Less than two weeks into his first AHL season, Portland Pirates rookie Andy Miele seems to be making a swift transition from college to the pros.
After his first four games, Miele, the 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner, is among the league’s top three scoring rookies.
“Really, there’s been three out of four games he’s been really good,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “There’s still areas with the puck we’ve got to clean up a little bit, just the management of it.”
Miele, signed as an undrafted free agent by the Phoenix Coyotes after playing four seasons at Miami University of Ohio, had two goals and two assists Wednesday night to lead the Pirates to a 5-3 win against the Manchester Monarchs.
“What he’s doing is he’s competing,” Edwards said. “We’ll deal with those mistakes when he competes as hard as he did (Wednesday night). He ran over people. He controlled the game at times.”
Miele, a center who has three goals and four assists, attributes a lot of his early success to linemates Brett Hextall and Ryan Duncan.
“We’re pretty lucky to have all three of us here,” he said. “We all play the same game. We’re not afraid to get into the corners and we can mix it up a little bit.”
Hextall, a rookie forward who played three seasons at the University of North Dakota, has a goal and three assists.
Duncan, the 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner who spent his first two pro seasons playing in the Austrian Elite League before signing with Phoenix this summer, has two goals and three assists.
“We like to look for each other and we also like to put the puck on net,” said Miele, who has recorded at least one point in three of Portland’s first four games. “We know where each other is going to be and we can produce goals.”
PENALTY KILLING continues to be a bright spot for the Pirates.
After four games, Portland ranks fourth among the 30 AHL teams in killing penalties, allowing one goal in 22 power-play opportunities for a kill rate of 95.5 percent.
“A lot of veteran guys play on (the penalty kill) and those guys take a lot of pride in keeping the puck out of the net,” Edwards said.
“They don’t like getting scored against five on four.”
The Pirates’ top penalty killing unit includes forwards Kyle Chipchura and Ryan Hollweg and defensemen Nathan Oystrick and Dean Arsene.
In four games, the Toronto Marlies are 16 for 16 killing penalties. The Worcester Sharks haven’t allowed a goal in nine short-handed situations in their two games.
THE PIRATES leave Sunday on a five-day trip to Newfoundland to play two games against the St. John’s IceCaps, the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.
It will be a trip home for Portland assistant coach John Slaney.
“I hope I can get to see my family, but at the same time, it’s business,” he said.
“We’ve got to do our work to make sure our players are ready for the game.”
The team will travel by bus Sunday to Boston, where it departs Logan Airport on a 6:15 a.m. flight Monday to Toronto. From there, it will fly to Newfoundland, arriving at 4 p.m.
After playing the IceCaps Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Pirates will fly from St. John’s Thursday morning and arrive in Boston at 1 p.m. before busing back to Portland.
“Hopefully, I can see my mom the first night we get in there and get a home-cooked Newfie meal,” Slaney said.
“My mom always cooked us a turkey dinner every Sunday, so growing up I was pretty lucky. I had Thanksgiving dinner pretty much every Sunday.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]