PORTLAND — Former Pirates coach Glen Hanlon used to say that Mel Angelstad’s hands were soft on the inside and hard on the outside.

Known during his lengthy career for being one of the game’s tougher customers, Angelstad has shown a bit of his softer side this season.

He’s not a fighter. He’s a scorer.

“In a perfect world,” Angelstad says of the soft hands notion. “I think they’re rocks all the way through.”

Angelstad, who led the team with 212 penalty minutes in 53 games last season, has just 108 minutes in the box in 50 games this year. Though his minutes are down, his goals are up. He has five already, including one game-winner. Other than 10 goals with Thunder Bay in the Colonial League in 1996-97, Angelstad hasn’t scored more than three in a season. In fact, he’s had just 10 in the seven years since that season in Thunder Bay.

“It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” said Angelstad. “(Pirates coach) Tim (Army) has really taken a lot of time to work with me and make sure I’m in the right place.”

Army credits Angelstad for his hard work and diligence. Those efforts have paid off on the offensive end.

“I’m really happy with him in many ways,” said Army. “No. 1, he’s a fantastic guy in the locker room. He’s just the type of personality that I love. He’s a guy that will do whatever he needs to do to be part of a winning environment. He’s very intelligent. He listens. He tries to do and implement in his own game the things that we’re talking about.”

With Garret Stroshein in his first AHL season and having Stephen Peat on occasion, the Pirates haven’t had to rely on Angelstad for just his physical presence. That has allowed him to take on a more enhanced role. He often gets regular shifts and has been used in a variety of scenarios. Lately, he’s been a scratch because the team has ample veterans and healthy bodies but he’s performed well in the opportunities he’s had.

“I’ll put Mel in any situation,” said Army. “Other than the penalty kill, any type of situation, any time of the period, any time of the game, I’m confident to stick him out there. I know he’ll do the job defensively and because of that he’ll create for our team offensively.”

It has made for a very enjoyable season for Angelstad, allowing him to broaden his game and do more than just drop the gloves.

“That’s still a big part of my job,” said Angelstad. “I’m not going to get away from that, but I’m happy out there playing right now. I feel good playing out there and feel good that I can contribute.”

Between being one of the more popular players in the public and in the locker room, Angelstad has shown the intangibles that he can bring to the mix. Improving his game and nurturing a young player like Stroshein has earned him great respect from his peers and coaching staff.

“Developing Garret Stroshien, I think its fantastic,” said Army. “It’s like he’s a mentor to him. That means to much to a coach to have a player in the locker room with that kind of commitment.”

Scoring again

Forward Mark Murphy has seemingly found his scoring touch again after coming back from an injury. Murphy had scored 11 goals and 13 assists in 28 games before injuring his ankle. He missed 19 games and then didn’t score a goal for his first 12 games back.

“Before I got hurt, I thought I really was playing well,” said Murphy. “I tried to use it as a positive. I didn’t get down. I kept working through it. I hoped things would turn around, and I tried not to get down.”

Murphy has now scored seven goals in his last seven games, entering Sunday game in Lowell, and has 11 points in his last 11 outings. That included the Pirates’ second hat trick of the season, Murphy’s first since last March, against Norfolk last Thursday.

Solid in net

The wins have come begrudgingly but Rastislav Stana’s play has been solid all season as the Pirates backup.

Saturday’s 4-4 tie was just another example of his hard luck. Stana kept the Pirates in the game with some significant saves in the second period but watched the defense wilt in front of him before the Pirates rallied to earn a 4-4 tie. Stana has six win in 19 games and has won just twice, once in relief, since January 1.

Entering the weekend, Stana had a 2.41 goals against average and ranked fourth in the AHL with a .928 save percentage. In 19 games, he’s gone 6-10-2.


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