SACO — The Portland Pirates got right down to business Monday morning as the AHL team opened its training camp at the MHG Ice Centre.
“It’s time to get to work,” said Coach Ray Edwards after he and his staff put 23 players through their paces during two grueling 45-minute training sessions at the Pirates’ new practice facility at the OA Performance Center.
“For the guys who haven’t been to rookie camp or main camp (in Phoenix), it’s tough,” Edwards said. “The other guys have been going for three weeks, and they’re in top physical shape, so it will take some of the other guys a few days to get up to speed.”
Participants in the initial training session included 10 players who suited up for the Pirates last season at some point and a mix of free-agent veterans and rookies.
Four more holdovers from last season’s squad are expected to join the workouts Tuesday.
As many as six players from NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes’ training camp could be assigned to the Pirates during the next week or 10 days.
“(The Coyotes) have to get to 23 (players) sometime next week, and they have 31 players up there now,” Edwards said.
Some of the players at Monday’s training session said they benefitted from spending nearly three weeks in Arizona at the Coyotes’ rookie and main training camps.
“You’re up there, and … every practice is grueling physically and mentally,” said Jordan Martinook, a center in his second season with the Pirates.
“When you come down here you already have your legs, and you kind of got one step over the guys for whom this is their first skate.”
“It’s pretty much the same style of camp that Phoenix ran,” said Mark Louis, making the transition from defense to right wing in his third season with the Pirates.
“We’re already used to it, and we know what to expect.”
It is the first professional training camp for Justin Currie, a rookie center who played junior hockey for the Charlottetown Islanders on his native Prince Edward Island the past four seniors.
“It’s hard to go out there and get bagged,” Currie said, “but it’s part of training camp. I worked hard all summer, so I felt I was in pretty good shape, but it still was tough.”
Kirill Tulupov, a 6-4, 230-pound defenseman, spent the offseason training in Minnesota after spending most of last season playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in his native Russia.
“I had a serious summer of training to bring myself to a new level regarding skill, conditioning and everything I could imagine,” said Tupulov, who played in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons during the 2011-12 season.
“The first day was interesting. It’s never possible during summer camps to get to this work ethic because everybody is pushing to the limit.”
Ian Schultz, a 6-2, 216-pound right wing who spent three seasons in the Hamilton Bulldogs, spent the past month skating with the Calgary Hitmen, his junior team.
“I was on the ice every day, and I made sure I stayed sharp and on the ball,” he said. “I feel great, and I look forward to the opportunity here.”
All of the team’s training sessions are open to the public. Admission is free.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at [email protected]