It took a couple of games, but Vinny Saponari has adjusted to the rhythm of professional hockey.
The 23-year-old right winger scored his first American Hockey League goal as the St. John's IceCaps edged the Portland Pirates 4-3 on Wednesday.
Saponari give the IceCaps a 2-0 lead at the 2:01 mark of the second period, scoring a tap-in off a rebound after Portland goaltender Chad Johnson slid across the crease to stop a one-timer that left him out of position.
"It took a nice little bounce, but I was able to put it in," said Saponari. "Once I saw it hit the back of the net I was pretty excited."
Carl Klingberg scored the winner early in the third period for St.John's (30-34-6). Kael Mouillierat and Jason Jaffray also scored, while Mark Dekanich made 28 saves for the win.
Saponari's played six games with the IceCaps since signing an amateur tryout contract after finishing his college season at Northeastern University.
"It's taken me a couple games to get used to the pace," Saponari said. "Guys are a lot stronger and a lot better."
The college forward's game has grown on St. John's coach Keith McCambridge.
"At first, there wasn't enough in (Saponari's) game that stood out consistently for me," said McCambridge. "(But), he's gotten better. He goes in and gets pucks back. And you can see he's really not afraid to take pucks into traffic (and) He forces turnovers."
Darian Dziurzynski, David Rundblad and Jordan Martinook replied for the Pirates (38-27-5). Johnson made 23 stops for Portland.
Klingberg added the winner for the IceCaps at the 1:57 mark of the third, rocketing a slap shot home from a rebound that found its way out to the right face-off dot.
With 2:38 left in the third, the Pirates moved within one of tying the game, when Rundblad hit a slap shot from the point.
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge liked the compete level of his team in the win.
"I thought we played a real smart game, more so tonight compared to yesterday's game," McCambridge said. "I thought everyone was sharp with regards to their game tonight. It feels good to get back-to-back wins."
St. John's went 2 for 4 on the power play and Portland was 1 for 5 on the night.