Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates charge past IceCaps

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 12/22/2015. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 12/22/2015. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

The Portland Pirates started their two-game swing to Newfoundland on a positive note by earning a 5-1 victory over the St. John’s IceCaps Friday evening before 5,691 at Mile One Centre.

Mike McKenna (15-7-1) finished with 29 saves to earn his ninth consecutive win starting in goal for the Pirates. McKenna last loss came on Dec. 4, falling 3-2 in overtime to the Providence Bruins.

“It was a complete performance,” Pirates’ head coach Scott Allen. “It was probably a tougher game for Mike McKenna to play because he didn’t have a ton of action in the first two periods. The guys in front of him did a tremendous job.”

Since that time the Pirates (19-13-1-0) have taken points in 13 of their last 16 games to move into second place in the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division standings based on points percentage.

Portland jumped out to a 2-0 in the first period.

While cycling the puck in the offensive zone, Rob Schremp found John McFarland in the slot for a quick shot, beating IceCaps’ goaltender Zachary Fucale less than five minutes into the first period.

Schremp blasted a slap shot from the right circle off a one-time pass from Cameron Gaunce for a power play goal with 24 seconds left in the period. Schremp finished with a goal and two assists to further extend his lead in team scoring with 14 goals, 16 assists for 30 points.

“I thought we had no passengers,” Allen said. “I thought everyone dug in. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player tonight that didn’t empty the tank throughout the game.”

Pirates’ captain Brett Regner, who also finished with three points, added his third assist of the game when his shot was stopped by Fucale, but Greg McKegg, returning to the lineup after missing three games due to a death in the family, was there to pounce on the rebound at the 6:39 mark of the second period.

“He’s been our steadiest guy on the backend,” said Allen. “He and Cameron Gaunce bring tremendous leadership back there night in and night out.”

The IceCaps, who are affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens this season after the Winnipeg Jets moved its affiliation to Manitoba, would finally solve the Pirates with a power-play goal midway through the second period as Bud Holloway fired a slap shot from the left circle past McKenna. It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Pirates in the opposition’s last 29 man-advantage opportunities.

Connor Brickley, in his first game back with the Pirates since being assigned by the parent Florida Panthers on Monday, scored a highlight-reel goal at 7:25 of the third period to extend Portland’s lead over the IceCaps, 4-1.

Brickley, who stationed to the left right of Fucale, picked up a pass from Schremp and flipped the puck between his legs that rolled slowly into toward the far post for his second goal of the season with the Pirates.

Fucale, who was pulled for an extra skater in the closing minutes, finished with 32 saves. Brett Olson added an empty-net goal for the Pirates with 14 seconds left in the game.

“It was a bad game all the way around, from top to bottom,” said IceCaps’ head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “We didn’t have enough from everyone. We got outmuscled, outworked tonight. (Portland) was first on the puck. They played a good game. We didn’t play a good game.”

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