WORCESTER, Mass. — According to the AHL schedule, the Calder Cup playoffs begin after the regular seasons ends April 10.

But for the crowd of 2,555 at the DCU Center, the playoffs began Tuesday night when the Portland Pirates edged the Worcester Sharks 2-1 in a shootout.

As a result, Portland increased its Atlantic Division lead over Manchester to four points heading into tonight’s home game against the Monarchs.

Paul Byron scored in the first minute for Portland and Mark Parrish scored the only goal in the shootout. But the real star for the Pirates was goalie Jeff Jakaitis, who made 36 saves in regulation and overtime and then shut down the Sharks in the shootout, including highlight-show saves on Benn Ferriero, Dan DaSilva and Brandon Mashinter.

“We needed a big effort and he certainly stood there and was a big difference maker for us,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said of Jakaitis. “We’re real proud of the effort he put in.

“I think his compete level and his quickness are his strong points. You would be concerned because he’s not a huge guy (Jakaitis is listed at 5-10 and 165 pounds) if he was playing a ton of games in a row. But he really gave us a jolt of energy tonight.”

Jakaitis said his mind-set in a shootout is to be reactive instead of proactive.

“For me personally, it’s not to think more than anything,” he said. “I almost feel when I have an idea in my head of what a guy might do, I’m guessing.

“As a goalie, I think it’s important to be patient and react to what they do and try to wait them out. If I’m thinking about something that they might do, it messes with my head a little.

“I just try to clear my mind, focus on the puck and try to make a good move.”

Byron scored 57 seconds after the opening faceoff when he buried the rebound of a Parrish shot that deflected off Harri Satari’s glove.

Jakaitis protected that lead until 8:19 of the third when T.J. Trevelyan deflected in a Matt Irwin slap shot.

“As far as points in the standings are concerned, we’d like to stay ahead of Manchester,” Jakaitis said. “I think the mind-set is to try and win every game. You want to be going in a good direction going into the playoffs.

“I think tonight was a good test. I think it really was a playoff-type game. It could have gone either way with a bounce here or there and it should help our confidence moving forward.”


NOTES: The Pirates signed Windham native Matt Duffy to a professional tryout contract. Duffy, a defenseman, has split this season between Kalamazoo and Gwinnett in the ECHL, totaling four goals and 10 assists in 56 games. He also has played 20 games in the AHL. During his career at the University of Maine, Duffy recorded 21 goals and 22 assists in 135 games.


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