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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Another successful season of Portland Pirates hockey came to an end in the Atlantic Division Finals as the Pirates were eliminated from Calder Cup contention in a hard-fought six-game series against the Binghamton Senators last Friday.

Marc-Andre Gragnani (Photo: Derek Philippon)

The Pirates turned in another outstanding regular season, earning the AHL’s second-best record with a mark of 47-24-7-2 in capturing the Emile Francis Trophy as the Atlantic Division Champions under Head Coach Kevin Dineen. The 47 wins were the most by a Pirates team since 2005-06. In addition, Portland posted the second best home record in 2010-11, going 25-8-6-1 at the Cumberland County Civic Center with the eight regulation losses the fewest suffered by any team on home ice during the season.

2010-11 Portland Regular Season Stats

2011 Portland Playoff Stats

The superb regular season lead to numerous individual honors. After a four-game audition in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs, Luke Adam burst onto the scene as a full-time professional in 2010-11 and was selected as the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award recipient as the AHL’s Outstanding Rookie, becoming the third straight member of the Pirates to receive the honor (Sabres forwards Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe were the previous winners).

The 20 year-old St. John’s, Newfoundland native captured Reebok/AHL Player-of-the-Week honors the first week of the season after scoring two goals and two assists in his AHL regular season debut and never looked back. His season featured 29 goals and 33 assists for 62
points (tied for most among freshmen players) in 57 games and also included 19 NHL games with the Sabres in which he registered three goals and an assist. Adam was the Reebok/AHL Rookie-of-the-Month selection for October 2010 (he had six goals and seven assists for 13 points in nine games), represented the Pirates at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic in Hershey, PA and was selected to the 2010-11 AHL All-Rookie Team.

Marc-Andre Gragnani also turned in a stellar campaign for the Pirates, capturing the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s top defenseman in the process. The 24 year-old Montreal, Quebec native led the AHL in scoring by a defenseman in 2010-11 with 12 goals and 48 assists for 60 points in just 63 games. His 48 assists and 60 points were both career-highs and established new franchise records for assists (he topped his own mark of 42 established in 2008-09) and points (53 by Brian Salcido in 2007-08) in a season by a defenseman. He also tied a franchise record for assists in a game when he collected five helpers in an 8-3 win over Worcester on January 15, was selected as an AHL First Team All-Star and earned his first NHL goal and assist during a late-season call-up to the Sabres. 

In nine regular season outings with Buffalo, Gragnani notched a goal and two assists before leading the Sabres in scoring during the postseason.  He set a Sabres franchise record for most points by a rookie in one playoff series by collecting seven points (1-6-7) in the seven-game series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Mark Mancari rounded out a trio of Pirates individual award winners during the 2010-11 season as he was selected as an AHL First Team All-Star after finishing tied for 14th in AHL scoring with 32 goals (a career high and tied for fourth most in the AHL) and 32 assists for 64 points in 56 games. The 25-year-old London, Ontario native earned Reebok/AHL Player-of-the-Week honors in January when he scored eight goals and two assists for 10 points in four games.  That performance contributed to Reebok/AHL Player-of-the-Month honors in January for Mancari as he registered 13 goals and eight assists for 21 points in 15 games. He also appeared in a career-high 20 games with the Sabres during the season, netting a goal and seven assists.  Mancari skated for the Sabres in Game 7 of their playoff series with the Flyers.

The season also featured nine members of the Pirates getting the call to Buffalo. In addition to Adam, Gragnani and Mancari, Paul Byron, Matt Ellis, Jhonas Enroth, Mark Parrish, Dennis Persson and Colin Stuart all were rewarded for their fine play when they received a call-up from the Sabres at different points throughout the year.  Byron even picked up his first NHL goal while playing in his hometown when he scored against the Ottawa Senators in a January 25 game at Scotiabank Place.

David Leggio (Photo: Derek Philippon)
David Leggio might have capitalized more than any other in the absence of a regular due to NHL recall as he stepped in for Enroth and put together an outstanding rookie AHL season. The 26 year-old Western New York native posted a victory in his first six starts for the Pirates, was signed by the Sabres to an NHL contract after starting the season on an AHL deal, recorded 10 straights wins (one shy of the franchise record for goaltenders) in the second half of the season and kept the Pirates in contention for the Atlantic Division title following the late-season departure of Enroth.  Leggio went 22-12-0 in the regular season with a 2.80 GAA, a .911 SV% and three shutouts.

Enroth, meanwhile, posted a record of 20-17-2 with a 2.78 GAA and a .912 SV% with Portland.  He also appeared in 14 games with the Sabres, going 9-2-2 with a 2.73 GAA, a .907 SV% and his first career NHL shutout.

The Pirates finished as the AHL's highest scoring team and had four players surpass the 25-goal plateau - Mancari (32), Adam (29), Derek Whitmore (27) and Byron (26).

Others who took advantage of their AHL opportunity included Brian Roloff, Maxime Legault and Igor Gongalsky, all of whom came to the Pirates on tryout contracts that they converted into full time employment, as well as late-season arrivals Mark Voakes, Brian O’Hanley and Jeff Dimmen.
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