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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pirates Hold off Whale Comeback, Win 3-2 in Game 1

Luke Adam scored a goal in Game 1 win (Photo Jason Gendron) 

The Portland Pirates came out firing on all cylinders in the first period of Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals against the Connecticut Whale. They killed off an early Whale Power Play and barraged net-minder Dov Grumet-Morris with shot after shot. When Derek Couture went to the penalty box for goalie interference 12 minutes in, The Pirates saw an opportunity open. It took much of the power play, but Luke Adam finally found the back of the net with 18 seconds left on the power play. Adam's goal was assisted by Paul Byron and Dennis Persson.

It didn't take long for the Pirates to get on the board again. 58 seconds after the first goal Corey Tropp would light the lamp for Portland. Mark Voakes assisted on the goal. When it rains it pours, and it was a monsoon for the Pirates offense at the end of the first period. Colin Stuart scored on the power play with 3:20 remaining in the period to give the Pirates a commanding 3-0 lead. They hit the locker room at the first intermission feeling pretty good about themselves.

The Whale however, would not roll over in this opening game of the series. Connecticut came out with aggression in the second period, hell-bent on climbing back into the game. Things got chippy early on after Dennis Persson laid a big open-ice check on a hapless Whale player. Elbows and fists started flying, but the referees broke things up before things got out of hand. This gave some momentum to the Whale for the rest of the period. Five minutes into the period the Whale finally got on the board. Blake Parlett found a crack in the stone wall named Dave Leggio and breathed some life into the Connecticut cause. Parlett's goal was assisted by Francis Lemieux and Tommy Grant.

The Pirates had to kill off two penalties in the period, and Leggio had 8 saves as the Whale attack picked up. Connecticut had a solid scoring chance with under a minute to go that would have cut the deficit to one. For the Pirates, they went into the second intermission thankful to still have a two-goal lead.

Portland came out of the locker room in the third period with more purpose than they did in the second. Their aggression picked up on the offensive end, trying to extend their shrinking lead. They stymied an early Whale power play, keeping them without a shot for the first 1:30 of the advantage. Portland went on their own power play seven minutes in, and almost gave up a short-handed goal as it started. After that scare the Pirates pointed their ship in the right direction. They attacked Grumet-Morris with five shots on the advantage, and almost making him pay a couple times. Alas, the Whale goalie would keep the net clean, and the Pirates let a solid chance to slip away.

Killing off the penalty sung momentum back in Connecticut's favor, as they began to attack Leggio. With seven minutes to go, the Whale struck again. Dale Weise' slapshot was too quick for Leggio, and suddenly we had a real game. Grachev and Redden assisted on the goal. The next seven minutes seemed to drag on for the Pirates and their fans, as that insurmountable lead was now an afterthought. the Portland defense really picked up at the end of the game, not wanting to blow a hard-earned lead. The Whale had one final chance with 5.4 seconds to go, with a face-off in the Portland zone, but could not get a shot off to give themselves a chance. Tempers flared as the teams were bunched up after 60 minutes of intense hockey.

It was the Pirates with the win as the dust settled, and a 1-0 lead in the best of seven opening round series. Game 2 is Saturday night at 7pm at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
-Wil Kramlich-


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