The Portland Pirates scored five times on special teams Wednesday night on their way to a 6-0 victory over St. John’s before a crowd of 1,657 at Cross Insurance Arena Wednesday night.

The two points leapfrogged Portland over Hartford and into sixth place in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference playoff chase. The top eight teams qualify.

The Pirates have added to their point total in 10 of 11 games and stand at 78, one ahead of Hartford and one behind fifth-place Providence.

St. John’s remains tied for 10th with Albany at 69 points.

Mike McKenna made 16 saves for his seventh shutout of the season. He also picked up his fifth assist.

The Pirates took command early, scoring three times in the first period and adding a short-handed goal in a penalty-filled second.

Henrik Samuelsson and Lucas Lessio each converted on Portland’s first two power-play opportunities, with Patrick McNeill assisting on each goal.

In between, Justin Hodgman found himself alone and unbothered in the slot after being set up by Jordan Martinook and easily beat an exposed Connor Hellebuyck.

Trailing 3-0 midway through the first, the IceCaps flipped the switch from passive to aggressive and the contest took on a hard edge. There were six fighting penalties and another 10 for roughing the rest of the way.

The only score of the second period came on a short-handed breakaway by Tyler Gaudet set up with a long, lobbed pass over the St. John’s defense from McKenna. Gaudet gathered it in at the blue line and skated in alone against Hellebuyck, flicking a shot to the upper right corner for a 4-0 lead.

McNeill picked up his third assist on yet another power-play goal midway through the third, setting up Alexandre Bolduc for a tap-in at the left edge of the crease to make it 5-0. Dylan Reece scored the final goal, also on a power play, set up by Brendan Shinnimin.

The Pirates and IceCaps play again at CIA Friday night followed by a Saturday night game with visiting Providence.


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