First periods have been a troublesome part of the Portland Pirates game so far at this early juncture of the season.
Fortunately, the Pirates know they have a problem as they say you can fix it until you admit you have one.
“First thing we need to do is stay out of the penalty box,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “Almost every game we’ve started with three or four penalties in the first period. We can’t get any sort of rhythm with our lines. First thing we need to do is play more disciplined in the opening 20 minutes.”Entering tonight’s game against the Adirondack Phantoms, the Pirates have allowed 11 power plays in the first period, while only getting the man advantage four times. With the exception of Wednesday’s game, the Pirates have been “lucky” to kill all, but one, which Manchester scored en route to a 5-3 loss.
“It’s a matter of mentally coming out and being ready to play,” said Pirates’ rookie forward Brett Hextall. “Those penalties are a sign of not being ready for a game. That’s something we have to hold ourselves accountable for. We’ve talked about it and we have to start holding each other accountable for it.”
Portland (2-1-0-1) has been outscored 6-3 in the first period, only giving up one power play goal. Still, despite killing 21-of-22 penalties, they haven’t been able to implement their game plan because Portland is constantly “chasing the game”.
“You don’t ever want to chase the game,” said Edwards. “When you get down in the game you have to consistently have to chase the game. We play much better when we have the lead and we like to roll our lines and when you’re down it screws with your rhythm.”
With Portland having six rookie forwards up front, it’s left Edwards to put them in situations they might have never faced before. That’s why the American Hockey League is in existence, after all, to develop player and prepare them for the NHL.
It’s also left the onus on the veteran defensive corp. to step up their game in order help overcome that experience gap something that defenseman Nathan Oystrick feels they haven’t quite done yet.
“We’re a little bit young in the front and guys like myself, Arsene, Stafford and Eckford have to take charge and settle things down,” he said. “We’ve come out of the gate flat and I think we need to just try and be a little more simple and play our game.”
Hextall, one of those six rookies up front on the Pirates, agrees, but believes that it simply comes down to being ready to play when the puck drops.
“Inexperience might be part of it,” said Hextall, but that can’t be used an excuse and it doesn’t make it ok. It comes down to maturing and being ready for the drop of the puck. The objective of the game hasn’t changed regardless of the level. We just need to be ready to play.”
NOTES: Marc-Antoine Pouliot skated in morning skate, but will not play tonight or Saturday. Edwards said that it’s most likely Tuesday before he returns to the lineup after missing the last three games with pneumonia… Ethan Werek will return to the lineup tonight after missing Wednesday with a bout of Colitis… Portland will be without Andy Miele, who scored two goals, three assists for five points in the Pirates 5-3 win on Wednesday against Manchester after he was recalled this morning to the Phoenix Coyotes. Miele has three goals, four assists for seven points in four games on the season. He will practice with the Coyotes and be ready for game action when they travel to Anaheim on Sunday.