LEWISTON — Portland Pirates coach Ray Edwards knows there are two sides to his job as a top minor league affiliate.

He walks a fine line between managing the Phoenix Coyotes’ farm team to win while also making sure he and his staff are developing the organization’s future stars well enough to play a key role in the National Hockey League.

In many cases, one goal begets the other — a successful team will be loaded with players ready to make the jump.

Currently, the Phoenix Coyotes’ roster at the NHL level is littered with former long-term Pirates, and a handful of players on the Pirates’ AHL roster has spent time with the Coyotes this season, as well.

But the other half of the equation, ensuring a winning product at the AHL level, has been a tougher task.

“Believe me, we’re embarrassed by our record, we’re embarrassed by our home record,” Edwards said. “We want to win more. But if those guys can go up and play well for them, and give them an opportunity to succeed, then part of our job is getting done. But the rest of it is, we’ve got to win more games. And that falls on me, simply.

“We’re proud people, and we’d like to win more games,” Edwards added. “It hasn’t happened. But a big part of our job is the development side. We’ve done some pretty good things there. But for the people of Portland, and Lewiston, who follow the team, they don’t care about that. That’s tough. We need to find a way to win more games.”

Juggle both jobs isn’t easy, and in many cases, developing younger players properly means risking a scoring chance against, or even a goal against.

“You end up coaching differently,” Edwards said. “You coach to put players in positions to succeed. And players are going to fail. There’s times in a game where you might put one player out there but, you know what, you put a younger player out there to let them have a situational sequence. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they don’t. But that’s part of the process in this league. Sometimes you have to put those players in positions where they may fail. And if they fail, they fail, and you have to get them back up and going again.

“It would be easy to have a bunch of veteran guys in here and play them all the time, and then your younger guys take three or four years before they’re (in the NHL),” Edwards added. “You look at guys like Connor Murphy. We brought him in here and we played him almost 25 minutes a night for the first 30 games, and then he goes up. And he’s playing big minutes (with Phoenix). (Brandon Gormley), he almost played 30 minutes a night for us. Was it great for our team? Maybe not. But it was great for his development. And that’s part of what we do. I know it’s hard for everyone here.”

For a good cause

The final tally is in for Brendan Shinnimin.

As part of Cancer Awareness Night at the Colisee on Friday, the Pirates’ forward pledged to donate $10 for every shot by the Pirates and $25 for every goal scored by the Pirates to the Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Following Shinnimin’s lead, Pirates ownership, Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, and On Target Utility Services agreed to match Shinnimin’s donation, and several teammates added their own donations.

“My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer about this time last year,” Shinnimin said. “One of my best friends has a parent that has a pretty aggressive cancer in his neck. I thought this was a great opportunity, especially because this is something so close to home. It was an opportunity for me to raise awareness and raise some money for cancer care and the patients out there suffering and fighting to beat cancer.”

The Pirates lost, but scored five goals on 31 shots. When all donations were totaled, the team raised $4,685.

“We raised quite a significant amount of money for one game,” Shinnimin said. “It’s a pretty special thing.”

Shinnimin even subtracted from his own wallet by scoring a goal in the game.

“I was pretty excited actually that I was able to score and be a part of it,” Shinnimin said. “We worked hard and everyone did their best. we came up a little short. But at the end of the night, we got 31 shots and five goals, that’s the most goals we’ve scored in a long time. Maybe it was this, maybe not, but it feels pretty good.”

“Without Brendan’s initiative, this donation would not have been possible,” Pirates COO Brad Church said in a statement. “This is a wonderful gesture on his part and we thank him for taking the initiative to organize this donation. It speaks to the character of this Pirates team that they decided to organize their own donation in addition to Brendan’s contribution.”

More production

Andy Miele was one of the Portland Pirates’ more dynamic forwards in 2012-13, scoring 19 times and adding 34 assists for 53 points.

But the Phoenix Coyotes wanted more from the Hobey baker Award winner this season.

“They expected me going into the season to produce more,” Miele said. “They were a little upset with the fact that I didn’t produce more last year, so that was a big focus of mine. The more I produce, the more I’m helping the team win, and that’s the most important thing.”

Miele listened.

As of Monday, in 60 games, the speedy forward had 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points, his best totals across the board as a professional player in three years. And he still has 10 games to play.

Miele’s 65 points are good for sixth overall in the American Hockey League, just four back of former University of Maine star Spencer Abbott, who is in second place. Travis Morin of the Texas Stars leads the way with 80 points this season.


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