WORCESTER, Mass. – Little did the fans who walked into the DCU Center know that ESPN switched its “Friday Night Fights” from Friday to Saturday.

After all, how does one account for the fact that the teams combined for nine pairs of fighting majors — six in the second period alone?

“Obviously, when you play a team that’s a division rival like Worcester and you play them so many times a year, it’s going to get a little chippy and it really came out tonight,” Portland’s Jordan Szwarz said after the Worcester Sharks scuttled the Pirates, 5-1. “You get familiar with a team that you play 12 times a year and it’s going to get chippy.

“Guys are going to get a little antsy and stuff like tonight’s is going to happen.”

What happened early in the second period almost defied imagination, considering five fights broke out in a span on of one minute and 24 seconds.

“I think we’re just two teams trying to win games,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “In the heat of the battle, this stuff happens.

“These are two teams that are fighting for inches. Nobody wants to give an inch and sometimes that happens. But give them credit. They won the hockey game. They were the harder team in the sense that they won more races, more battles and got to the net. That’s what we’d like our group to do.

“Talk about tough hockey games, to me that’s the toughness of it getting to the net and defending your net,” Edwards continued.

“I thought they did a better job than us.”

Worcester commenced doing “a better job” at 6:33 of the first period — 13 seconds after a player on each team was assessed a minor penalty.

Matt Tennyson won a draw in the right circle to Freddie Hamilton, who spotted Brodie Reid breaking toward the net. Hamilton fed the puck to Reid, who slid it past Mark Visentin on a backhander.

The Sharks broke the game open by scoring three goals in the second period.

In order:

Worcester was skating with a 5-on-3 advantage when Danny Giroux unloaded a slap shot from the left point that clanged in off the right post at 4:17.

Yanni Gourde stuffed a loose puck in the crease under Visentin at 17:17.

Curt Gogol finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Tim Kennedy at 18:47.

Worcester tacked on one more goal in the third period before David Rundblad spoiled a shutout bid by Alex Stalock (37 saves).

“They won the battle of position at the net,” Edwards said. “Until the third period we really didn’t generate anything offensively. By then, the game was out of control.”