October 5, 2012

Pirates Notebook: Goalie prepared to lend a hand

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

After serving as an understudy to New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist for the past three seasons, Chad Johnson is prepared to do some mentoring of his own.

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Phil Lane of the Pirates tries to control the puck against Antoine-Houde Caron of the University of New Brunswick.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Mark Visentin, a rookie goalie, remains in the camp, where he would be in position to work with veteran Chad Johnson.

"The key thing for me is obviously to play well and win games, but it's also important that I help develop the younger goaltenders here," said the boyish-looking Johnson, a native of Calgary, Alberta, who played four college seasons at Alaska-Fairbanks before turning pro.

Last season, Johnson compiled a career-best 2.49 goals-against average in 49 games for the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers' AHL affiliate.

"For me, it's just an opportunity to get into a new organization and try to get into the NHL," Johnson said. "The lockout was unfortunate. I was excited to go into (the Phoenix) camp and compete."

While in the New York organization, Johnson was behind Lundquist, who has led the NHL in shutouts twice since becoming the starting goalie in 2005, and veteran Martin Biron, who has allowed less than three goals per game as Lundquist's primary backup the past two seasons.

During his three seasons with the Rangers, Johnson estimates he spent what amounts to a full season of games as a Lundquist teammate.

"I think being able to work with him was a good experience for me," he said. "He was always sharp. He didn't have an off day, even in practice. He was always there, always very consistent. It's key for a goaltender to always be consistent."

Johnson, 26, is the Pirates' lone veteran goaltender.

On Thursday, Portland assigned rookie goalie Louis Domingue to the Gwinnett (Ga.) Gladiators, its ECHL affiliate. Rookie goalies Mark Visentin and Mike Lee remain in camp.

"I want to be a good example and be there to offer advice when need be," Johnson said. "I look forward to just be able to have the guys watch what I do. In a goalie situation, I think it's important to be there as a example and not so much talking to you."

THE UNIVERSITY of New Brunswick gave the Pirates all they could handle in a scrimmage Thursday afternoon at the Portland Ice Arena.

The Pirates held a 2-1 edge in a shootout for a 2-1 victory.

"They are a hard-working team and it's a tough game to play, you know," Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. "They've got a good group over there."

UNB, which plays exhibitions against Boston College on Friday and Maine on Sunday, isn't a typical college team.

Its lineup had a few former pro players and four former Lewiston Maineiacs -- goalie Travis Fullerton, forwards Antoine Houde-Caron and Cam Critchlow, and defenseman Chad Denny, who would be ineligible to play NCAA hockey.

Jordan Szwarz and rookie Chris Brown scored in the shootout for the Pirates. Lee, who entered the game midway through the second period to replace Visentin, stopped four of the five shootout shooters.

Five other Portland rookies played in the scrimmage, including forwards Brendan Shinnimin, Scott Arnold, Scott Martinook and Darian Dziurzynski, and defenseman Brandon Gormley.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has spent the past 11/2 seasons with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, didn't play for the Pirates.

For the scrimmage, Szwarz, a second-year pro, was the Pirates' captain. Veteran center Alexandre Bolduc and defenseman Chris Sommers, in his third full pro season, were the alternate captains.

DON MALONEY, general manager of the Coyotes, watched the scrimmage. The Coyotes are entering their second season as the NHL parent team of the Pirates.

FORMER PORTLAND assistant coach and defenseman Eric Weinrich also took in the scrimmage. A scout for the Buffalo Sabres, Weinrich, who grew up in Gardiner, played 17 seasons in the NHL.

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH

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