March 13, 2010

Pirates trying out a new home away from home tonight

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

The Portland Pirates will play their first regular season game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston tonight, but the rink is familiar to some players on their roster.

Forwards Felix Schutz and Marek Zagrapan and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani played at the Colisee while with teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. They will be able to pass some knowledge to their teammates before tonight's game against the Albany River Rats.

''What I remember was the ice was really, really hard because the rink was really cold,'' said Schutz, who split time with the St. John Sea Dogs and the Val d'Or Foreurs in two seasons in the QMJHL before turning pro in his native Germany before last season. ''The ice surface was really hard, but the boards were good.''

The 3,600-seat arena seats about 3,000 fewer than the Cumberland County Civic Center.

''Two years ago, when I was playing for Val d'Or against the Lewiston Maineiacs, it was actually loud and noisy,'' Schutz said. ''But during a game, you don't even recognize that.''

It is the first of two home games the Pirates will play at the Colisee this season.

The Pirates are scheduled to play a game against Lowell in Lewiston on March 14. Portland also will play home games Dec. 8 against Manchester at Alfond Arena at UMaine in Orono, and against Albany Feb. 10 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.

''It's pretty hard on us,'' Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. ''These games are basically adding eight days of travel to our schedule. It puts a real cramp in our schedule, but that's the way it is.''

At 9-1-1, the Pirates will bring the AHL's best record into tonight's game, and playing a home game away from home won't change their approach.

''It doesn't change anything, whether we are home or away,'' said Gragnani, who played at the Colisee several times during four seasons in the Q with the Prince Edward Island Rocket. ''I think we try to have the same attitude, whether we're at home or away. We're trying to win a game, so it doesn't matter where we are.''

Three players familiar to fans of the Pirates and the Maineiacs could be in the Albany lineup.

The River Rats' roster includes forward Trevor Gillies, who played two seasons for the Pirates before signing with the Carolina Hurricanes before last season, and two former Maineiacs, forward Stefan Chaput and defenseman Jonathan Paiement.

Tonight's game also will mark the Maine debut of Matt Ellis, a veteran center assigned to the Pirates last Saturday after playing seven games in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.

Ellis, who averaged 17 goals and 21 assists in four AHL seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, spent all of last season in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Kings.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

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