Another three-game weekend brought me to the Cross Insurance Arena again, this time with one game against the Trois-Rivieres Lions (2/17) and two against the Atlanta Gladiators (2/18 & 2/19).
Friday evening matched them up against the Lions once again.
The Mariners have lost many key players to AHL call-ups the last couple of weeks, including Mitch Fossier to the Providence Bruins and Pat Shea to the P. Bruins but had returned last week. Alex Olivier-Voyer was recalled and stayed up, Mathew Santos went to the Milwaukee Admirals, and Alex Kile went to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms but returned to the Mariners on February 22nd. With the main scorers gone, this left the new faces and also team veterans to step up and take their place.
In the Coaches Corner I listened to on the Maine Mariners Mixlr radio, Terrence Wallin (Mariners Head Coach) said they should be reenergized at home. With them being home and losing their leading scorers, they were making some offensive changes. Defensively, however, they have good goaltenders to keep them on track. That sentiment proved true that evening as #40 Michael DiPietro shined above all others. He stopped all the shots the Lions made on the net, with his best in the last minute of the game. This would be his second career shutout and his first as a Maine Mariner.
In the first period of the game, the Mariners only had one goal, which was earned about halfway through. Pat Shea got the rebound off of Lions goalie Francis Marotte which earned him is team-leading 18th goal of the season. Conner Bleackley scored another goal at 4:18 of the second period with an assist from Fedor Gordeev and Wilson. It stayed at 2-0 until the final four minutes when Nick Master faked a shot and passed it to Austin Albrecht, who one-timed home his first Mariners goal in his first game. Maine still led with 3-0 after the first 40 minutes.
Throughout the game, DiPietro continued diving and making some incredible saves – a theme that would continue throughout the night. In the final period, Maine would score two more goals – another by Pat Shea for his second of the night at 13:49, and then Bleackley also got his second of the game just over a minute later with an assist from Gabriel Chicoine. The game ended with another shutout, as previously stated, at 5-0. This was the second shutout against the Lions in a six-day span.
Saturday evening brought the Atlanta Gladiators to the Cross Insurance Arena for the first-ever meeting between Atlanta and Maine. This was the first time Maine played outside their Northern Division this season. Recently, Atlanta forward Mike Pelech made ECHL history by breaking the all-time games played record by skating in his 860th career game.
Two goals were scored by Mariners Reid Stefanson- one at 7:13 and another at 10:57. It would appear to me that after the first, the Gladiators seemed to run out of steam. Both teams had incredible stamina in the first few minutes- I think the Gladiators were hopeful that tonight would break their seven-game losing streak. Mariners forward Cam Askew shot home a rebound from Pat Shea to bring the score to 3-0 after the first period of play.
Both Maine and Atlanta scored in the middle frame. Maine used another power play to score at 9:41 – Tim Doherty shot it into the net. Three minutes later, Atlanta would finally score on their own power play. However, Pat Shea answered that goal later at 19:38, when he wristed the puck home. Then, right as the second period was coming to a close, Gladiator Michal Mrazik got the puck just past Brassard, and it crossed the goal line. Headed into the final frame, the Maine Mariners held the lead at 5-2.
The Gladiators gave the Maine Mariners five more power play chances in the third period. At 9:31, Nick Master scored with an assist from Pat Shea. This brought the score to 6-2 and would stay that way for the rest of the game. This made it the Atlanta Gladiators 8th straight loss. They were upset and would come back with a vengeance Sunday afternoon.
The Atlanta Gladiators were back on Sunday afternoon and almost seemed to be a different team. They were agitated after their loss the previous evening and were hungry for a win. Atlanta scored their first goal only 57 seconds into the game. The Mariners later went into the power play, and Pat Shea shot the puck just underneath the crossbar at 6:49. The goal set off the annual “underwear and sports bra toss,” which collects new packages of underwear for Preble Street – a shelter in Portland, ME and also the Sports Bra project.
Atlanta took the lead back at 13:30 when Sylvester shot the puck past DiPietro. The Mariners tied it up at 2:47 of the second period with Conner Bleackley shooting the puck home just between the pads of the Gladiators goaltender. The score remained at 2-2 until Pelech scored, bringing Atlanta into a 3-2 lead, heading into the final frame. Sylvester got the puck past DiPietro during a four-minute 4-on-3 powerplay early in the third period at 2:53. Neiley hit home an empty netter at 18:20 to bring the game to a 5-2 final score. The Gladiators celebrated a bit on the ice as this finally ended their long losing streak.