“They’re understanding that if they play with a certain mentality and play the game a certain way that you can give yourself a chance to win every night,” said Pirates’ head coach Ray Edwards.
The Pirates (4-3-1) entered the year with a fairly young roster with eight first-year players and they’ve responded by taking ownership and responsibility for the team’s performance.
“We have a huge role to play, especially because there are so many of us,” said right wing Chris Brown, who leads all Pirates’ rookies in scoring with five points (2g, 3a) in eight games. “We have to step up and we can’t act like rookies. We have to act like veterans. It’s within the whole team that each person has to play their role and everyone has got to be going every night.”
Edwards likes the composition of this year’s roster and their willingness to learn.
“They are a very hard-working group that’s accountable and they have a really good buy-in into the system,” he said. “You say jump and they’ll ask how high. Part of that is the youth and they want to do well and have success, but also our older player that we have this season. They keep them level-headed and humble. They won’t let them off the hook if that stuff isn’t there.”
Pirates’ captain Alexandre Bolduc also enjoys playing with the younger players versus the veteran laden type of team that the Pirates had last season.
It shows as he leads the team in scoring with six goals, five assist for 11 points in eight games.
“I think I’d rather take a younger team with tons of enthusiasm than a veteran team that may not enjoy coming to the rink as they did when they were younger,” said Bolduc. “I’ve seen guys that came to the rink, did their job and worked hard, but they didn’t enjoy it as much and it was more of a job than it was an opportunity to play the game for a living.”
“I’ve seen both sides of the coin and I kind of like the younger team with enthusiasm than the just come to work every day attitude.”
The Pirates will have a chance to bond even further this weekend as they head out of the road for three-in-three weekend, making stops in Worcester (Mass.), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Penn.) and Hershey (Penn.).
“This will be our first real grind,” said Bolduc. “It’s going to be a real test to see where we are at and it’s going to chance for us to come together.”
It’s also an opportunity for the Pirates to improve on their road record, which only has one win on the season. Despite being in every game – including an 8-7OT defeat in St. John’s or losses of 6-3 and 6-4 to Adirondack and Manchester, respectively – the Pirates have been rocky on the road when comes to defense, allowing 23 goals in five games versus only six games in three games on home ice.
“It’s not easy to go on the road, but that’s where teams come together so if you want to be a good team, you have to be a good team on the road,” Bolduc added.
Rookie forward Phil Lane was suspended by the American Hockey League on Wednesday for a boarding incident that took place during last Friday’s game against the St. John’s IceCaps at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The incident took place during the second period when Lane checked forward John Albert from behind. Lane received only a two minute minor penalty; however, the IceCaps sent video of the hit into the league for review, who later decided that supplementary discipline was warranted.
Lane will miss Friday’s game in Worcester.
Locals that follow the Pirates on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will see a familiar face skating for the Penguins as Biddeford native Brian Dumoulin will face off against Portland for the first time in his professional career.
Dumoulin, who was a part of Biddeford’s back-to-back boys’ ice hockey Class A State championships in 2007 and 2008, and later two national titles with Boston College, is playing in his first pro season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after NHL parent club, the Pittsburgh Penguins, acquired the 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman from the Carolina Hurricanes last June in a blockbuster trade for Jordan Staal.
Dumoulin has appeared in nine games with the Penguins, recording four points to rank second among team defensemen in scoring.
The Pirates enter the weekend with a league-best offense, recording 4.25 goals per game, just ahead of the Rochester Americans who are second, scoring 3.90 goals per game. The Pirates have allowed 29 goals this season. However, they’ve only allowed five goals in their last four games which includes goalie Chad Johnson posting a pair of shutouts, helping to pull Portland out of last place in team defense.
The Pirates have only played three games in the last 16 days, which has allowed of them heal some injuries. Forwards Joel Rechlicz and Chris Conner and defenseman Max Goncharov have been cleared and are ready for action this weekend. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who took part in full practice on Thursday, will travel with the team on the road trip and is listed as day-to-day as he recovers from a hand injury. Darian Dziurzynski is out with an upper-body injury and hopes to get back on the ice within the next week to 10 days.