Maine Hockey Journal

McKenna sets franchise wins record as Pirates win fourth straight game

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)

PORTLAND – Mike McKenna made 28 saves to earn his 80th victory in a Portland Pirates uniform Saturday evening becoming winningest goalie in franchise history en route to a 6-1 win over the Springfield Falcons before 3,386 at the Cross Insurance Arena.

McKenna surpasses Martin Brochu, who appeared in 171 games for the Pirates over five seasons from 1995-2000. McKenna, in his third season with the Pirates, set the recording having played in 143 games for the franchise under three separate affiliations over an eight-year span.

McKenna’s first stint with the Pirates was during the 2007-08 under the Anaheim Ducks affiliation where the team was two minutes away from earning a berth in the Calder Cup finals. He signed last season with the Pirates under the Arizona Coyotes affiliation where he reached a career-best 27 wins. When the Coyotes move their affiliation to the Springfield Falcons, McKenna stayed with the Pirates, signing a two-year deal over the summer with the Florida Panthers.

McKenna said it was important to him to get the record at home.

“I’m ecstatic that it happened here,” McKenna said about setting the record at home. “Every night we skate out and see so many faces that have been here the whole time.”

“I see the same people and the same flags that are being waved. It’s just the passion that this city has and how well I’ve been received in this city, and we’ve just embraced it, my whole family. We love it here and to do it out there with them was a really cool moment.”

Portland Pirates All-Time Goalie Wins:
1. Mike McKenna – 79
2. Martin Brochu – 79
3. Jhonas Enroth -74
4. Maxime Ouellet- 55

In addition to the Pirates (35-24-5-2) extending their winning streak to four games and taking points in six straight games, the Pirates have earned at least a point in eight of their last 10 games (4-2-3-1) to stay in the mix for a playoff berth.

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Pirates have 77 points, trailing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers – who were idle on Saturday – by two points for fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. The Pirates currently hold the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference by two points over the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Chase Balisy, who finished with two goals and an assist, opened the scoring for the Pirates just 1:46 into the first period with a shot through a screen, beating Falcons goaltender Marek Langhamer.

Only 46 seconds later Portland made it 2-0 when Wayne Simpson won a one-on-one against a Falcons’ defenseman, snapping a shot past inside post of Langhamer.

The Falcons, who were eliminated from playoff contention by the Pirates on Friday night, would get on the board at 7:56 of the first period as Brendan Shinnimin got to a loose puck rebound and tapped into the net to cut the Pirates lead, 2-1.

With three minutes left in the first period and the Pirates on a power play, Balisy scored his second goal of the game off a rebound in front of the Falcons’ netminder to regain the two-goal lead, 3-1.

Balisy, who has six points in his last seven games (4g, 2a), and goals in back-to-back games struggled to find the net this season. He signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers over the summer after playing last season for the St. John’s IceCaps where he tallied 21 goals in 73 games. He has nine to date with Portland, but his offensive production has picked up since being placed on a line with Wade Megan and Connor Brickley.

“We knew were had to get on them early in the game,” said Pirates head coach Scott Allen. “We had a very strong second period. Chase got off to a strong start last night, and got off to another strong start tonight, and other guys seem to follow suit. It was good that contributions from throughout the lineup.”

Momentum could have swung back in the Falcons directions with a five-on-three late in the period, but Portland killed both penalties and would add a power play goal early in the second period on a shot from the point by Mike Matheson, putting Portland up 4-1.

Corban Knight finished a two-on-one rush with Wayne Simpson just 58 seconds later as the Pirates made it 5-1, ending Langhamer’s evening as Niklas Treutle entered the game in relief. Langhamer finished with 18 saves on 23 shots.

“Our guys have certainly bought into our special teams,” said Allen. “They know what’s required of them. They know that it can swing the momentum in either direction.”

The power play for Portland has been clicking over the four-game win streak, going 8-for-25 (32%) during that span. The Pirates added third power play goal with just three seconds left in the period when Sena Acolatse, who returned to the lineup from a one-game suspension, ripped a one-timer by Treutle.

NOTES: Zac Lynch made his pro debut with the Pirates after signing an Amateur Tryout contract earlier this week. Lynch is the all-time scoring leader at Robert Morris University with 156 points. He set the single-season scoring record with 55 points last season and is a Top-10 Hobey Baker finalist after finishing the season as the third-leading scorer in NCAA hockey.

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