After the luxury of having four days to prepare, the Portland Pirates appear ready to play the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven AHL playoff series starts today at 7 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“It’s been a long week for both teams,” Portland defenseman Mike Weber said.

“I’m sure they’re in the same situation as us, anxious and ready to get going. It’s fun to finally get down to it and start playing.”

During the course of their 80-game regular season, the Pirates seldom had a chance to spend four days preparing for one opponent, but this week they’ve been able to take a good look at the Monarchs.

“Because of the long week, we got to really kind of break it down, day by day, just different things,” Weber said.

“One day, focusing on their power play and how we can be better on the penalty kill. Then the next day, working on how we can be better on our power play. The following day, working on our neutral zone and defensive zone (play). (Thursday) we had a fun skate to kind of get the blood flowing.”

The players and coaches have watched numerous video outtakes of the Pirates’ games against the Monarchs.

“We’ve relied a little more on video on our pre-scout for Manchester than we have in the past,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.

“We’re comfortable that our players will be prepared. The trick is not to give them too much information on the other team and stick with what has worked for us.”

It promises to be a grueling, low-scoring playoff series.

Portland won seven of its 10 games against the Monarchs during the regular season. But six of the games were decided by one goal, and three of the Pirates’ victories came in shootouts.

“We’re two pretty evenly matched teams,” Portland defenseman Mike Kostka said. “We’ve identified what has been successful against them this season. We’ve just got to take that into the games and basically just play our game.”

The Pirates will just try to be themselves when they play Manchester.

“Our focus is trying to touch up what we’ve done well over the year,” said Dineen, who is guiding the Pirates into the playoffs for the fourth time in his five seasons as coach.

“I don’t think you can just say, ‘OK, we’re going to change things up.’ I think you can try to make adjustments. You know, things can change after the first period.”

In preparing the Pirates, Dineen has tried to make sure players get enough rest.

“When you have this kind of time, you try to take advantage of it and use it wisely and not have them out on the ice too long,” he said.

Dineen also has tried not to overwhelm his players with too much information about the Monarchs.

“You can only do so much before they get that glassy-eyed look,” he said.

“You have to make sure that what you do is relevant and instructional. It’s a mixture of what we’ve done well, and what we’re going to have to do well against Manchester.”


NOTES: Following elimination of the South Carolina Stingrays from the ECHL playoffs, goalie Todd Ford has returned to the Pirates. Beau Erickson, who served as the team’s backup goalie for the final week of the regular season, was released.


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

[email protected]


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