Pirates sail into Maryland for a practice

By Sandor Roberts

Irish eyes were smiling and shamrocks lined the streets for hockey-starved fans in Maryland this St. Patrick’s Day as the Portland Pirates, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, conducted a practice at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton. The arena is the official practice facility of the Capitals. On hand to witness the morning practice were Capitals GM George McPhee and former Capitals defenseman Joe Reekie. Even former Capitals forward Peter Bondra made a cameo appearance near the end of practice.

The Pirates, with a record of 29 wins, 29 losses (three of which came in overtime) and five shootout losses, are ensconced in sixth place in the Atlantic Division. The team departed Portland yesterday as they have a four-game swing through the Mid-Atlantic. At the conclusion of practice, the Pirates boarded their bus en route to Norfolk. The Pirates will be playing three games in three days, two of those against the Norfolk Admirals and the final one coming late Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phantoms. After a brief respite, the Pirates will be back in action Wednesday evening when they take on the Hershey Bears.

Under the watchful eye of Head Coach Tim Army, the Pirates practice mainly consisted of a fair amount of skating and puck movement drills, in addition to some passing and shooting. The main thing was just to have the players get in a good workout as it is a rather long bus ride to Maryland from Maine.

There were 24 players (22 skaters and two goaltenders) on the ice, and the position breakdowns were as follows:

Forwards:
Brian Willsie, Trent Whitfield, Jared Aulin
Owen Fussey, Brain Sutherby, Graham Mink
Louis Robitaille, Jakub Klepis, Boyd Gordon
Darcy Verot, Brooks Laich, Jason Ulmer, Jonas Johansson

Defensemen:
Jakub Cutta, Steve Eminger, J-F Fortin, Chris Hajt, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Paul, Michel Periard, Nolan Yonkman, Dwayne Zinger

Goaltenders:
Kirk Daubenspeck, Maxime Daigneault

One player who has played well of late is 23-year-old defenseman Jakub Cutta. Cutta, who has matured a lot in his time with the Pirates, in this, his fourth season in the AHL, is showing a consistency in his play that heretofore had not been seen, and he is proving that the Capitals faith in him is paying off as he should develop into a solid NHL player.

With exactly one month remaining in the regular season, the Pirates are trying to chart a course to ensure that they qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. The Providence Bruins (72 points) and the Worcester Icecats (76 points) are just ahead of them in the division standings, but the Pirates have played three less games than both of those squads, and this road trip, which finishes with a game on March 25th against the Manchester Monarchs, could be the springboard to propel the Pirates into serious playoff contention.

For those Capitals fans who had the chance to make it out to the Pirates practice this morning, it must have seemed a little strange, as with no minor league teams nearby it’s been a long time since anyone has seen any pro hockey in the area. No talk of labor issues filled the air, just the sweet sounds of slapshots hitting the twine in the back of the net, wrist shots slamming into the goaltenders’ leg pads, and skate blades chewing up the ice.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.