Maine Hockey Journal

Falcons sink Pirates in OT

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Springfield Falcons at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 3/26/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Springfield Falcons at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 3/26/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Dakota Mermis scored only 29 seconds into overtime, giving the Springfield Falcons a 3-2 victory over the Portland Pirates Saturday night before 3,646 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

It was a missed opportunity for the Pirates (40-27-6-2) to secure their seeding for the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs, however, they still control their own fate. The Pirates earn a single point on Sunday in the season finale at Springfield, and they will lock themselves into fourth place in the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division, which would match them against the Hershey Bears in the opening round of the playoffs. A regulation loss, coupled with a Bridgeport victory would drop the Pirates to fifth where they would likely face the league’s top team, Toronto Marlies, or Albany Devils as the team that crosses over to play in the North Division.

“We need to win,” said Pirates coach Scott Allen when learning of the scenario for potential playoff opponents.”

The Falcons, eliminated from playoff contention long ago, are playing for pride and jobs for next season. The franchise, which is attempting to avoid finishing last in league standings, is potentially playing its final games at home this weekend against the Pirates as it has been reported earlier in the week by the Arizona media that the Coyotes are looking to purchase an unnamed club, presumably the Falcons, to relocate them to Tucson, Arizona for next season. Falcons’ executive staff has declined to comment on the reports.

Christian Fischer, playing in only his fifth games with the Falcons since the Coyotes signed him to an amateur tryout contract, recorded his first two professional goals in the AHL, both on the power play.

With the Pirates up by a goal, 2-1, Juho Lammikko, making his pro debut for Portland, was whistled for holding midway through the third period to put the Falcons on the power play for the fifth time in the game which left Allen upset at referees, Ben Moser, and Evgeny Romasko.

Alex Grant’s wrist shot from the point was tipped by Fischer at the top of the slot, beating Pirates’ goaltender Sam Brittain for the equalizer at 9:46 of the second period.

“Every game we’ve had (this season) the officials have done a great job,” said Allen. “When we saw these particular two coming into this game the red flags were already up and justifiably so. You don’t mind losing to opposition that does a better job, but when you get put behind the eight ball so many unjustifiable times, it’s tough to stomach.”

Moser and Romasko officiated Portland’s home finale on Friday against the Sound Tigers and they’re scheduled to officiate Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

In overtime, the Falcons capped off the comeback after Mermis outmaneuvered John McFarland, who returned to the lineup for Portland after missing nearly a month with an upper-body injury, snapping a shot past Brittain from the left circle.

Brittain finished with 24 saves in the loss.

Fischer opened the scoring for the Falcons with a power-play goal by getting the rebound, kicked out by Brittan, in the left circle and firing a slap shot under the crossbar at 7:28 of the first period.

Wade Megan would record his league-leading seventh short-handed goal of the season, capping off a two-on-one break by banging in the rebound from McFarland 3:36 into the second period to tie the game, 1-1.

At 10:46, the Pirates took the lead, 2-1, when Mackenzie Weegar took a feed from Rihard Bukarts, making his pro debut for Portland, and snapped a shot from the top of the slot past Falcons’ goalie Adin Hill.

Hill finished with 27 saves.

In addition to Bukarts and Lammikko making their pro debut, Michael Downing, and Lawson Crouse were also in the lineup for the Pirates for the first time since joining the team on ATO contracts.

“This is a huge jump that players make, going from junior or college to the American Hockey League,” said Allen. “The biggest jump isn’t from the AHL to the NHL, its turning pro. It was young guys playing against men tonight for the most part. Overall, it went as expected for the (ATO prospects). We didn’t look for them to do amazing crazy things. We just wanted them to hold their own, and that’s what they did.”

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