– By PAUL BETIT
PORTLAND – The St. John’s IceCaps had to wait just 24 hours to extract a little revenge from the Portland Pirates.
On Friday night, the Pirates rolled to a 5-2 win over the IceCaps at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Saturday night it was St. John’s turn, as the IceCaps rolled to a 4-1 win before 5,349 in the same building.
It was the first time this season that the Pirates had played an opponent in back-to-back games on home ice. It is something the IceCaps do with nearly every team that visits Mile One Centre in Newfoundland.
“It’s always hard to win that second game,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said, “We knew what we were facing and we knew they were going to be fired up. We just didn’t play a good 60 minutes.”
Portland remained eight points behind Atlantic Division leader Providence, which dropped a 5-3 decision to Worcester. They also remained four points ahead of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the race for the fifth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Eight teams from each conference advance into postseason play.
The IceCaps held a decisive 35-21 edge in shots.
“What they did was they checked really well,” Edwards said. “They were hard on the puck, so we didn’t have time and space. We just didn’t have any room to move because they played a real solid checking game.”
The score was 1-1 at the end of the first period.
Less than two minutes in, Nick Johnson, in his third game with Portland since returning from a two-month stay with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, scored his first goal as a Pirate by putting a shot from behind the net off goalie Mark Dekanich’s pads.
With less than five minutes left, Eric O’Dell tied it by firing a shot from the left circle through a screen for his team-high 23rd goal.
For the second night in a row, the IceCaps carried play during the first period, holding an 18-6 edge in shots.
Play was more even during the second period, but St. John’s took a 2-1 lead when Aaron Gag-non banged in a power-play goal 11 minutes in. It was eighth goal of the season and extended his points streak to nine games.
Goalie Mark Visentin stopped a penalty shot by Maxim Macenauer at the end of the second period to keep the IceCaps from pulling away, but St. John’s finally put the game out of reach in the third stanza when Macenauer scored a short-handed goal and Josh Lunden added a power-play goal with less than five minutes left.
Penalties continued to cause problems for the Pirates, who had to skate a man down for 38 minutes.
“The book is out on us,” Edwards said. “We don’t get any breaks, and we’re not going to get any breaks. Our guys have got to figure it out.”
NOTES: Former UMaine captain Joey Diamond made his AHL debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Saturday night. He scored a goal in the shootout, but it wasn’t enough as the Springfield Falcons pulled out a 3-2 win While making his ECHL debut with the Florida Everblades Friday night, former UMaine defenseman Mike Cornell had an assist in a 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Cyclones Earlier this week, former UMaine forwards Kyle Beattie and Mark Nemec both made their ECHL debut with the Orlando Solar Bears in a 5-4 loss to the Greenville Road Warriors. Beattie had three assists while Nemec picked up one helper.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: