Portland, ME – Through the first part of the season, the Portland Pirates have had pretty much everything go their way, earning a 13-3-1 record.
It wasn’t until this past weekend when the team faced their first bout of adversity after losing three straight games. The low point came on Saturday night when they dropped a 6-1 decision to the Manchester Monarchs, a team that has been running on all eight cylinders, as of late with a four game win streak, as they sit atop the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
Sitting in first place was something the Pirates had done for the majority of the season.
“You look at that game (in Manchester) and there was not a single thing we liked about it from our effort level to our compete level,” said Pirates captain Matt Ellis. “There are some nights you’re not going to win, but you’re gonna work hard and compete and at the end of the day you’re gonna say that we gave it everything, but for the other team. It was their night.”
After the game, Pirates coach Kevin Dineen held a meeting to address several issues, which was followed by a team only meeting led by the veteran core of the team Matt Ellis, Mark Mancari and Tim Conboy.
Afterward, it was message sent and message received as the Pirates came out with much needed 6-1 victory over the Providence Bruins in Rhode Island.
“The whole point of the meeting was to do a U-turn from Saturday,” said Mancari. “I think we did that. Everyone came out and worked hard from our goalie on out and that’s why the final was what it was.”
Although, nobody would address what was actually said in the meeting, they did say there “issues” that had found its way into their game and it needed to be addressed, and it had to be addressed at that moment.
“We were at a point where some of the bleeding needed to stop,” said Ellis. “We’ve seen some things creep into our game the last few weeks that we didn’t like. We just wanted to nip some things in the bud before they got out of hand and carried away.”
“It wasn’t a wake-up call, but to address some of the accountability factors.”
“A lot of good things came from that and it speaks to the character in the locker room.”
Sunday was a start and we’ll see if the Pirates can keep it going into the weekend with the high flying Norfolk Admirals coming to town on Saturday night.
Dineen said this morning that forwards Mark Parrish and Travis Turnbull would be out of the lineup for the long term after suffering injuries in last Friday’s game against Springfield.
Of the two players, Parrish is expected to miss the least amount of time, missing a minimum of four weeks with an injury to his pelvic area. Dineen didn’t indicate it was his groin, but rather an injury to his hip.
Turnbull could very well be out for the rest of the regular season as he’s scheduled to undergo surgery some this week or early next week on his left shoulder. Dineen said it would be a minimum three months before he could begin any semblance of an upper body workout.
With Colin Stuart returning from the Buffalo Sabres, the Pirates released Ethan Cox from his PTO on Monday, sending him back to the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. As of right now, the Pirates have 11 forwards with Igor Gongalsky sticking around. In the morning skate on Wednesday, Dineen used Marc-Andre Gragnani as a forward pairing him on a line with Paul Byron and Corey Tropp.
Dineen wasn’t committed to using him in that position on Saturday, but he also said that he doesn’t expect to bring anyone in to fill that role instead relying on a defensemen to play forward unless Buffalo is healthy enough to send Luke Adam back, which isn’t expect right now.
“(Gragnani) played forward a bit this weekend, and Dennis Persson played a bit of forward,” Dineen said. “(Tim) Conboy has played forward as well so we have some good option up front. It’s a matter that I felt we needed that offense (in the lineup) and (Gragnani) can provide that, but that’s always subject to change.”
Other lines for Dineen were Ellis-Mancari-Stuart, McCauley-Gongalsky-Legault and Whitmore-Roloff-Lagace. Defense pairs were Biega-Brennan, Persson-Schiestel and Crawford-Conboy.