April. 1, 2019 – It’s now or never for the Maine Mariners. Picking an unfortunate time of the season to drop four straight, their slump has them on the outside looking in to the North Division Playoff picture with four games to go. There are still multiple paths to the postseason, but all of them involve the Mariners finishing strong. Three of the final four are on home ice in what will be a busy week of hockey in Portland.
The week that was
Friday, Mar. 29th – MNE: 2, REA: 6
The weekend actually got off to a great start when newly added Zeb Knutson scored 2:15 into his Mariners debut. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, with Reading scoring twice to take the lead into the first intermission and four more unanswered goals before Dillan Fox finally stopped the bleeding after the game was well in hand for Reading. Francois Brassard also made his ECHL debut, relieving Chris Nell in the third period. Despite the loss, the Mariners magic number decreased as Brampton lost to Adirondack. FULL GAME RECAP
Saturday, Mar. 30th – MNE: 2, ADK: 4
The Mariners opened up a 2-0 lead on first period goals by Nick Master (the first of his pro career) and Zeb Knutson. Francois Brassard, making his first ECHL start, looked to have things under control until a late 2nd period goal from Mariners killer John Edwardh. The Thunder carried their momentum into the third, tying it early and eventually taking the lead thanks to Mike Szmatula with about eight minutes left. A full ice-length empty netter by defenseman Blake Thompson sealed the most frustrating loss of the season. FULL GAME RECAP
Sunday, Mar 31st – ADK: 7, MNE: 5
In desperate need of a win, the Mariners didn’t get the start they were looking for and fell into a 3-0 first period hole on goals by Cullen Bradshaw, Blake Thompson, and Jake Linhart, again chasing Nell in favor of Brassard. Taylor Cammarata and Dillan Fox got two back before the period ended, and the Mariners battled in the 2nd to eventual tie things at four. Cammarata scored his second of the game and Master got his second in as many games to pull Maine even through 40 minutes. The Mariners got into penalty trouble in the 3rd and the lethal Thunder power play made them pay, scoring twice in the third and thrice in the game. Linhart added a shorthanded goal before Cammarata finished the somber hat trick. FULL GAME RECAP & HIGHLIGHTS
-The Mariners claimed F Zeb Knutson off waivers from Indy
-F Greg Chase was returned on loan from AHL Hartford
-D Josh Wesley was assigned to Maine from AHL Hartford by Carolina
-D Rich Boyd was released from his SPC
-D Josh Wesley was recalled to AHL Hartford by Carolina
-D Ryan Culkin was reassigned to Maine from AHL Laval
Coming up (all times Eastern)
Weds, Apr. 3rd vs. Reading Royals – 7:00 PM (HOME)
Fri, Apr. 5th vs. Worcester Railers – 7:15 PM (HOME) – DALE ARNOLD APPEARANCE
Sat, Apr. 6th @ Manchester Monarchs – 6:00 PM (AWAY)
Sun, Apr. 7th vs. Newfoundland Growlers – 3:00 PM (HOME) – FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT
The Mariners and Reading Royals will both be in “must win mode” on Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Arena as they finish their season series. Boston Bruins NESN TV host and former Maine Mariners AHL broadcaster, Dale Arnold will make a pregame appearance on April 5th, with copies of his book, If These Walls Could Talk for sale. It’s also “Teacher Appreciation Night” and the final 1-2-3 Friday ($1 hot dogs, $2 popcorn, and $3 Bud Lights through the start of the 2nd period). The game is presented by Three Rivers Whitewater. The final road game of the regular season is in Manchester on Saturday, March 6th and the regular season concludes with the Newfoundland Growlers visiting the Cross Insurance Arena on Sunday, March 7th at 3:00 PM for Fan Appreciation Night.
Standings update (top 4 make playoffs):
1. Newfoundland: 92 points, 3 games remaining (clinched #1)
2. Adirondack, 80 points, 4 games remaining (clinched playoffs)
3. Manchester, 76 points, 3 games remaining (magic number: 5 pts)
4. Brampton, 76 points, 3 games remaining (magic number: 6 pts)
5. Maine, 73 points, 4 games remaining
6. Reading, 72 points, 3 games remaining
7. Worcester, 70 points, 4 games remaining
*NOTE: The first tiebreaker is ROW (regulation and overtime wins). Both Manchester and Brampton have the tiebreaker on Maine, and Manchester has clinched their tiebreaker.
PATHS TO THE PLAYOFFS
The easiest path for the Mariners is to simply win their final four games. If they accomplish that (while beating Manchester in regulation), they will clinch a playoff spot regardless of what Manchester and Brampton do otherwise. Brampton has the most difficult remaining schedule, playing ECHL-leading Cincinnati on Friday, followed by a home-and-home with Central Division #2 seed Toledo. If the Beast lose 2 of those 3 games in regulation, a 3-1 Maine record, would be enough to get them in.
MANCHESTER REMAINING SCHEDULE: Weds .@ WOR, Fri .vs. NFL, Sat. vs. MNE
BRAMPTON REMAINING SCHEDULE: Fri. @ CIN, Sat @ TOL, Sunday vs. TOL