Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates keep on rolling with sixth straight win

(PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

(PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

The Portland Pirates came off the Christmas break without missing a beat as Shane Harper recorded a goal and two assists in a 5-1 victory over the Springfield Falcons Sunday afternoon before 2,803 at the MassMutual Center.

“We took a little chance of giving the extra day off before today’s game but we thought the rest would do them well, and it showed,” said Pirates head coach Tom Rowe. “To come in after being off the ice for four days with Christmas just finishing up and everyone home with their families, you have to give the guys all the credit.”

The Pirates (16-11-1-0) extend their winning streak to a season-high six games and have won (9-1-1) nine of their last 11 games.

Portland led 1-0 after Wade Megan scored the only goal of the first period.

Shane Harper stepped out of the penalty box after serving an interference penalty for Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna and dished the puck to Megan, who split a pair of Falcons’ defenders and snapped a quick shot over the glove of Niklas Treutle from the slot with 4:46 left in the period.

The Pirates extended the lead, 3-0, with a pair of goals scored by Jonathan Racine and John McFarland only 39 seconds apart in the second period.

Brett Olsen slid a pass to Wayne Simpson on an odd-man rush for a shot on goal that was stopped by Treutle, but Racine was trailing the play and picked up the loose puck at the top of the crease, chipping it into the net at the 5:52 mark of the period.

It was Racine’s first professional goal in 156 AHL games played with the Florida Panthers’ minor league affiliate.

“First and foremost, he’s a such a good guy,” said Rowe. “The way that he shows up to the rink every day for practice and games. He’s all business all the time. His teammates love him and to finally see him score a goal was tremendous.”

McFarland scored his ninth of the season a short time later after Rob Schremp faked a slap shot, passed to McFarland, who snapped a shot from the slot past Treutle.

With 3:11 to play in the second period, the Pirates made it 4-0 when Harper ripped a shot from the point, beating the Falcons’ netminder under the crossbar.

Harper, who scored 32 goals last season for the Chicago Wolves, only has three goals this season but is second in team scoring with 20 points.

“I know (Harper) was frustrated he wasn’t scoring more goals,” said Rowe. I kept reminding him that he’s doing everything for us offensively and defensively. He’s doing so many good things when he has the puck.”

The Falcons would get on the board at the 5:24 mark with a bouncing puck that trickled past the goal line at the far post. Craig Cunningham would get credit for the goal.

McKenna stopped 35 of 36 shots for the victory. McKenna, who was named Player of the Week in the American Hockey League last week, improves to 6-0-1 with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage for the month of December.

“It’s the reason he was the MVP in Portland last season because of the way he played, and a big reason Portland even made the playoffs was due to Mike,” said Rowe. “That’s what we signed him. We wanted to have him with us and not against us.”

Portland regained the four-goal margin at the 11:20 mark of the third period as Kyle Rau scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season on a give-and-go with Harper off the faceoff. Rau parked in front of the net, connected on Harper’s quick pass from behind the net, tapping it between the legs of Treutle.

“We played a really good game,” said Rowe. “We ask the guys to mentally and physically prepare themselves knowing there could be stretches that weren’t going to be good (coming off the Christmas break), but the stretches that were good far outweighed the ones that weren’t so good.”

NOTES: Pirates forward Rocco Grimaldi was a healthy scratch due to travel issues that prevented him from meeting the team in Springfield. The Pirates were also without Tony Turgeon, who was out with the flu. As a result, the Pirates skated with 11 forwards with Sena Acolatse taking shifts at right wing during the game.

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