolatse tallied his second point with his first goal of the season to pull the Pirates even, 2-2, but only 39 seconds later Austin Czarnik tipped Chris Casto’s point shot, redirecting it by McKenna to put the Bruins back in front by a goal.

The 3-2 lead didn’t last long. Rob Schremp, who signed an AHL contract with the Pirates last week, fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle by McIntyre with 2:40 left in the second period.

“I thought the second period was exactly how we can play,” Rowe said. It’s only the first game. We’ll learn from it and fix the issues that we need to fix. We’ll focus on the second period, and that’s the way we should play the game and that’s what they are capable of playing.”

Providence added two goals in the first five minutes of the third period to take a 5-3 lead.

Ben Youds scored the Bruins second power play goal of the game at 2:41 of the period followed Vatrano, who completed the hat trick with an unassisted goal at the 4:59 mark.

“Their power play was clicking,” Rowe said. They had one game under their belt, so they were probably more comfortable. Some of our guys were trying to find their game legs. We weren’t nervous. We just didn’t have our timing.”

Rob Flick, who spent three seasons with the Bruins, pulled Portland back within a goal at 11:57 of the third period after connecting on a dazzling behind-the-back pass from Schremp for a one-timer that beat McIntyre under the crossbar.

With 1:41 left in the game, and Acolatse in the box for tripping, Vatrano capped off the scoring for the Bruins with the team’s third power play goal and his fourth goal of the game to restore the two-goal lead.

McKenna finished with 18 saves on 24 shots while McIntyre stopped 27 shots.

“We have guys that can score,” said Rowe. We have a good team. It’s a long season. You want to come out of the gate quickly. We didn’t. We’ll take this week to get ready to open up at home against Hershey.”

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