PORTLAND — The most frustrating thing about Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack wasn’t the fact that the Portland Pirates are now winless in their past six hockey games.

What hurt the most was the fact that the Pirates played a pretty good  game Sunday afternoon, and it still wasn’t good enough.

“We’re digging right now,” said defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. “We’re finding ways. Obviously some things aren’t going our way. We’re kind of hurting ourselves a bit. We’re digging to find a way to get out of this.”

Portland was up 3-2 going into the final period but watched Hartford score twice to hand the Pirates a third consecutive loss this weekend. Portland is 0-4-1-1 in its past six games and 2-10 in a 12-game span. Hartford is now only one point behind the eighth-seeded Pirates in the conference standings.

“Moral victories are tough to come by right now,” said Pirates coach Scott Allen. “The way we’re approaching this is that we control our own destiny from here on out. If we win, we’re going to get in. If we don’t, we won’t. It’s that simple.”

Portland has been battling call-ups and injuries but was poised to break its winless streak after two late goals in the second period.


Rob Flick scored to tie it, 2-2, and Weegar gave the Pirates the lead on the power play.

Hartford outshot the Pirates 11-7 in the third and got two goals from defenseman Ryan Graves, who now has nine on the season.

“It’s frustrating, but we’re professional hockey players,” Weegar said. “This is our job. We’re going to face things like this, and we have to find ways to come out of this.”

Portland lost 9-2 on Friday to Toronto and then watched Springfield rally to beat them Saturday night.

The Pirates battled back twice from one-goal deficits Sunday in front of 3,401 at Cross Insurance Arena. Despite the effort at the end of a long weekend, it still wasn’t enough.

“We were determined that Daylight Savings and getting back at 3 o’clock in the morning, we weren’t going to use that excuse, and I’m not going to use it an excuse right now,” Allen said.


Weegar gave Portland the lead with 5:07 left. He took a pass from Cameron Gaunce and blasted a shot from the high slot to give the Pirates its first lead of the game.

“The boys were buzzing there,” Weegar said. “We finally got a good power play. We were moving the puck really quick. It came out to Gaunce, and he fed it out to me. That was good awareness by him. I just tried to fire it as hard as I could.”

Hopes of riding that lead toward a victory ended when Graves struck twice in the third. His first came on a shot through a screen from the high slot at 6:25. Then with 8:44 left, he fired a wrister from the left circle for the 4-3 lead.

“We knew they were going to come out,” Allen said. “The intention was for us to do the same thing. The third goal, we can’t screen our own goalie in those situations. The fourth goal, we’ve got to strike quicker. I like (goalie) Mike McKenna nine times out of 10 to make that save. It is what it is. He played a solid game for us and gave us a chance.”

Portland had a chance early in the third to pad the lead. Shane Harper had an open net on the right side but couldn’t control it to put it in.

Portland pulled McKenna with 1:49 left and created some pressure. Rocco Grimaldi had a shot in the slot that was saved by Hartford goalie Magnus Helberg, while Rob Schremp and Grimaldi had bids blocked by defenders.


“Shane Harper slides one right through the crease,” Allen said. “We’re not going to make the excuse that bounces aren’t going our way, because you create your own bounces. You have to defend. If you’re going into the third period with the lead like we did, we have to close teams out.”

Hartford got on the board just 2:33 into the game when Chris Summers backhanded the puck from the right side that McKenna couldn’t contain. It was Summer’s first goal of the season.

Portland outshot Hartford 11-5 in the first period and had the better of the chances. The Pirates got the equalizer with 8:04 left when Matt MacKenzie wristed a shot from the top of the right circle. It was his first goal in the American Hockey League in only his second game with the Pirates.

“They scored on the first shot of the game,” Allen said. “It wasn’t even a shot, but the first puck they put toward the net went in. I certainly liked the way we responded and battled back in that first period.”

Hartford took a 2-1 lead at 6:02 of the second when Luke Adam curled around behind the net and popped a wrister upstairs.

Portland tied the game when Flick backhanded a loose puck in the slot with 8:15 left in the period. The Pirates continued the momentum with Weegar’s go-ahead goal on the man-advantage.

“It shows we have a lot of character coming back from one-goal deficits,” Weegar said. “We’re just hurting ourselves a little bit. We’re just letting little things slide. We’re a good team, and we have a lot of leadership that will get us back to where we need to be.”


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