Portland, ME — For the first time this season, the Portland Pirates are facing real adversity as they head into the second game of a three-in-three weekend against the division-leading Manchester Monarchs.
The Pirates were already down to 11 forwards this week after the Luke Adam and Colin Stuart were recalled by the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Instead of Pirates coach Kevin Dineen calling somebody up from the ECHL at that time, he opted to play defenseman Tim Conboy as a forward along side with Dennis McCauley and Travis Turnbull.
Now, Dineen’s hand has been forced into calling up player or two because the Pirates only have nine healthy forwards ready to play after losing Mark Parrish (abdomen) and Travis Turnbull (shoulder) to injuries in last night’s 4-2 loss to the Springfield Falcons.
Dineen said in yesterday’s post-game media scrum that he was looking to bring in a couple of forwards and did so today with the signing of Igor Gongalsky and Ethan Cox.
Gongalsky has been playing with the Greenville (S.C.) Road Warriors this season where he has two goals, one assist in seven games. A 6-1, 210-pound native of Kiev, Ukraine has played five years in the ECHL, scoring 44 goals, 63 assists for 107 points with 365 minutes in penalties. His season-high was during the ’07-’08 season with the Fresno Falcons where he posted 18 goals, 25 assists for 43 points with 140 penalty minutes. The 24 year-old appeared in six AHL games with San Antonio in 2008-09 collecting nine minutes in penalties.
At 5-10, 175-pounds, Cox is currently in his first professional season with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. In 16 games, he has two goals, two assists for 16 points. The 23 year-old native from Richmond, British Columbia played four years at Colgate University where he 17 goals, 24 assists for 41 points in 150 games.
This was a bubble that was bound to burst for the Pirates.
Portland was cruising along in their first 15 games, going 11-3-1. It was a busy schedule for the Pirates which might have worked to their advantage. Since that time they played four games in 19 days and have lost their last two games.
The Pirates offense has also sputtered, scoring only three goals in the last three games, which is not the norm for a team that averages over three goals a game, but then again Portland is missing two of their top three point-getters in Adam and Stuart. It was only last night that forward Mark Mancari was able to breakthrough his eight-game funk to get his first goal in the month of November and here we are only three days from the start of December.
Let’s face it… The Pirates have been very lucky up until this stage with everything going their way. The Sabres who are amidst their own troubles are trying to right the ship, but instead of plucking bodies from the farm, they’ve left Portland alone, only calling in a time of need.
Still, the Pirates have left themselves too thin for too long. It was rather surprising not to see at least one forward brought in to practice with the team, although when you think about it Dineen has a history of not wanting to carry a lot of bodies.
The Pirates now head into Manchester, albeit with a better win percentage, as the second place team in the division, looking to get back on track, and they’ll have to do it without four regulars in the lineup.
Adam recorded his first NHL point last night with an assist in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is somewhat fitting considering his father, Russ, was a draft pick of the Leafs and played eight games for them in the ’82-’83 season. He later went on to be an assistant coach with Toronto’s farm club in Luke’s home town of St. John’s, NL.
It’s a great story… It’s what the minors are all about. A young player makes a splash, gets an opportunity and takes advantage of it to play in the NHL.