Goaltender Mike McKenna and the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates had just won for the ninth time in their past 10 games when a coaching change, of all things, came their way Jan. 1.
The parent Florida Panthers plucked coach Tom Rowe from the Portland bench and promoted him to a new role as an NHL associate general manager. In came Pirates assistant coach Scott Allen to take over Rowe's duties in Portland.
"It was interesting," said McKenna, a veteran of parts of 11 AHL seasons. "I don't think any of us saw it coming. Sometimes things like that happen, and they're kind of an open secret. [We] had no idea."
Life for the Pirates has mirrored their NHL big brother for the past six weeks in their ascent up the standings. The Panthers assembled an 18-3-1 record that has them second in the Eastern Conference.