Mike McKenna woke up Friday morning feeling worse than he did the night before, after sweating through the longest hockey game of his life.

“That was uncharted territory for me,” said McKenna, whose 41 saves backstopped the fourth-seeded Portland Pirates to a 2-1 triple-overtime victory over the No. 1 Hershey Bears Thursday night in Game 3 of their best-of-five Atlantic Division semifinal series.

“I’m a little tired, but I’m sure by the end of the day I’ll be good.”

The Pirates have a chance to clinch the series Saturday night at 7 in Hershey. Game 5, if needed, would be 5 p.m. Sunday in Hershey.

The winner advances to face No. 3 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a best-of-seven series.

Thursday’s game lasted 103 minutes and 10 seconds – the longest in franchise history. It ended when right wing Rob Flick’s one-timer from the right circle zipped inside the near post before Hershey goalie Justin Peters could shift over.

Corban Knight had carried the puck from his own blue line along the left boards and into the offensive zone before being challenged by a Hershey defender. Knight dropped a pass to a trailing Rob Schremp, who crossed the puck to Flick.

“It was obviously a team effort and I just happened to be the guy who got an open shot there,” Flick said after the game. “(Knight) did a really good job in the neutral zone of shaking somebody and ended up kicking it out to (Schremp), who put a perfect pass to my tape. So I didn’t have to do much.”

The only other triple-overtime affair in Pirates history was a season-ending 3-2 loss in 2001 at home to complete a three-game playoff sweep by Saint John. That ended 2:06 into the third OT.

Unlike the regular season, in which ties are settled by first reducing skaters to 3-on-3 and then, if necessary, holding a shootout, American Hockey League playoff games continue at full strength until a goal is scored.

“It was more or less business at hand,” McKenna said of Thursday’s night’s thriller. “The only thing that really changed was that guys were making sandwiches and trying to take fluids between periods. This is something our coaching staff and our training staff was prepared for. They had real food, not just power bars. We had to have meat and protein.”

McKenna said Pirates strength coach Eddie Reyes “must have been a sandwich artist in a past life” because of his dexterity at whipping up healthy food for the players, including a ham, turkey and mustard on whole wheat (no cheese) for the veteran goalie, who turned 33 earlier this month.

Pirates Coach Scott Allen said he’s been part of playoff teams that scrambled to have pizza delivered between periods of overtime games. The possible need for nutrition is not something he leaves to chance.

“That’s on our playoff checklist,” Allen said of the buffet table. “We want to be prepared for everything.”

Allen spoke by phone Friday afternoon as he was breaking down video of the game. He had been back on the Giant Center ice at 9 Friday morning with a dozen players scratched Thursday night. He told everyone who played to skip the morning workout.

After a scoreless first period, Hershey took a 1-0 lead on a Nathan Walker goal early in the second and the Pirates tied it on a wraparound by Greg McKegg (after he skated through three defenders) in the seventh minute of the third. The teams then played more than 56 minutes of scoreless hockey.

“I love the fact that there was no panic in our game, that we stuck to our guns,” Allen said. The Bears “certainly had their opportunities. I thought both goalies were outstanding and both teams’ penalty kills played very well.”

Peters finished with 42 saves. Hershey was 0 for 7 on the power play and Portland was 0 for 9. Through three games, each team has converted only once with a man advantage, despite 14 opportunities for Hershey and 19 for the Pirates.

Allen also discovered that Hershey left wing Ryan Bourque was “clearly” offsides on the play leading to Walker’s goal. Had Allen been able to challenge like his NHL brethren, the goal likely would have been disallowed.

Also, in the second overtime period, Hershey defenseman Aaron Ness slid in the crease behind Peters during a scramble and covered the puck with his glove. Normally such an infraction calls for a penalty shot.

Instead, referee David Banfield came over to Allen to explain.

“He told me he had a tough sight line on that particular play,” Allen said. “I appreciated his honesty. We’re all human and mistakes happen.”

McKegg, who nearly scored another wraparound from the opposite direction, was one of three players sent down from the NHL Panthers after their playoff elimination. Allen said McKegg, Logan Shaw and Mike Matheson all showed signs of rust from not skating for several days.

“They all played OK,” Allen said, “but I honestly think all three of them will be better (Saturday) night.”

Although the Pirates are in the driver’s seat, Allen said he doesn’t expect any momentum from Thursday night to carry into Saturday.

“The elimination game is the toughest game to win, and that’s what this is,” he said. “We expect to get their best game of the series. That’s what we have to be prepared for.”