Maine Hockey Journal

Bears down Pirates to even playoff series, 1-1

2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Atlantic Division Semifinal, Game 2. Portland Pirates vs. the Hershey Bears at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/23/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Atlantic Division Semifinal, Game 2. Portland Pirates vs. the Hershey Bears at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/23/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – After Friday’s game where the Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears combined for ten goals, Game 2 of the best-of-five series on Saturday was a slightly different.

The Bears scored twice in the third period for a 3-1 win over the Pirates before 5,057 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, knotting the Atlantic Division semifinal at one game apiece.

“Tonight was closer to what you’d expect from playoff hockey,” said Pirates’ coach Scott Allen. “(Hershey) came out like how we expected them to come out in the first few minutes of the game. They had a strong push, and then we came back with a real strong push. That second period, they scored, but I thought we took control, and we scored to tie the game.”

It didn’t mean there weren’t scoring chances for both teams.

Bears, who were 0-for-6 against the Pirates on the power play, broke through with the man advantage early in the third period.

Pirates’ forward Rob Flick would be called for cross-checking with 14.5 seconds of the second period to send the Bears to their third power play of the game.

Riley Barber snapped a shot under the crossbar from the left circle for the Bears first power-play goal of the series, beating Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna to put Hershey out front, 2-1.

“We made a couple of adjustments in the intermission,” said Bears coach Troy Mann. “I liked the movement a lot better tonight. Last night, our power play proved to momentum generator for them. Tonight, we were able to get winning goal on the power play.”

The Bears added an insurance goal with 11:53 left in the third period on a goal from Jakub Vrana, his second of the series, as he spun around in the slot to beat McKenna with a low shot.

“It was 1-1 going into the third period,” Allen said, we needed a big penalty kill, and we didn’t get it. They scored the third goal, and we started to press the play.”

McKenna (1-1) made 18 saves for the Pirates.

The series will now shift to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the next three games, beginning with Game 3 on Thursday. Game 4 will be Saturday, Game 5 Sunday afternoon, if necessary.

“That’s a dejected group in that room,” said Allen. “I’m glad because you should be disappointed when you lose. We’ll bounce back. Did I think we were going to sweep them? Not a chance. They weren’t going to be spooked by losing the first game.”

Down by a goal, Portland dominated much of the second period, outshooting the Bears 14-4. Three of Hershey’s four shots came on two power play attempts in the period. The lone even-strength shot gave Hershey a 1-0 lead just 1:41 into the period.

Garrett Mitchell snapped a shot from the right circle past McKenna’s glove for the Bears first goal lead at the CIA this season. Portland, who won both regular season games, led for the entire first game of the first round series.

Justin Peters got his first start in net of the series, stopping 31 shots for the win. Peters played superbly for the Bears, making several point-blank saves to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard.

“We wanted to give Peters a chance as well. Based on his last six starts he deserved a look. On the back to back with two older goalies, we went with Peters, and it paid off.”

The Pirates eventually got the equalizer with 1:58 left in the second period. Defenseman Sena Acolatse pinched in from the blueline and ripped a slap shot from the right circle past Peters. The play began as a result of Connor Brickley outhustling the Bears to beat out an icing, winning the battle behind the net and dishing the puck to Acolatse for his first goal of the series.

“I liked how we responded,” Allen said about the start of the game. “We know we don’t come by goals easily. I still love the way we play. We give ourselves a chance to win every night we play the way we know how.

NOTES: The Pirates had more than 9,000 fans at their game for the first two games of the best-of-five Calder Cup playoff series. Portland’s two-game average is 4,508, ranking them fourth in the AHL in attendance to date…. Mackenzie Weegar made his series debut in place of Matt MacKenzie who sustained an injury in Game 1…. Goaltender Colin Stevens and defenseman Josh Brown were assigned to the Pirates after their season concluded with the ECHL Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs were eliminated in the best-of-seven series, 4-1, to the Adirondack Thunder.

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