The Portland Pirates are taking the American Hockey League’s longest winning streak — nine games — into the toughest part of their schedule.

Over the next 10 days, the Pirates will play eight games.

”The first time I saw the schedule at the beginning of the summer, I thought it was ludicrous,” said Coach Kevin Dineen. ”But then we looked at other different options. Unfortunately that’s all we have, and it’s a tough one.”

Schedules basically are built around the availability of the home teams’ arenas. At most facilities, games must be slotted in between concerts, trade shows, circuses and basketball games.

Portland will play five of its next eight games on the road. This weekend the Pirates will play the Albany River Rats and Rochester Americans (twice).

The stretch comes as the Pirates, three points behind first-place Worcester in the Atlantic Division, are playing their best hockey.

”You do want to play every day when things are going well,” Dineen said.

”Every day we come to the rink, we think we can win, and that’s a great feeling,” said Kyle Wanvig, who has a goal or assist in seven straight games.

Still, the Pirates realize it will be tough to keep the winning streak alive.

”Last year in Peoria, I played seven (games) in nine (days),” said Jeff Cowan. ”It was pretty tough. Of course I wasn’t playing as much as I am this year, so it could be tougher on the old body, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The Pirates traveled by bus Thursday to Albany, N.Y., where they play the River Rats tonight. After that game they will travel to Rochester, N.Y., for games against the Americans on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Instead of busing home after Sunday’s game, the team will stay over and fly back Monday.

”We won’t be on the bus coming back, and that’s what gets you — the stiffness and lactic acid,” Dineen said.

Next Tuesday night, Portland will meet the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The next day the team will travel to Worcester, Mass., to play the Sharks.

After an off day next Thursday, they’ll finish the stretch by sandwiching two home games against the River Rats around a game at Hartford.

”I’ve had a few four-in-fives and I’ve had some six-in-10s, but this is something new,” Wanvig said. ”Luckily the travel isn’t bad. Our systems are strong.”

”It’s going to be a big part of our season, and we have to bear down and play well in those games,” Cowan said. ”You have to eat well, stay physically fit and mentally on top of things. Eight games in 10 nights are going to be tough, but I think we’re ready for it.”

”Realistically, if we can win five or six out of eight games, that would be great,” Wanvig said.


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

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