Goal remains the same despite season of change

by Chris Roy || AHL On The Beat Archive

The winds of change have swept through the Portland Pirates, but do not mistake that as them waving the white flag in defeat.

Rather, it’s a retooling as they prepare to make a late season push for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Currently sitting in sixth in place in the Atlantic Division with 63 points (26-22-3-8), the Pirates are looking to grab ahold of the momentum from an exciting 5-4 overtime win against the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday.

“We had a lot of movement,” said Pirates forward Trevor Gillies. “We weren’t winning for a little while. Whenever you are in a tough stretch things are bound to change, but we are starting to click here. We had a big team win on Sunday against Norfolk and we just have to keep that momentum going.”

Over the last two months, the Pirates have endured a major overhaul as the Anaheim Ducks, the Pirates’ NHL parent club, traded away 11 players. Gone are fan favorites Zenon Konopka, Curtis Glencross, Pierre Parenteau and Bruno St. Jacques to name a few.

With the Pirates now are Joe Motzko, currently leading the team in scoring with 49 points (20g, 29a); Mark Hartigan, Matt Keith and goaltender Sebastien Caron.

For Hartigan, he began his whirlwind tour living out of a suitcase for almost the first month with his new organization. After learning of the trade, he was informed that he was being recalled to Anaheim, where he played three games. He was assigned to Portland on Feb. 9, joining the team in Norfolk, Va., as the Pirates were embarked on a five-game, 15-day road trip through the Mid-Atlantic.

“I was excited [to come to Portland],” said Hartigan. “I was looking for a new change and new environment and really looking for a new opportunity to reach the goal of where everybody wants to be, which is the NHL. If I keep playing well I hope to get that opportunity.”

Finally, having his wife in Portland and living in an apartment helps eliminate the off-ice issues, but on the ice, Hartigan hasn’t missed a beat due in part to the instant chemistry with forward Joe Motzko. They played together in Syracuse and were traded together in a package for Konopka and Glencross so it only made sense to have together on the ice.

“It something that [develops] from knowing other guys strengths,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “It evolves over three years or several weeks where guys find some chemistry and start playing off each other strengths. They’ve played together for a while so you have to take advantage of that.”

The Pirates for the remaining season are in control of their own destiny. They have 21 games remaining, including five against the fifth-place Lowell Devils and two against the fourth-place Worcester Sharks.

“Every night we’re going to fight for our playoff lives,” said Motzko. “It one of those four point game and every night is going to be like a playoff atmosphere.”