Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates move into third place in Atlantic Division

The Portland Pirates weathered a third-period storm by the Providence Bruins Friday to move another step closer toward clinching a berth in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs with a 3-2 victory in front of 10,884 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Both teams will conclude their regular season series on Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. The Pirates are 7-4-2-0 against the Bruins this season.

The Pirates have won four straight games and eight of their last nine games to improve to 39-25-5-2 on the season.

After going two periods without giving up a power play to the top special teams unit in the AHL, Portland would go down a man only eight seconds into the third period after Brent Regner was sent to the box to serve a double minor for high-sticking. Ben Sexton would also be sent to the box after being called for roughing after the whistle.

The Bruins, trailing by three goals, needed just 21 seconds to get on the board when Brandon DeFazio took a behind the net pass from Austin Czarnik for a quick shot in the slot to the upper far post past Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna to cut the lead, 3-1.

Providence pulled goaltender Zane McIntyre for an extra attacker with 1:36 left in the period. Only 50 seconds later, Czarnik made it a one-goal game, beating McKenna with one-timer from the left circle after taking a cross-ice pass from Ben Youds.

“It was a tough power-play goal to give up,” said Pirates coach Scott Allen. “I thought we responded (well). They came with a push in the last five minutes and ended up making it interesting as a one-goal game, but I thought we played well.”

McKenna finished with 35 saves for the Pirates.

Corbin Knight, who finished with a goal and an assist, tallied the game-winning goal with the only goal of the second period. Knight, in the slot area, took a swipe at the bouncing puck, beating Jeremy Smith at the 8:56 mark of the period.

Jeremy Smith’s night would come to end as Zane McIntyre entered the game in relief. Smith finished with 18 saves on 21 shots while McIntyre stopped all 15 shots he faced.

Portland’s victory leapfrogged them over the Bruins (36-22-9-4) into third place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 85 points. The Pirates have taken points in 12 of their last 15 games (8-3-3-1) to move within two points of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – lost 4-0 Saturday to Lehigh Valley – for second place in the division with five games left in the regular season.

Portland can clinch a playoff berth with a win in regulation, overtime or shootout coupled with a regulation loss by the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday. The Pirates will face the Wolf Pack on Sunday.

Sena Acolatse, in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for all three games last weekend, put the Pirates on the board with a blistering one-timer from the top of the left circle past Smith at 16:18 of the first period. Wade Megan and Logan Shaw, who extended his point streak to three games since being assigned to Portland, were credited with assists on the play.

With 1:50 left in the period, Wayne Simpson made it 2-0 for the Pirates, snapping a shot over the glove of Smith.

“Credit to the guys with how they performed tonight to get a huge two points and push us into third place tonight,” said Allen.

NOTES: The Florida Panthers recalled defenseman Mike Matheson from the Pirates earlier in the day on Friday. Matheson has eight goals, 12 assists for 20 points with a plus-14 rating in 54 games with the Pirates this season. This is his second recall to the Panthers this year. In two games with Florida, he went scoreless…. Former Pirate Rick Kowalsky was named the recipient of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as Outstanding Coach in the AHL. Kowalsky is in his sixth season as head coach of the Albany Devils and has guided them to the affiliate-best record since 1999. The Devils currently have a 42-18-8-2 record on the season which is third-best in the AHL. Kowalsky played three seasons with the Pirates (1996-1999) under the Washington Capitals affiliation. He appeared in 108 games for the Pirates, scoring 24 goals, 48 assists for 72 points…. The Toronto Marlies captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s champions with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Lake Erie Monsters at Ricoh Coliseum.

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