Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates are in the dog days of summer, err….I meant winter

Portland, ME – Most of the time we think of baseball when we talk about the dog days of summer, but for the Portland Pirates they can also lay claim to the same moniker despite the fact that it’s February and there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

The Pirates have played 55 games to date and currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 69 points, six point behind Hartford, and 14 points behind division-leading Providence as they embark on this weekend where they will play three games in three days. This weekend is part of an overall bigger picture, which Portland will begin a stretch of games that will see them play seven games over the next 10 days. Players realize it’s an important time for them as they play through a long grueling season to preparing focus on what they hope is a successful run in the playoffs.

“You don’t really look at the playoffs in terms of match ups, but around game fifty to eighty you start to get into playoff mode,” said Pirates’ defenseman Andy Schneider. “We’re just starting to get into that mode now. We had two big games last weekend – on the road against Providence and Hartford – where we know we’re going to have to face at least one, if not two of both of those teams in the playoffs.”

“It’s been a long season and we want to get into the mind frame that these games matter. We can’t take nights off anymore.”

In the month of January, prior to the all-star break, the Pirates were rolling on all cylinders, going 10-2-1 over that span. However, since returning from the break, the Pirates have had a difficult time maintaining chemistry or building any type of rhythm, no thanks in part to the schedule makers. Portland has only played seven games since February 1 and just two games after having a week off. Likewise, they have this entire week off and won’t play until Friday night in Springfield.

“We’d sure like guys going (playing games),” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “We had real good chemistry going before the all-star break and things were just rolling along. We take three days off and (although) we didn’t play bad hockey against Manchester and Providence, we just didn’t have that consistency.”

“You’d like to see us being solid for stretch of game in an important time of the season.”

Despite the lack of games, the players and coaching staff on the team are in consensus that once they get going and see the finish line in sight for the regular season, they can make a deep push into the playoffs.

“The chemistry on this team is tremendous,” said Andrew Ebbett. It’s just the right mold we have right now with all the different types of players. We started feeling right before Christmas when we went on that little run that we could have something special come playoff time. It certainly something we can recreate. We just have to be more consistent and make sure that we’re playing a full sixty minutes of hockey instead of taking a period off here or there. If we can pull together a full string of games, we feel pretty confident.”

Dineen, in his third season has head coach for the Pirates, guided a very similar team in his rookie season behind the bench all the way to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hershey Bears. He agrees with Ebbett that they have all the necessary pieces in place to have a successful run in the playoffs.

“That first year was pretty special because of all the high-end talent. – Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner now with Edmonton – That team just had so much personality, that it just popped off the page in that direction, but we certainly have great talent with strong character, which are two very good assets for us to have.”

The dog days are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

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