LEWISTON — For the second time in as many weekends, the Portland Pirates have sold out the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
The Pirates will face off against the Binghamton Senators at the Lewiston arena Saturday night in their second home game of the season, the first home game since an opening-night victory over Worcester Sharks.
And they'll be doing so off of their most impressive defensive performance of the season, a 4-0 win over the St. John's IceCaps in Newfoundland on Wednesday.
"From a defensive stand point, we weren’t happy with how things went (Tuesday) night (an 8-7 OT loss),” Pirates' coach Ray Edwards told Maine Hockey Journal following Wednesday's game. "We didn’t adjust the system. It was more of a mindset, we held each other accountable to play a certain way and play the game the right way. We had a pow-wow (Wednesday) morning and we challenged them as a group and they answered it."
The result was a drastic shift in scoring. Through the team's first four games of the season — three of which had been played on the road — Portland scored 21 goals, better than five per game. But the Pirates won only one of those games while allowing 24.
In Wednesday's contest, Chad Johnson stopped all 28 shots he faced to earn the team's first shutout in more than a year.
"(Johnson) was very accountable to our group," Edwards told MHJ. "Our guys felt like we needed to play better in front of him. He took a lot of the heat (Tuesday) night and the blame (for the loss). The guys respected the fact that he was accountable and they wanted to reward him (Wednesday)."
Captain Alexandre Bolduc has been instrumental in the team's success to date, leading the way with five goals and nine points in five games.
But for Edwards, the key to the team improving upon its 2-2-1 record is on the back end.
“That’s the standard for the way we defend and the way we play the game,” he told MHJ. “It’s the mindset we have to have and the way envisioned things playing out. Our organization demands that we play that way. We have to bottle this effort and keep it going.”
Portland has a 4-0-0-1 record at the Colisee in its past five trips, and will take on a Binghamton team Saturday that is 3-1-1 through five games.
Former Saint John Sea Dogs and Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) standout Mike Hoffman leads a balanced Senators squad in scoring, with four points in five games, while Robin Lehner has been stellar in the cage, sporting a 1.32 GAA and a .954 save percentage in leading the team to all three of its victories. Binghamton has been off since a 2-1 road win in Hershey, Penn. on Sunday.
In addition to the Pirates' AHL game Saturday night at the Colisee, the Portland Junior Pirates will play a pair of hockey games at the rink, and those will be free to the public. The Empire League Junior Pirates will host the Springfield Pics at 12:30 p.m., and that game will be immediately followed by the EJHL Pirates hosting the EJ Pics from Springfield at 2:45 p.m.
The EJHL (Eastern Junior Hockey League) is the top junior hockey league in New England, and players from that league are routinely recruited to play at Division I and Division III NCAA colleges across the country.
The Junior Pirates will also host the same Empire and EJHL Springfield teams at the Colisee at 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28th. Admission is free for those games, as well.