Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates grab a 1-0 series lead over Hershey

2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Atlantic Division Semifinal, Game 1. Portland Pirates vs. the Hershey Bears at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/22/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Atlantic Division Semifinal, Game 1. Portland Pirates vs. the Hershey Bears at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/22/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – Rob Schremp and Shane Harper each scored twice Friday evening to lift the Portland Pirates over the Hershey Bears with a 6-4 victory before 3,959 at the Cross Insurance Arena in the opening game of the Atlantic Division semifinal.

The Pirates lead the American Hockey League best-of-five series 1-0 with Game 2 set for tomorrow evening at 7:00 pm at the CIA. The series will shift to the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania for Game 3 Thursday and Games 4 and 5 if necessary.

From the opening faceoff, the Pirates pounced on the Bears, slowing down their high-powered offense with an aggressive forecheck. Portland built leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, and although Hershey battled back in the third period they never fully recovered.

“You want to come out hard in that first 10 minutes and set the tone of the game and (Portland) certainly did that,” said Bears head coach Troy Mann. “I thought a lot of our younger players had some nerves early. I still felt good coming out of that first period, 2-1, but things obviously fell apart in the third.”

Portland’s game-winning goal came 11 seconds after Shane Harper finished off a fantastic individual effort to make it, 4-2.

Harper, who missed nearly six weeks of the regular season with a lower-body injury, won the battle for the puck along the left boards, deked around defenseman Christian Djoos and cut across the top of the crease, lifting a backhander over Bears’ goalie Dan Ellis 3:12 into the third period.

He was playing outstanding hockey for us (before his injury),” said Pirates coach Scott Allen. “It’s tough to come back after being out so long, but he stepped up tonight in a big way. We needed that from him, and he needed that from himself.”

Corbin Knight beat the Bears defender behind the net, dishing the puck to the slot where Rob Schremp snapped a quick shot past Ellis to give the Pirates a three-goal lead, 5-2.

Schremp, who finished with the lead Pirates’ scoring, had struggled to find the net at times during the regular season including a stretch where he went 23 games with just one goal. Since being pair with Wayne Simpson and Corbin Knight, Schremp’s production has improved, recording four goals, four assists in 15 games.

“Last couple of months hadn’t gone like the first couple,” Allen said about Schremp. “I was very happy for him to get off to the start that he got off to tonight. That’s what we need out of the team to have any sort of success.”

The Bears boast the third best offense in the AHL led by Chris Bourque’s career-high 80-point (30g, 50a) season, and Riley Barber (26 goals) and Travis Boyd, who finished with 21 goals, 32 assists for 53 points.

Down 5-2, Bears’ head coach Troy Mann called a timeout to settle down a frazzled looking team that gave up two goals in an 11-second span as well as refocus on the bigger picture.

A little over four minutes after the timeout, Tyler Lewington connected on a one-timer from the point through a screen that beat Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna to cut the lead, 5-3.

At 15:14, Lewington scored his second goal of the game, picking up a drop pass from Aaron Ness and snapping a wrist from the left circle to pull the Bears back within a one-goal deficit for the third time in the contest.

“We hadn’t played a great game up until that point, and we just wanted to settle down,” Mann said. “Regardless of what happen over the remaining 15 or 16 minutes of the game we just wanted to set a tone for tomorrow night’s game. I think we were able to accomplish that.”

Any attempt at a comeback was thwarted when Chris Bourque was whistled for slashing, leaving Hershey shorthanded for the final 55 seconds of the game.

The Pirates sealed the victory with only 9.5 seconds left in regulation as Kyle Rau dished to Harper for a one-timer on his right knee from the bottom of the right circle for his second goal of the game.

McKenna finished with 28 saves for the Pirates in the victory.

Portland struck first six minutes into the first period as Rocco Grimaldi won the faceoff to Rau, who skated around Djoos and slipped the puck under Ellis for a 1-0 lead.

The Pirates were whistled for four straight penalties in the first period, putting the Bears’ potent offense on the power play. Portland was able to weather the storm, keeping them scoreless late in the first period.

“We prepared this team for this team, this game, and this series,” said Allen. “There were no surprises. Everything they did tonight we were prepared for so I didn’t want guys to get away from that. I wanted them to have the confidence close them out.”

Schremp tallied his first goal of the playoffs, flipping a backhand off a rebound by Ellis to make it 2-0 with 1:56 left in the period.

Hershey would get on the scoreboard with 14 seconds left in the period as Ryan Stanton split the Pirates’ defense, picked up a pass from Chris Bourque and snapped a shot over the glove of McKenna.

The Pirates re-established the two-goal lead, 3-1, at 14:08 of the second period as Brett Olson ripped a shot from the left circle, beating Ellis.

Ellis, who finished with 26 saves, played for the Panthers’ AHL affiliate last season when they were located in San Antonio, TX. Ellis and the San Antonio franchise were swept in three straight games by the former Oklahoma City Barons.

Jakub Vrana got the Bears back to within a goal, 3-2, only 1:41 after Olson’s goal, firing a slap shot from the slot by McKenna.

Portland and Hershey met four times during the regular season with each team splitting the season series two games apiece. The Bears, still looking for their first win at the CIA this season, will attempt to avoid going down 0-2 in best-of-five series.

“We felt that if we set the tone we’ve got the ability to stick our guns, and play a certain way for a long time and that was one of the keys for our team,” said Allen.

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