It hasn’t taken defenseman Brian O’Hanley long to fit in with his new teammates on the Portland Pirates.

“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,” said O’Hanley, who joined the Pirates last Friday after playing 43 games in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones.

“(The coaches) said to play my game, skate and make that first pass. Don’t try to do too much and do the simple things.”

O’Hanley was signed to a professional tryout contract after defensemen Drew Scheistel and Alex Biega suffered knee injuries.

Schiestel is out for the rest of the season, while Biega could return within the next two weeks.

“I always have my eye on what’s going on in (the ECHL), and Brian is a name who continued to come up to me as someone who plays a solid level of hockey,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.

O’Hanley actually made his AHL debut last month when he played two games for the Rochester Americans while Clay Wilson, a former Portland defenseman, was in the NHL playing two games for the Florida Panthers.

He scored his first AHL goal Jan. 22 during a 5-1 loss at Hershey.

“He had an opportunity to play in Rochester, and I got really, really good reports out of the coach in Rochester,” Dineen said.

“It’s a good opportunity for him and he’s off to a good start.”

Last weekend, O’Hanley skated regular shifts in two games against the Connecticut Whale.

“He played really well, really solid for us the first couple of games we had him, and that’s all we can ask,” veteran defenseman Tim Conboy said.

“He’s a good skater and has a pretty high-end skill level. It’s pretty evident he’s an ECHL all-star.”

O’Hanley, 26, is in his third professional season after spending four years playing for Boston College, including appearances in the national championship games in 2006 and 2007.

“You can tell not much rattles him,” Conboy said. “He’s got a lot of character. He fits right in with our team, that’s for sure.”

Last spring, O’Hanley helped the Cyclones win the ECHL’s Kelly Cup for the second time in three seasons. In 21 playoff games, he scored three goals and had five assists, the second-best offensive output by a Cincinnati defenseman.

“A playoff run is just such a battle,” O’Hanley said. “I played 100 games last year and that gets you ready. We had a couple of tough series, where we were down 3-0, and we came back, and that builds character and shows how hard you have to work to get through it.”

O’Hanley, who grew up in Quincy, Mass., is no stranger to Portland forward Igor Gongalsky and equipment manager Ben Laing. The three of them were with the Fresno Falcons when the ECHL team folded less than three months into the 2007-08 season.

“It was a pretty easy transition, knowing some people, and being close to home is always nice,” O’Hanley said.

 

FORMER PORTLAND left wing Jacob Lagace came through in the clutch two times last Saturday night for the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors.

Lagace scored the decisive goal in the 12th round of a shootout to lift the Road Warriors to a 4-3 victory against the Florida Everblades.

Earlier, Lagace scored in the ninth round of the shootout to extend the game.

Last month, Lagace, a rookie forward selected by Buffalo during the fifth round of the 2008 NHL draft, was sent to Greenville for more seasoning.

“Jacob got off to a rough start down there,” Dineen said. “He was a healthy scratch a couple of weeks ago, but I think his understanding on how hard he has to work is improving, and that bodes well for his future.”

In his first 11 games with the Road Warriors, Lagace had five assists.

In 29 games with the Pirates, he scored two goals and had eight assists.

SNOOPY WILL make an appearance next Wednesday night when the Pirates host the Providence Bruins at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Kids can meet and have their pictures taken with the famous Peanuts beagle.

On Presidents Day on Feb. 21, fans can skate with the Pirates following their 1 p.m. game against the Connecticut Whale at the Civic Center.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]