PORTLAND — The choice was the hot goaltender or the all-star goaltender.

Those were Tim Army’s options, and the Portland Pirates coach went with the hot hand.

Army selected Stana over Maxime Ouellet, who was a second-team AHL all-star selection, for his team’s starting goaltender Thursday night.

Stana, in his first full season in the AHL, has played especially well down the stretch. He was superb in a tie with Worcester last Saturday and shutout the IceCats the previous week. Ouellet, on the other hand, has struggled and has not been as sharp as he had been leading up to his appearance in the AHL all-star game in February.

“I’m happy with both guys,” said Army. “I think both guys have played really well through the year. But I played a hunch. I liked Rats’ game. The last month he’s gotten us some points and has played well.”

Stana finished the regular season with an 8-11-4 record and 2.17 goals against average. His .933 save percentage was second in the league. Ouellet finished the year 22-16-7 with a 2.40 goals against and a .929 save percentage that ranked him third. Stana was told Wednesday after practice that he had earned the nod.

“He said I’d had a great finish and I had played well during the whole season,” said Stana. “So I deserved the start.”

Neither goaltender had much playoff experience. Stana, with a few games in the East Coast League, is the only one with any pro playoff minutes under his belt.

Still, Stana said he wasn’t too nervous.

“I just tried to focus on it like it was any other game,” said Stana. “I tried to do the same things I’d been doing and try to keep my team in the game.”

Stana played well in the 4-1 loss.

He stopped 33 shots. One goal he was screened on, the other two he allowed came on defensive breakdowns.

“I thought he played well,” said Army. “He put us in a position to win. That’s all you can ask of your goaltender. He made some big stops for us.”

Army said he’d mull over Friday’s starter and make a decision in the morning.

Home on ice

The one-point differential in the standings gave Portland home ice for their qualifying series. It is an advantage the Pirates don’t want to squander.

“At home, you’ve got to take charge of the game,” said Pirates coach Tim Army. “What I don’t want to happen is that we take a deep breath because we’re at home. I think we’ve done that (in the regular season).

“We were one game short of winning 20 at home. We should have won more. We had enough home games. So we can’t say “We’re on home ice, that will take care of everything.” We’ve got to come in and compete. It’s who play better. It doesn’t matter where you play. You can’t count on that and use it as a safety net.”

Portland went 19-15-6 at home in the regular season.

The Pirates haven’t won a playoff game at home since beating Saint John 3-1 in May of 1998. They entered this series having lost five straight playoff games at home. They haven’t won a playoff series since beating Fredericton in 1998.

Playoff schedule

If Portland wins this series, they would advance to a best-of-five series with either Hamilton or Providence. The Pirates would only meet Providence if 10th-seeded Springfield wins its series with Hartford. Springfield leads that series 1-0. The teams would then reseed, putting top-ranked Hamilton against the lowest ranked team. If both Portland and Hartford advance, the Pirates would play at Hamilton with the first two games in Hamilton next Tuesday and Thursday. The first two games with Providence would be on the road next Wednesday and Friday. Portland’s next home games would Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20, if needed.

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