Smooth transition

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Lisbon’s Greg Moore has made the jump to professional hockey without missing a beat.

PORTLAND – It didn’t take long for Greg Moore’s introduction to professional hockey.

Before the Lisbon native scored his first goal or earned his first pro paycheck, Moore received his first shiner.

“My first game, I took a stick in the eye,” said Moore. “It’s been awhile since I had any facial injuries.”

Welcome to professional hockey.

It isn’t just about championships and college pride any longer. Hockey is now a livelihood, and Moore is excited to be starting his after a stellar career at the University of Maine.

Saturday night, as a member of the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack, the top farm team of the New York Rangers, Moore was playing in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

His shiner has healed and his playoff beard is in full growth.

“It’s been very exciting being able to keep myself in the lineup and in an important part of the season too,” said Moore. “It’s definitely been a good feeling for myself to know that I can compete at this level.”

Moore only had a week’s break between Maine’s loss to Wisconsin in the Frozen Four in Milwaukee before joining Hartford for the final two regular season games. He had an assist in his first outing and scored in the second game. The goal came short-handed.

“It wasn’t one of those empty-net rebounds,” he said. “I actually held the guy off and drove the net.”

In nine playoff games, he’s scored once and had four assists. He’s seen a regular shift, played on the power play and the penalty kill.

“He’s played very well,” said Hartford coach Jim Schoenfeld. “He’s been an intelligent player. He finishes his checks well. He has a good shot and a good release on his shot.

“The longer he plays and gets more acclimated, I think he’ll feel more comfortable shooting. Obviously, the more he shoots, the more he’s going to score. But, we think he’s been a real nice fit for the team. Now he just has to continue to improve.”

Moore could have gone pro last year, but opted to stick with the Black Bears for his final year. He was the team captain, and led the team with 28 goals and 44 points, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Maine made it to the Frozen Four for the second time in three years, but now Moore is focused on adjusting to pro hockey and competing for the Calder Cup.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Moore, who was traded to the Rangers by Calgary in March 2004. “I’ve really enjoyed the transition of getting to know what it’s like to play at this level and learn the day-to-day things about how it goes. I’ve been having a lot of fun, and I’ve been fortunate they’ve given me a good opportunity to keep playing.”

Coming off the college hockey playoffs, the 22-year old Moore has stepped into the Calder Cup playoff chase without skipping a beat. He says the game is a little different. with more of a grinding style. The pace is faster, and the skills and speed of the players around him are that much greater.

He’s adjusted well and already proven his ability to play at the AHL level. Now it is a matter of doing it over a longer period of time.

“It’s a matter of consistency and improving in every area,” said Schoenfeld. “He doesn’t have one major deficiency compared to the NHL level, but it’s one step at a time. He came in at a very intense time of the season, and he’s been able to be a consistent contributor to our team.”

Playing his first game in Portland was an exciting opportunity and a bit of a homecoming.

It’s exciting to be back and see some familiar faces,” said Moore, whose last game at the Civic Center was against Brown in January when he earned a hitting-from-behind penalty and game misconduct. “I know it’s going to mean a lot to me to play at this level in front of a lot of family and friends. It’s going to be exciting, because I grew up watching this team.”

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