Maine Hockey Journal

McKenna makes 30 saves as Pirates shutout PBruins

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/1/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/1/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – Mike McKenna must have thought he was on the beach Friday night because he saw nothing but beach balls being thrown his way by the Providence Bruins.

McKenna stopped all 30 shots he faced for the Portland Pirates, shutting out the Bruins, 2-0, in front of 4,013 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

It was McKenna’s third shutout of the season for Portland as he handled the puck with ease for 60 minutes.

“We played really well, and that makes it look a lot easier than it is,” said McKenna. “We didn’t have a whole lot in the middle of the ice, and that’s what we been trying to eliminate the last few games.”

Unlike Tuesday’s morning’s game in Bridgeport where the Pirates held a 2-0 lead only to allow five unanswered goals by the Sound Tigers, head coach Scott Allen liked his team’s response to holding a 2-0 lead against the Bruins.

“We played a lot better,” said Allen. “I thought the biggest difference for us especially after the first period we managed the puck.”

The Pirates were all business against the Bruins. Neither team was called for a penalty until Ben Sexton was whistled for hooking with 1:36 left in the second period. The Pirates were only whistled for two penalties in the third period. Both teams finished without a power play goal.

“They’re the number one special teams team in the American Hockey League. It’s another way you’re going to seal your fate if you give them life with power play opportunities.”

Both even-strength goals by Portland were scored in similar fashion, getting traffic in front of the Bruins’ goaltender Jeremy Smith.

“We have to manufacture goals a certain way,” said Allen. “We’re not (Providence). They have three guys with over 50 points. We have one guy who reached 40 points, so we have find different ways to generate goals.”

Connor Brickley gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the first period.

Cameron Gaunce snapped a quick shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that Brickley tipped, catching Smith off guard as he was unable to recover from playing the initial shot.

The Pirates made it 2-0 when Rob Schremp got his stick on a slap shot by Matt MacKenzie with 6:16 left in the second period.

“It was an outstanding shift by all five guys on the ice,” said Allen. “They basically broke down the defensive zone coverage and opened up and open up and opportunity that was redirected.”

With the victory the Pirates (36-25-5-2) maintain its two-point lead over the Hartford Wolf Pack, who also earned a win at home on Friday, beating the Hershey Bears, 5-1, for the final playoff spot in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. The Pirates and Wolf Pack will meet in Hartford on Saturday in a game that will have playoff implications.

In addition to currently holding the crossover in the Eastern Conference, the Pirates trail the Bridgeport Sound Tigers by only two points for fourth place in the Atlantic Division with games left in the regular season.

“The margin for error is always narrow,” said Allen. “It’s how you deal with it.”

NOTES: The Panthers assigned forward Logan Shaw to the Pirates earlier in the day on Friday. Shaw has appeared in 53 games with the Panthers this season, recording five goals, two assists for seven points. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia has been assigned to Portland on two previous occasions. He has seven goals, one assist for eight points in 13 games with the Pirates. Shaw will join the Pirates in Hartford, Connecticut where they’ll face the Wolf Pack Saturday night in a game that critical to the team’s playoff hopes.

The Panthers signed defensive prospect Michael Downing to a three-year entry-level contract on Tuesday. Downing, 20, is leaving the University of Michigan a year early after recording three goals, 17 assists for 20 points with a plus-20 rating and 66 penalty minutes in 35 games with the Wolverines this past season. In three seasons at Michigan, Downing has 54 points (11g, 43a) and 202 penalty minutes in 105 games. He’s expected to sign an amateur tryout contract with the Pirates.

The Pirates announced on Friday that Trent Whitfield has been named the 20th member to enter the Portland Pirates’ Hall of Fame. Whitfield spent seven seasons (1998-2005) as a player for the Pirates and another year as an assistant coach. Whitfield, who is now as an Assistant Coach with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, finished with 102 goals, 153 assists for 255 points in 348 games with Portland, which ranks fourth in franchise history for games played.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login