PORTLAND – About 1,500 fans at the Cumberland County Civic Center didn’t get to see all of the players who will suit up for the Portland Pirates this season during an exhibition Sunday. But they did get a good idea of just how the AHL team will approach the game in their first season as the top affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes.
“The work ethic was good,” said Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards, after his club skated to a 2-0 win against the Manchester Monarchs. “Our young guys drove us with the pace of the game … We didn’t give them a lot of time to make plays coming into our zone, so the work ethic was real good.”
Phoenix Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving, who has been in Portland for the past week, said a strong work ethic has been a hallmark since the start of training camp. He said, “Like any camp, the execution could be a little bit better. But there hasn’t been a practice, a scrimmage or a game, that we could find fault with the work ethic. These guys have worked their rear ends off.”
Forwards Igor Gongalsky and Ashton Rome, players with links to past Portland teams, played well in the Pirates’ two exhibitions. Friday night, Rome, a younger brother of former Portland defenseman Aaron Rome, had two assists as the Pirates managed a 2-2 tie against the Albany Devils in a game that ended midway through the second period because of poor ice conditions at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Mass.
On Sunday, Rome and Ryan Duncan scored to lift the Pirates over the Monarchs. Justin Pogge made 30 saves for Portland.
Gongalsky, who won a job with the Pirates after he was called up from the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors last December, assisted on both goals Sunday.
Gongalsky, 6-foot, 225-pound left wing, also acquitted himself quite well in a first-period fight against right wing Justin Johnson (5-10, 222) and in a third-period fight against left wing Andy Andreoff (6-1, 201). Right wing Ashton Rome (6-1, 202) did a good job in a fight against forward Jordan Hill (6-2, 195).
“We don’t have a heavyweight, but I don’t think we need one,” Edwards said. “What we have four or five guys who can take care of business.
“We’re like a pack of wolves, and that’s what we want to do. We want to be a team that sticks together.”
On Saturday, the Coyotes assigned forwards Andy Meile, Marc-Andre Pouliot and Viktor Tikhonov and defensemen Maxim Goncharov and Chris Summers to Portland. None of them suited up against the Monarchs, but the Pirates must make room for them on the roster.
“The reality is we got a good look at some people and have to make some tough decisions,” Edwards said.
Later Sunday, Treliving met with a few players who were cut from the squad.
“You want to inform them they’re being released and then you give them some feedback,” he said. “They’re never easy conversations.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: