January 13, 2011

Pirates Notebook: Making the most of an opportunity

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Justin Bowers is trying to make the most of his second stint this season with the Portland Pirates.

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Justin Bowers is making the most of his second promotion to the Portland Pirates this season from the ECHL, contributing two goals and three assists in six games.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

2010 Buffalo Sabres Headhsots
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T.J. Brennan

Bowers, a 25-year-old center who grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, has two goals and three assists in six games with the Pirates since his promotion from the ECHL's Greenville Road Warriors on Dec. 31.

"He's getting an opportunity and, you know, when you get a guy who has a level of desperation to him, I think it makes a difference," Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. "You know, he was a pretty desperate guy and that was a big thing for him to come up here and demand to be an (AHL) player, and I think he's warranted the extended stay. He deserves it."

Bowers has traveled a circuitous route. Before becoming a professional in 2008, he spent three seasons playing for the Woodstock Slammers in the Maritime Junior Hockey League and two seasons playing for St. Thomas University in his hometown.

Prior to this season, Bowers had brief stints in the AHL with the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, the old Quad City Flames in Moline, Ill., and the Abbotsford Heat in British Columbia. He has spent most of his time playing in the ECHL or Central Hockey League.

"No one likes playing three years in the minors, but I'm just trying to get a full-time job in this league," he said. "That's the first step. Then (I'll) try to make it to the NHL from there."

Injuries to forwards Derek Turnbull, Mark Parrish and Igor Gongalsky have left the Pirates short-handed.

"(Dineen) has given me a good opportunity here and I think I've made a pretty good shot at it here," Bowers said. "The path is there for me right now and I'm just going to help this team win and try keep a spot here."

In his first stint with the Pirates last month, Bowers went scoreless in three games.

"The first time I got called up I think I just tried to keep the puck out of my net and do the little things right," he said. "You always want to feel a new coach out to see how long your leash is."

The leash has gotten longer. During Tuesday night's 5-2 loss to the Binghamton Senators, Bowers logged time on the power play.

"We only had two power plays, but one of our best scoring chances came from a pass by him," Dineen said.

"He's got an offensive skill set. He's got a lot of patience with the puck. He knows what we need out there."

DURING THE PIRATES' last four games, T.J. Brennan, normally a defenseman, has spent the bulk of his time playing forward.

Since making the move, Brennan has contributed a goal and has two assists.

"He's got some jump up front and he's been a really responsible forward," Dineen said. "I think he's done a great job up there."

"It gives you a different perspective," Brennan said. "As a forward, I just look down the ice and try to make the simple play. I just try to chip it in instead of looking for that perfect pass."

Parrish, out since Nov. 26 because of a groin injury, and Gongalsky, who missed the last six games because of a concussion, are expected to return soon, so Brennan's time as a forward could be ending.

"I'm just trying to help out the team," he said. "Wherever they need me, I'll do my best."

WHEN HE SCORED his team-high 17th goal of the season Tuesday night, right wing Mark Mancari tied Martin Gendron for sixth place on the Pirates' all-time scoring list with 74 goals.

Gendron, who spent most of his 16-year professional career in the minors or playing in Europe, played two seasons for the Pirates in the mid-1990s. Mancari is in his third season with Portland.

LEFT WING Nigel Dawes was named AHL player of the week after getting five goals and an assist in three games for the Chicago Wolves.

Portland defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani was nominated for the award after getting a goal and five assists to lead the Pirates to three wins.

FORMER PIRATE Tyler Ennis is among 12 rookies invited to participate in the skills competition as part of the NHL All-Star Weekend Jan. 29-30 at the Raleigh Convention Center in North Carolina.

Ennis, last season's AHL rookie of the year, has nine goals and 10 assists in 42 games with the Buffalo Sabres, the Pirates' NHL parent team.

GAME PROMOTIONS: At Friday night's game against the Connecticut Whale at the Cumberland County Civic Center, fans will receive two tickets to a future game for donating a nonperishable food item to benefit the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.

At Saturday night's game against the Worcester Sharks, the first 500 fans at the Civic Center will receive a free seat cushion courtesy of the Portland Press Herald.

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



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