May 6, 2011

A Pirate who can't lose either way

A win tonight lets Jeff Dimmen play on in the AHL playoffs; a loss sends him to UMaine graduation.

By Rachel Lenzi rlenzi@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Sometimes Corey Fienhage wonders what Jeff Dimmen is doing, spending all that time at his laptop computer or hunched over paperwork.

click image to enlarge

Defenseman Jeff Dimmen, skating with the Pirates since early April, has earned a bachelor s degree in finance from UMaine.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

SERIES AT A GLANCE

April 27: Senators 3, Pirates 2

April 28: Senators 5, Pirates 3

April 30: Pirates 3, Senators 2

May 2:  Senators 6, Pirates 1

May 3: Pirates 6, Senators 2

Tonight: Senators at Pirates, 7 p.m.

Saturday: Senators at Pirates, 7 p.m., if necessary

TELEVISION: Time Warner Channel 1000

OF NOTE: Binghamton's Ryan Potulny is the leading scorer in the AHL playoffs with 10 goals and nine assists in 12 games, but he was held scoreless for the first time in the series in Game 5. ... Mark Mancari leads the Pirates with six goals and six assists, despite missing three first-round games while with Buffalo. ... The Pirates have never won a playoff series after falling behind 3-1, and they've overcome a 2-0 series deficit once, against Providence in the 2008 Atlantic Division finals.

Could he be chatting on Facebook? Or watching YouTube videos?

Probably not.

"He's on his laptop every night, and I don't know if he's necessarily studying," Fienhage said, laughing. "But at the same time, he's getting focused for the game."

Fienhage and Dimmen, rookie defensemen on amateur tryout agreements with the Portland Pirates, are roommates at the Holiday Inn By The Bay in Portland, where short-term Pirates typically board each season. But every day since Dimmen turned pro with the Pirates about a month ago, Fienhage has watched as Dimmen has avoided the typical online diversions in order to complete his course work toward a degree in finance from the University of Maine.

Dimmen is scheduled to receive his degree Saturday when UMaine holds its graduation ceremony in Orono. He's one of five seniors on the Maine hockey team who will graduate, but Dimmen's plans for attending Saturday's ceremonies hinge on the outcome of tonight's Game 6 of the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division finals between the Pirates and the Binghamton Senators.

Dimmen said Thursday that if the Pirates win Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7 on Saturday at the Cumberland County Civic Center, he will not be in Orono. If Binghamton wins Game 6, Dimmen and his family, who plan to travel this weekend from Colorado, will attend graduation.

"It was a tough decision," Dimmen said. "My friends are there, my friends from the past four years, and that's what I've been working for, since I was a little kid, getting a college degree. It would be a little sad if I wasn't going to be there. But I'm on to the next phase in my career, and my priorities lie with this team and helping them in the playoffs."

Dimmen signed with the Pirates on April 2 and made his pro debut the next night in a 5-2 loss at Manchester. He has one assist in 13 games with the Pirates -- six regular-season games and seven playoff games.

Through the course of the last month, Dimmen has juggled the last of his college classes with the start of his professional career.

When some teammates were watching movies or playing poker on bus trips, Dimmen was probably finishing a term paper or working on an assignment.

"I think it's pretty crazy how he's done it," Fienhage said. "He's studying at night and he finds time to focus on the game, as well. I don't know how he's doing it. He's taking tests online some nights and it's pretty amazing, actually. I wouldn't be able to do it."

Dimmen said he had the cooperation of both his professors and of the Pirates coaching staff when it came to fulfilling his course requirements during his final month of college.

In fact, Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen gave Dimmen the day off from practice Thursday morning -- a day before Game 6 -- to take an 8 a.m. final exam in Orono.

"It kind of hit me, taking my last final and saying goodbye to all the team," Dimmen said. "I won't be at the hockey banquet (tonight in Brewer). It was definitely bittersweet. But it hasn't really set in yet, because I've been away and starting my career."

After he completed the exam, Dimmen drove back to Portland to rejoin the Pirates in the afternoon.

"I can't thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to play for a first-place team," Dimmen said. "To experience a big playoff push has been a lot of fun."

 

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

rlenzi@pressherald.com

 

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