February 25, 2010

Ennis' speedy transition earns him All-Star berth

RACHEL LENZI

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Tyler Ennis admits he struggled to make the transition during his first few games of professional hockey, not just to playing a higher level of hockey, but also in moving from his natural position of left wing to center.

But five games into the Portland Pirates' season, Ennis discovered his stride. He scored three goals in a 6-3 victory Oct. 16 against Hartford, and he relaxed. Finally, the hockey came to him.

On Tuesday, Ennis, a 20-year-old rookie from Edmonton, Alberta, was named to the Canadian All-Star team for the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic. Portland will host the game Jan. 19 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

''I never thought that in my first year, that I'd have this (amount) of success,'' Ennis said. ''Anytime you can say you're part of a Canadian team, it's an honor.

''Kids grow up in Canada wanting to be a hockey player, so getting this chance, this is an awesome honor.''

Ennis has 11 goals and 17 assists in 38 games, and he is the second-leading scorer among AHL rookies behind Worcester's Logan Couture (11 goals, 20 assists), who was also named to the Canadian team, made up of 24 players born in Canada.

Manchester's Jonathan Bernier, who played for the Lewiston Maineiacs from 2004 to 2008, was named the starting goalie for the Canadian team.

The AHL will announce the PlanetUSA All-Star team today.

Ennis had 43 goals and 42 assists in his final year of junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, representing Canada in the 2008 World Junior Championships. But he was moved from wing to center during training camp with the Buffalo Sabres, Portland's parent club.

Ennis admitted he's continuing to adjust to his new position.

''I'm still getting used to it,'' said Ennis, who was called up to Buffalo for a game in November and scored his first NHL goal Nov. 14 in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

''I had a few games where it seemed like nothing was going in. But finally, against Hartford, I broke the doors down and really started getting comfortable.''

Pirates assistant coach Eric Weinrich explained that in shifting from wing to center, Ennis took on more responsibilities and went against players bigger, stronger and older than him.

''That part of the game was an adjustment for him, but he embraced the role at center and he's become more of a setup man,'' Weinrich said.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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