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Ferraros revisit Maine, but this time as pros

Feb 16, 1996

Identical twins Peter and Chris Ferraro spent just a little over a year in Maine, helping the University of Maine win a national championship and making a lot of friends.

They'll hold a reunion of sorts Saturday night. That's when the Ferraros lead the Binghamton Rangers into the Cumberland County Civic Center to play the Portland Pirates.

Portland opens the weekend tonight against Baltimore and finishes Sunday with a home game against Worcester.
"I'm looking forward to returning to Maine, no question," said Peter Ferraro. "It's going to be nice to get back there and see a lot of familiar faces."

"Obviously Maine was a tremendous experience for us," said Chris Ferraro. "I know it was only one year. But it was short and sweet."
Their return will give everyone a chance to see just how far the Ferraros, who have always worn the mantel of great expectations since both were drafted by the New York Rangers in 1992, have come.

As freshmen, they were among the stars on Maine's 1993 championship team. Chris (a fourth-round draft pick) was fourth in scoring with 25 goals and 26 assists. Peter (a first-rounder) was sixth with 18 goals and 32 assists.

Now they are among the scoring leaders of a Rangers team that leads the Southern Division and has one of the top offenses in the American Hockey League.

Peter, a center, leads Binghamton with 34 goals and 40 assists, good for third in the AHL scoring race. Chris, a right wing, follows with 21 goals and 45 assists, tied for sixth in the AHL.

"Obviously they've been a big part of our success," said Rangers Coach George Burnett. "Their games have improved since the start of the season in terms of playing without the puck and with discipline."

The Ferraros played most of last year with the Atlanta Knights of the IHL. And while it provided them with a glimpse of pro hockey, it didn't provide them with all the tools needed to get into the NHL.

This year, said Peter, "We've learned a lot of different things, a lot of different styles. We're learning the ropes of professional hockey, its ins-and-outs.

"Hockey is a lot more important in this league, there are a lot more things we have to concentrate on to get to the next level."

Peter has already made it, playing two games with New York this year (getting limited playing time); Chris is close. 

The knock against the Ferraros has always been their size - they are both about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds - but Burnett has no doubts they will someday be in the NHL for good.  They have a fanatical work ethic, sometimes staying after practice for up to two hours to work out. And their skills are obviously impressive.

"I don't think their size will keep them out of the NHL, they have a bright future ahead," said Burnett. "But the time they spend at this level is very important. The ability to lead and be a key player in the American League is a big part of their development."

Peter Ferraro hopes the chance comes soon. "I believe in a lot of ways I am ready," he said. "And that goes for my brother too." 

And they might be.

Neil Smith, the New York general manager, told a reporter earlier this year that, "We have to give them an opportunity, if not this year then next, to see what they can do."

Smith also discounts their size as a disadvantage.  "They aren't going to become 6-foot-3," he said. "Their size is what they are, which isn't any smaller than two of our key guys right now, Pat Verbeek and Ray Ferraro."

Still, the Ferraros can improve. They play a feisty, physical style, which often leads to unnecessary penalties.

"Neither one is going to back down from anyone," said Burnett. "But what I've tried to get across to them this year is that there are times, like when the game is on the line, that it's best not to get involved in stuff like that.

"There's always been a sense to them that they had to prove something to everyone. I'm trying to impress to them that being able to prove yourself all the time isn't necessarily standing up to everyone who wants a piece of you."

Especially when backing off could give the Rangers a power-play opportunity. Binghamton, which features a third Maine alumnus, defenseman Andy Silverman, leads the AHL in power-play percentage at 24.6 percent. Peter Ferraro and teammate Ken Gernander, the Rangers'
captain and leader, are tied for the AHL lead with 18 power-play goals. 

"It's been a good year," said Chris Ferraro. "I know I'm happy with how things are developing. We're being put in some key situations, and that can only help us. This year has been very beneficial for our careers."

BANDITS (21-26-7) AT PIRATES (17-28-9)
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Cumberland County Civic Center
Players to watch: Baltimore - RW Dwayne Norris (24-31-55), LW Mike Maneluk (22-27-49), D Darren Van Impe (7-36-43), RW Steven King (19-12-31), G Mike O'Neill (21-22-7, 3.51 goals-against average). Portland - LW Andrew Brunette (21-46-67), C Kent Hulst (14-30-44), RW
Martin Gendron (21-16-37), C Jason Allison (18-15-33), D Steve Poapst (7-18-25).
Season series: Portland leads, 1-0-1.
Last meeting: Jan. 21, 2-2 tie
Of note: This is Baltimore's first visit to Portland. The Bandits have been hurt recently by call-ups to the Mighty Ducks, losing their top two scorers, Jim Campbell and J.F. Jomphe. O'Neill leads the AHL in minutes, saves, losses and is tied for first in wins. The Pirates will be boosted by the addition of defenseman Stewart Malgunas, assigned by the Caps on Thursday after being acquired in a trade. Portland enters four points in back of third-place Providence in the Northern Division. Baltimore is a point ahead of last-place Carolina in the Southern Division.
Tickets: Approximately 1,200 are available.
Radio: WLPZ-AM (1440); WIDE-AM (1400); WTME-AM (1240); WFAU-AM (1280);
WKTQ-AM (1450); WOXO-FM (92.7); WTBM-FM (100.7).

"I don't think their size will keep them out of the NHL, they have a bright future ahead. But the time they spend at this level is very important." George Burnett, Binghamton coach

1996, Portland Press Herald

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