PORTLAND — There were only 12 penalties called Saturday night in Game 2 of the AHL Atlantic Division semifinals between the Portland Pirates and Manchester Monarchs.

That’s a low number, considering that when the teams met in New Hampshire on the final weekend of the regular season, they combined for 24 penalties.

But there were lots of unpleasant, unpenalized exchanges.

“It’s the playoffs, really,” said Nathan Gerbe, who assisted on the Pirates’ only goal in a 3-1 loss. “Every series will be like that, every game will be like that. You’ve got to be ready for things like that, for the physicality of the game. It really picks up. It’s the way the playoffs are.

“You face a team 10 times in a year, and then you get to the playoffs and you develop a hatred even more toward other players on the ice.”

Saturday, at least four less-than-friendly confrontations took place in the first period alone, a microcosm of the hard feelings that have built between the Monarchs and Pirates.

First, Manchester’s Kevin Westgarth and Portland’s Mike Weber exchanged words in the corner early in the game.

A few minutes later, Gerbe and Andrew Campbell engaged each other behind the Manchester goal, seconds after Monarchs goalie Jonathan Bernier stopped Gerbe’s one-on-one bid with a glove save.

With less than five minutes left in the period, Portland’s Kyle Wanvig and Manchester’s Alec Martinez met deep in Manchester territory.

Then, after Trevor Lewis gave Manchester a 3-0 lead, Campbell and Brad Larsen clashed.

“It’s a heated rivalry,” Lewis said. “It’s playoff hockey, and that’s how it’s going to be. The refs let a little more stuff go and it’s a pretty emotional game out there. So we had to keep sticking to what we were doing.”

Finally, the tension came to a head less than two minutes into the second period, when Manchester’s Bud Holloway and Portland’s Cody McCormick squared off near the Monarchs’ blue line. McCormick dropped Holloway with a left hook. Both received five-minute majors for fighting.

“Coming out from that first period, it was a bad first period for us,” Gerbe said. “We had to find some kind of fire, and Cody stepped up and did a great job. We played well after that, but sometimes it’s too late. That first period killed us.”

The official numbers? Six penalties for Portland and six for Manchester.

But the Monarchs took the most important emotional edge – a two-game lead in the series, which heads to New Hampshire for Game 3 on Monday.

“If I’m from Manchester I’m feeling good about their last 24 hours here in Portland,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “It was a productive start to the series for them, and obviously they’ve got the upper hand. We’ll see what our response is.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]