Maine Hockey Journal

McKenna’s poke check preserves Pirates first road win

Mike McKenna made 25 saves as well as three saves in the shootout as the Pirates won their first road game of the season. (PHOTO: Michael Mcsweeney/Portland Pirates

Mike McKenna made 25 saves as well as three saves in the shootout as the Pirates won their first road game of the season. (PHOTO: Michael Mcsweeney/Portland Pirates

Mike McKenna spends time during every practice working on his poke checking technique but rarely gets to apply it to the game.

McKenna had that chance Sunday afternoon as he made a brilliant poke check save on Colby Cave in the third round of the shootout to preserve a 3-2 victory for the Portland Pirates over the Providence Bruins before 8,369 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

“I do it once or twice when we practice. There is a certain teammate of mine that keeps getting foiled by it that’s driving him bananas. His last name starts with a Mc and ends with a Kegg,” said a jovial McKenna after the game. “I knew it was right in the wheelhouse, so I figured I might as well go for it.”

McKenna made 25 saves plus three more in the shootout to earn his 56th career win in a Pirates uniform, surpassing Maxime Ouellet in third place for wins all-time in franchise history.

“It’s really cool because there have been some great names that have been Pirates goaltenders in the past,” said McKenna. I’ve been kind of lucky to meet a few of them along the way here.”

All-Time Regular Season Goaltending Leaders (Wins)
1. Martin Brochu – 171GP 79W 58L 18OTL 2.73GAA .914SV% 10SO (1995-2000)
2. Jhonas Enroth – 147GP 74W 58L 18OTL 2.64GAA .915SV% 8SO (2008-‘11)
3. Mike McKenna – 102GP 56W 35L 17OTL 2.66GAA .906SV% 10SO (2014-‘15)
4. Maxime Ouellet – 146GP 55W 68L 18OTL 2.40GAA .923SV% 17SO (2001-‘05)
5. Sebastien Charpentier – 120GP 50W 51L 16OTL 2.87GAA .914SV% 6SO (1997-2003)

With the game tied, 2-2, Kyle Rau, who scored a first period goal, scored the only goal in the shootout, sliding a backhander between the legs of the Bruins’ goaltender Malcolm Subban.

Rob Schremp and Connor Brickley were stopped by Subban, who finished with 14 saves in the game.

McKenna stopped Max Talbot, Austin Czarnik, and Colby Cave.

Cave came in from the right side, and McKenna made a driving poke check save to knock the puck away before a shot was taken.

“I don’t know why, but I just had all the confidence in the world that he was going to come up big for us,” said Pirates coach Tom Rowe. “I think he took the opening night game here hard for a few days, so I was happy for him to come in and play the way he did. He really got us the win.”

After losing five straight, the Pirates (6-6-0-0) have won their last three games to reach .500 on the season.

Despite winning the team’s first road game, Rowe was blunt in his assessment of the team’s performance.

“It was about as ugly of a game as we could have played,” Rowe said. “It was by far our worse game of the year, but Mike McKenna came in and did what Mike McKenna can do and won us the game, thank god.”

The Bruins have defeated the Pirates twice before in Providence, but it was a far different roster for Providence without two of their leading scorers Alexander Khokhlchev and Frank Vatrano.

Vatrano, currently in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, leads the PBruins with 10 goals on the season. Six of those goals have come against Pirates while Khokhlchev, who leads the team in scoring with 13 points, is out with a hand injury.

Even without Khokhlchev and Vatrano, Providence got on the board first with a goal from Colton Hargrove at 14:24 of the first period.

It was a short-lived lead as 59 seconds later, rookie Kyle Rau put the Pirates on the board tipping Dylan Olsen’s slapper in front of Bruins’ goaltender Malcolm Subban.

“He’s a gamer,” said Rowe. “You need to have game changers, and he’s starting to fall into that category. You watch him battle, and he battles as hard as anyone in the league. He’s not the biggest guy in the league, but he’s got a big heart that doesn’t stop. He can handle the pressure when we lean on him as coaches.”

The Pirates only managed six through final two periods of regulation as they were outshot 17-6, forcing McKenna to make several big saves along the way to keep the game even.

“We’re absolutely terrible in front of (McKenna),” said Rowe. “(Pirates assistant coach) Scott (Allen) and I told them after the game that we need to learn from this as a group. I was very upset in between periods, and I told them the reason I was upset was that our expectations of this group are extremely high. It should be because we’ve got the horses here to have a great season. Games like tonight have to be used as a learning tool, and we need to make sure we learn from it.”

Portland and Providence would trade goals in the third period.

Shane Harper scored his first of the season to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead with 7:33 remaining in the period. Brett Olson sent a cross-ice feed to Harper, and he managed to stuff it past Subban inside the right post.

Harper, who scored 32 goals for the Chicago Wolves last season, had struggled to find the back of the net despite playing well on multiple lines.

“It’s not like Shane has played poor hockey because tonight was his first goal,” Rowe said. “He’s done a lot of good things for us. I’m happy for him because he is here to be a goal scorer.”

Only 46 seconds later, Anton Blidh, parked in the slot, beat McKenna with a quick wrist shot to tie the game, 2-2, and send it to overtime.

“It wasn’t a Picasso by any stretch, but winning games is winning games,” said McKenna. “We did it three times this week, and we need to carry into next week.”

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