PORTLAND – Heads, Alex Bourret. Tails, Greg Moore.

The Sherbrooke Castors – now the Lewiston Maineiacs – drafted both players. Bourret went to Sherbrooke and then on to Lewiston, and finally to Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Moore, a Lisbon native and former player at St. Dom’s, went to the University of Maine for four years and graduated as the team’s captain.

Two players who have taken two very different paths to the American Hockey League have again crossed paths, though, each bringing a key element to the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers’ top affiliate.

On offense, there is Bourret, who finished eighth in the QMJHL in scoring in his final season in Shawinigan. This year, he is playing on the team’s top power-play unit after the Rangers acquired his rights in a deal with Atlanta. He has six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 24 games with the Wolf Pack this season.

On defense, Moore has shined. One of the team’s top penalty-killers, Moore is on the ice for key draws and has played both at center and on the wing. He has played in all 80 of the team’s games and has also scored 25 points.

“The other side of the coin from each other, right?” Hartford assistant Ken Gernander said with a smile.

Ups and downs

Moore joined the Wolf Pack for last year’s playoff run after completing his senior season at Maine. Already, he said, that gave him a leg up.

“I know what playoff hockey is like now in this league,” Moore said. “It’s obviously a completely different pace of game, pretty much knowing that every little play in the game is a big play.”

Moore started the season with high hopes. He saw time on the power play, but his explosive start in last year’s playoffs didn’t seem to translate into this year’s regular season.

“At the beginning of the year. I was getting a lot more power-play time, but obviously I was struggling offensively, so they kind of switched my roles,” Moore said.

“He made a big splash when he joined us in the playoffs (last year),” Gernander said. “After a little bit of a slow start this season, I think his game elevated in every area. The offensive part is still coming, but he has some capabilities, he just hasn’t got there yet.”

In response to the sluggish start, the coaching staff switched Moore into a defensive role. There, he has excelled.

“I’m still happy with my progress,” Moore said. “I’ve really improved a lot on the defensive side of my game, and I do know that the coaches have faith in me, in our own zone and on the penalty kill and stuff.”

“He’s a solid penalty-killer, defensive player for us, he’s been playing center and wing,” Gernander said. “Whatever we ask him to do. Anything you can add to your resume to elevate your game is a plus.”

In Hartford’s final regular-season game of the season Sunday in Portland, Moore got a chance to come home. He held a plus-minus of zero, despite his team’s 5-2 loss, and had three shots on goal.

“It obviously still means a lot to me to play here,” Moore said. “There are a lot of people I don’t see or hear that still come to support me, especially my family.”

Same old Bourret

On the flip side of Gernander’s coin is Bourret, who was mired in a log jam of talented players with the Chicago Wolves to begin the season.

“Chicago, they have a good team and they have a lot of forwards,” Bourret said. “Every game, there were, like, five or six forwards sitting, so I was playing one game, sitting for one, playing three, sitting for three so it was tough to start the season.”

In February, the New York Rangers acquired Bourret from Chicago’s parent club, Atlanta.

“I had a couple points, a couple goals, but it was nice for me to be traded,” Bourret said. “It was a big surprise to be traded this year.”

Bourret was excited, if a bit nervous, in his first trip back to Maine since the Lewiston Maineiacs traded him to Shawinigan in 2005.

“It’s nice to be back,” Bourret said. “The first time I came back was (Saturday) night, and I am sure I am going to come back here again next year. I left Lewiston, I think some people thought I was not happy in Lewiston, but that’s not the case. I liked Lewiston, it was nice.”

Nicer still, Bourret said, were the hundreds of people with Maineiacs’ gear on at the game Sunday. He tipped his hat to them with a goal and an assist.

As a player, Bourret always struggled to play at both ends of the ice, but according to the Hartford coaching staff, that part of his game is starting to come around.

“We always saw the offensive upside,” Gernander said. “It wasn’t so much that he had unwillingness to play defense, it was that he made some high-risk plays. We don’t want to compromise his offensive capabilities, but we tried to eliminate those decisions from his game. Any offense he can bring to the team is appreciated, and we hope to enhance it going forward.”

Playing on a line with to players who have already tested the NHL waters is nice, too, Bourret said. But it may be Bourret who is lending the helping hand.

“I think he really enhances Nigel Dawes’ game,” Gernander said. “Nigel (the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer) was with a number of different linemates and he was playing hard, but he wasn’t piling up the numbers that he has been of late. Almost from the moment they played together, they found a chemistry and feed off of one another.”

As for his physical game, Bourret reminded people Sunday just how hard he can hit, taking out Portland Pirates’ coach-turned-player and 17-year NHL veteran Eric Weinrich with a hard, clean hit in the third period. Weinrich was so frustrated, he took a double minor on the next play toward him.

Bourret scored on the power play.

“If you don’t want to get hit, you shouldn’t play anymore,” Bourret said. “I just play my game and we scored on the power play after that, so that was good. I tried to go easy (Sunday) because we have playoffs coming, but I’m going to check someone when I have the chance.”

Together, the two players who have each spent time as hockey players in Lewiston are just one step away from their ultimate dream.

Heads or tails, it’s the Wolf Pack who are winning.

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