Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates are in the midst of their first round playoff series against the Providence Bruins (series tied 1-1), but for several players it’s their first taste of professional hockey, which has been an experience for some after completing their seasons with their previous teams.
It’s been trial by fire for players like Travis Turnbull and Matt Generous who have seen significant ice time since their arrival in Portland with only a few games left in the regular season.
Turnbull signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Buffalo Sabres back on Apr. 3 and joined the Pirates shortly after. He played in a three regular season games where he went scoreless, but the experience is proving invaluable as the Pirates enter the playoff race.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Turnbull. “Getting here and (playing) some games and knowing what to expect for next year.”
“This is the time of year when it’s the hardest. It’s heart and soul hockey.”
Pirates’ forward Mathieu Darche believes it can only benefit the younger players as they make the adjustment from amateur hockey to the professional ranks.
“They are coming at the height of the season when the game is at its hardest, and it can only help in the development,” he said. “It is a step above college or junior and the playoffs are a step above the regular season. Now they know what to expect and they can get ready for next year.”
Darche has been very happy with the play of the younger players as well, especially Turnbull, and believes playing at this time of year can only be a benefit to the overall development of future players in the Sabres organization.
“What (Turnbull) brought to our lineup was a little jam to the forwards,” he said. “He brought a little aspect that we might have been lacking, a forward, in your face type of guy, who isn’t afraid to drop the mitts.”
“He’s brings great energy and been a real vocal guy which is great to have.”
It’s not only on the ice that a player has to prepare for playing professional hockey, but there are certain life skills that are taken for granted that a player now has to deal with such has banking, utilities, cooking and maintaining a residence.
“At school we had our dorm, cafeteria and here you’re on your own so being able to look to the (veterans) and talk to them and get a feel about what to do is awesome,” said defenseman Matt Generous.
Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen expectation is a little different at this time of year.
While getting an influx of players has been nice for a team that has faced 413 man-games lost to injuries, Dineen’s priority at this time of the season is putting the best team possible on the ice which might include sitting Dennis Persson, the Sabres’ first round draft pick in 2006 for player who may have toiled in the ECHL all season.
“They’re here to get a little taste and feel for the professional game and work hard enough that if they get a tap on the shoulder they are ready to go,” said Dineen.
NOTES: Dineen said that defenseman Mike Kostka is day to day with a lower body injury and didn’t indicate if he would be ready to play tomorrow for Game 3… TJ Brennan and Drew Schiestel were both on the ice for practice today at Portland Ice Arena, but neither is expected to see any playing time… There will be a Game Day Blog tomorrow held by Jeff Schools of Central Maine Sports Blog. It can be access by clicking the link here.