Saturday's Morning Skate 4/2

Saturday, April 2, 2016
Portland will rely Mike McKenna down the stretch. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
Entering the final month of the regular season, the Atlantic Division has become a six team race for what looks to be five playoff spots as the fifth place team (Portland) enters today's games six points ahead of fourth place in the North Division (Syracuse) with a game in hand.

Sixth place Hartford is just two points back of Portland and the Wolf Pack host the Pirates tonight in a crucial match up that could help clear up the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto and Albany have already clinched playoff spots and are safely entrenched in the top two spots in the North Division, so it's realistically a race between Utica, Syracuse and Rochester in the final month of the season with Utica safely in third place and Syracuse and Rochester down and on their last legs.

Atlantic Division Standings (through 4/1's games)

1. W-B/Scranton: 68 games played, 41-22-4-1 = 87 points (.640 PCT)
2. Hershey: 68 games played, 38-19-4-7 = 87 points (.640 PCT)
3. Providence: 68 games played, 35-21-9-3 = 82 points (.603 PCT)
4. Bridgeport: 68 games played, 37-24-4-3 = 81 points (.596 PCT)
5. Portland: 68 games played, 36-25-5-2 = 79 points (.581 PCT)
6. Hartford: 69 games played, 37-29-3-0 = 77 points (.558 PCT)
7. Lehigh Valley: 69 games played, 30-32-4-3 = 67 points (.486 PCT)
8. Springfield: 68 games played, 23-37-3-5 = 54 points (.397 PCT)

Around The Atlantic

Lehigh Valley - 4 at St. John's - 1
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms made it three wins in a row with an impressive 4-1 victory over the St. John's IceCaps Friday night at the Mile One Centre in Newfoundland, Canada.

After a scoreless first period, the Phantoms jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the middle frame on goals by Taylor Leier and Adam Comrie and never looked back. Robert Hagg gave the Phantoms a 3-1 lead in the third period before Reading Pa native Steven Swavely tallied his first career pro goal on a shorthanded empty net goal with 1:32 left in regulation to complete the 4-1 win.

Martin Ouellette won his third game in a row and was on his game again, stopping all but one of the 28 shots he faced.

The Phantoms and IceCaps rematch tomorrow night in St. John's to conclude their regular season series. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. NDT, which is 6:00 p.m. ET locally in the Lehigh Valley.

Providence - 0 at Portland - 2

The Portland Pirates leaned on their veteran goaltender Mike McKenna Friday night and he did not disappoint, recording a 30-save shutout to help his team's march towards the postseason.

Connor Brickley gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead early in the first period, and Rob Schremp tallied his 21st of the season late in the 2nd period to give Portland all the offense they would need in front of McKenna's third shutout of the year.

Providence Bruins goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped 25 of 27 in the loss, which keeps the PBruins five points back of home ice advantage in a potential first round playoff matchup against Hershey.

Providence returns home to play host to Hershey on Saturday, while Portland heads to Hartford for a Saturday night matchup at the XL Center.

Hershey - 1 at Hartford - 5

In Hartford, the Wolf Pack dominated the Hershey Bears in a 5-1 rout on home ice. Magnus Hellberg only needed to make 18 saves to pick up his 28th win of the season, while the Wolf Pack had five different players record goals in the win.

Brady Skjei led the way with a game-high three points (one goal, two assists), while defense partner Mat Bodie tallied two assists.

The Bears made it a 2-1 game in the final minute of the second period on Riley Barber's 24th of the season, but Hartford put up three goals in the third to break the game open.

Hershey heads to Providence Saturday, while Hartford remains home to host the Portland Pirates.

Other Eastern Conference Scores

Toronto - 4 at Syracuse - 3
Springfield - 2 at Utica - 5
Albany - 2 at Binghamton - 1 (OT)
Grand Rapids - 6 at Rochester - 1

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

Springfield at Albany, 5:00 p.m. ET
Lehigh Valley at St. John's, 6:00 p.m. ET
Portland at Hartford, 7:00 p.m. ET
Rochester at Syracuse, 7:00 p.m. ET
Utica at Binghamton, 7:05 p.m. ET
Hershey at Providence, 7:05 p.m. ET
Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. ET


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