The American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates made history Saturday night - while denying the Rochester Americans their 2,000th all-time franchise victory.
Coming off an improbable win on Friday night against the Albany River Rats, the Pirates eclipsed the franchise mark of 10 consecutive wins with a 4-3 victory against the Amerks. The previous streak was set November 8-27, 1996.
On Friday night, a little bit of luck kept the Pirates winning streak intact. Tied 2-2, defenseman Mike Weber
was sent to the box after a critical boarding penalty at 18:23 of the third period. Less than 16 seconds later, defenseman Joe DiPenta fired a shorthanded shot behind his own goal line. The puck beat Albany goaltender Justin Peters with 1:21 left in regulation and sealed the 3-2 win, tying the franchise record winning streak at 10 games.
Heading into Rochester on Saturday night, Portland had a chance to keep its unbeaten streak alive while continuing Rochester’s winless streak (0-3-0-0).
The Pirates looked flat to open the game. Rochester consistently beat Portland to pucks and caught the defense chasing throughout the first 10 minutes. Making it more difficult for the Pirates was an injury to winger Kyle Wanvig early in the opening frame, leaving the Pirates with 10 forwards.
Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth
- who has been stellar in the last month posting a 9-1 record during the historical streak- kept the Pirates in the game, making 11 saves in the first period.
“He’s done a job where there is no frantic actions, no panic in his game. Even though there are goals he’s letting in, he has been the difference for us,” said Portland Head Coach Kevin Dineen.
In the second period, Portland seemed to find its legs, outshooting Rochester 10-5. The Amerks took four undisciplined penalties within the first five minutes of the frame and the Pirates capitalized; German- born forwards Felix Schutz and Phillip Gogulla produced a pair of goals- both with the man advantage.
Portland continued the offense in the third period. After giving a goal back to Rochester late in the second, Gogulla buried his second goal of the night on a cross-ice pass from center Matt Caruana to tie it up at 3-3. It was the first two-goal night of Gogulla’s young professional career.
“We played a really solid game on the road, it was really important for us and we won it,” replied Gogulla.
Rochester native, Derek Whitmore delivered the go ahead goal four minutes later, which would stand as the game-winning-goal.
“He made a heck of a play,” said Dineen. “He started that whole play with his huge hit in the corner, creates a turnover and then he couldn’t stop moving his feet out there. I had to give him some grief when he got back to the bench because his shift was about 1:30 long when you’re going with three lines”.
Whitmore’s game-winner was the epitome of what this team has accomplished throughout this streak.
“We’re not really a one-trick pony; we’ve been getting a lot of contribution throughout the lineup. It seems like everynight someone is popping,” said Dineen.
Rookie defenseman TJ Brennan
helped the cause by matching the number on the back of his sweater in points. He picked up three assists, setting a new career-high for the Willingboro, NJ native.
His third helper of the night set up Whitmore’s game winning tally.
“We want him to be a creative player, he has shown some confidence handling the puck recently and we’re showing confidence in him.” Dineen said.
While AHL rookie leading-scorer Tyler Ennis
didn’t appear on the score sheet, his presence on the ice could be defined by the sheer minutes he logged for the shortened bench.
“Tyler [Ennis] has been playing a lot of real quality minutes for us. He’s played center, he’s played wing for the last 10-15 games. Wherever he is on the ice, he’s a fire starter," Dineen said. “Good things seem to follow him and players tend to get hot when we put them with him.”
During the stretch, the Pirates have out-shot there opponents in nine of 11 games (370-305).
“It’s the whole package,” Gogulla said. “We had a tough start today down 2-0 and came back. It’s good for the team, we are playing really solid hockey. If we play like that we can go really far this year.”
The red-hot Pirates return to Buffalo on Sunday, March 7th to wrap up their season series with the Rochester Americans. Game-time is a matinee 4 p.m. start from HSBC Arena.
Tim Bulmer | Sabres.com