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Eye on the Pirates: Portland Playing Well Since Return from Break

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By Chris Roy

The Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate, returned from their holiday break invigorated, looking to make a push for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Pirates finished a hectic five-game stretch over eight days with a 3-0-1-1 record, earning eight of a possible 10 points. As a result, Portland (16-12-2-3) has moved into eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference standings and is only six points behind Manchester for first place in the Atlantic Division, having played two fewer games.

The Pirates got things started with a Boxing Day matchup against Worcester in which Portland jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Andy Miele and Brett Hextall. Worcester battled back and won the game, 3-2, in overtime.

Portland rebounded from that loss two days later with a 6-3 victory over Providence. Brett MacLean (two goals, one assist) and Brock Trotter (one goal, three assists) notched three points each.

The Pirates then took a six-hour bus trip for a game at Glens Falls, N.Y. on Dec. 30. Portland looked down and out against Adirondack but rallied to tie the score at 2 thanks to goals by Ryan Duncan and Ethan Werek.

Portland lost, 3-2, after a franchise-record 12-round shootout.

The Pirates didn’t have much time to stew about the loss as they were right back at it the next day against Worcester despite not arriving back in Portland until 4 a.m.

Portland, in its annual New Year’s Eve game, jumped to a 3-0 lead on goals by Trotter, Miele and defenseman Michael Stone. Portland held on for a 4-2 win to keep its point-streak alive.

The Pirates wrapped up the eight-day stretch with a come-from-behind victory over Connecticut on Jan. 2. Portland trailed 3-0 before Trotter, MacLean and Matt Watkins scored to tie the score in the third period.

Nathan Oystrick
Trailing 4-3, Pirates defenseman Nathan Oystrick scored a power-play goal with 30 seconds to play and the game went to overtime. It was déjà vu in the overtime as Oystrick scored a power-play goal with 33 seconds left to give the Pirates a 5-4 victory.

Miele, Trotter and MacLean have been playing well for Portland on the same line.

“I’m happy with the line combination,” Head Coach Ray Edwards said. “They’ve been really dynamic on the play and it’s set the tone for the rest of the team. Overall, I’m really happy with the way we’ve played as a team. A week ago I wasn’t real happy, but this week we’ve gotten back to playing the way we need to play with the effort and the attitude. I’m real excited with where we’re heading.”

After a slow start, MacLean is finding his scoring touch. The American Hockey League on Tuesday named him its Player of the Month after he notched 11 goals, five assists and a plus-5 rating in 13 games in December.

Andy Miele
Miele remains a dynamic part of Portland’s lineup, and although he missed a pair of games after being recalled by the Coyotes, he never missed a beat in his return to the lineup, recording five points (two goals, three assists) in his three games with the Pirates last week. Miele is tied with Trotter for the team lead in scoring with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games and is ranked fourth in rookie scoring in the AHL. On Wednesday, the AHL selected Miele to play in the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic.

The Pirates now get a little break before getting back into action this weekend with a three-in-three, starting with a game at Providence on Friday.

The Pirates will then come home Saturday for their only game of the weekend at the Cumberland County Civic Center to face Bridgeport.

Portland wraps up busy weekend with a game at Worcester on Sunday.
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