GLENDALE -- The Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate, finished their season in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 41-32-3-2, and will now face off against the third-seeded Syracuse Crunch in the opening round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The main storyline for Portland this season was the often-changing roster situation that Head Coach Ray Edwards and his staff had to work with.
When camp broke in October the team had a wealth of depth, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson along the blueline. But once the NHL work stoppage ended and reinforcements such as captain Alexander Bolduc and defenseman David Rundblad were needed in Phoenix, Edwards was forced to juggle the lineup and find that right combination of players to help the Pirates maintain their momentum after a 19-11-1-1 start through the first 32 games of the season.
“They were able to step up and play significant roles when we lost players to call-up or injury, and I think guys like Andy Miele and Chris Summers, who are a part of our leadership group here, really sort of pushed things along for us,” said Edwards, when asked about some of the contributions of the younger Portland players this season.
Miele finished the regular season with 19 goals and 34 assists for a team-high 53 points in 70 games. Rookie forward Chris Brown registered a team-high 25 goals and 40 points in 63 games. He also ranks ninth in the AHL in goals and his 12 power-play goals are tied for the third most in the league.
Goaltender Chad Johnson appeared in 34 games for Portland, posting a record of 16-15-1 with a 3.00 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. Goaltending prospect Mark Visentin played in 30 games, where he finished the regular season with a 15-12-1 record, a 2.98 GAA, a .903 save percentage and two shutouts in what was his first season in at the professional level.
Syracuse, which is the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was led on offense during the regular season by forward Tyler Johnson, who had 37 goals and 28 assists for 65 points in 62 games. Since coming over from Hamilton in a February trade, goaltender Cedrick Desjardins has made 14 appearances in net for Syracuse, posting a record of 8-5-1, with a 2.12 GAA, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts.
Despite this being a first-round playoff series, one challenge that Portland will have to deal with in facing Syracuse is unfamiliarity with their opponent. The two teams did not meet at all during the regular season, but Edwards says his team will still know what to expect when they take the ice for Game 1 on Saturday at Syracuse.
“We’ll watch film, we’ll talk to people, and we’ll get our group ready,” Edwards said. “We’ll have different meetings to prepare for them. It won’t be unlike any other week, except in this case we haven’t played them. So, we’ll use other team’s video. We just don’t have our own video.”
Edwards added that his team’s focus heading into Game 1 at Syracuse is solely on that game, and not on the rest of the series.
“We’ll do everything we can to try to find a way to win that game and then we’ll go past it and try to win the next one,” Edwards said. “We don’t look past the first game and we’ll try to do everything we can to try to win that game.”
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