With 24 games left in the regular season, Portland Pirates forward Mark Mancari already has eclipsed his career high for goals.
Mancari, a 25-year-old right wing in his sixth AHL season, leads the league with 32 goals. But he is doing more than scoring goals for the Pirates.
Mancari is also killing penalties, spearheading the forecheck and sometimes even taking faceoffs.
“I’m just trying to complete my game and make it to the next level,” he said.
Mancari won’t take all the credit for the amazing season he’s having.
“I owe this year that I’m having to (number) one, the coaching staff, and to (number) two, the players,” he said. “These players are just extremely hard workers and it makes your job easy when they can find you the puck.
“All my linemates from Colin Stuart to Matt Ellis, Luke Adam and Dennis McCauley — it doesn’t matter who I’m playing with — they always find me, and it makes a world of difference.”
Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said Mancari deserves the kind of success he’s having this season.
“He’s earning his goal-scoring lead in the league,” Dineen said. “He’s earning his ice time and he’s earning the opportunity that he’s going to get somewhere to play in the NHL.”
His teammates realize Mancari is doing much more than scoring goals for them.
“With his intensity and the way he wants to go out there and score goals for us, rounding off his game with (the penalty kill) and just working on the little things, I’ve been very, very impressed with him,” said Mark Parrish, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons.
Something happened to Mancari during the offseason to provide him with extra motivation. He got married last summer and that has had a positive effect on his game.
“It definitely makes a difference when you have a wife at home,” he said. “You go home and things are a lot easier. You have another life to live.”
Mancari said it was different when he was single.
“When you go home and you don’t have a wife or a girlfriend, you can sit there and play things over and over in your head and put yourself in a hole,” he said.
Parrish, who has been married nearly eight years and has two children, knows exactly what Mancari is talking about.
“I know a lot of guys get concerned, and it was a concern of mine, too, before I got married, that it would be a distraction,” Parrish said. “It’s the exact opposite. It just gives you that much more to play for and when you have children you become even more motivated.”
PLENTY OF PIRATES were out and about Wednesday.
Forwards Igor Gongalsky and Justin Bowers worked with youngsters during a hockey clinic at the Portland Ice Arena, sponsored by the Portland Hockey Trust. The clinic is part of a program aimed at providing disadvantaged youths with an opportunity to learn how to play hockey.
Matt Ellis, Colin Stuart and Alex Biego taped a video urging youngsters to adopt healthy lifestyles. During the evening, Dennis McCauley, Jacob Lagace, Brian Rolloff and Maxime Legault participated in a practice with the Portland Junior Pirates at the MHG Ice Center in Saco.
During the afternoon, Derek Whitmore talked about the Goals for Success program to a group of children at the Portland YMCA.
PIRATES SUPERFAN Andrew Hart is organizing a bus trip to the Portland-Manchester game April 2 at the Verizon Center. Cost is $45. For more information, visit the Facebook page on the Pirates’ website or stop by the customer service desk at Pirates home games.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: