Lewiston, ME – For the first time since the Lewiston Maineiacs won the Presidents Cup during the 2006-‘07 season, they are heading to the second round of the playoffs after defeating the Moncton Wildcats Friday night 6-1 before 1,828 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
The Maineiacs will now face the Montreal Juniors in the second round of the playoffs starting next Friday in Verdun, QC.
“It has been a couple years, but we have an older squad and a much better squad,” said Lewiston Maineiacs head coach J.F. Houle. “At the beginning of the year we set our goals high and we believed this team could go pretty far.”
With the win the Moncton Wildcats reign as QMJHL champions came to an end.
“To lose 13 guys off a championship team and still finish in the middle of the pack, it's a credit to the kids on how hard they work,” said Moncton Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn. “You just gain valuable experience and know what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
“You just have to look at Lewiston the last two years. They were swept four straight, at times by enormous scores against the Drummondville (Voltigeurs). It was part of their building process.”
After an early offensive flurry by the Wildcats early in the first period, the Maineiacs controlled most the period. The Maineiacs put pressure on the rookie netminder Brandon Thibeau, but he made some key saves early on.
“I thought we played real well tonight,” said Houle. “I thought it was a solid game and we had lots of energy in the first period. We got timely goals tonight at the right time, our penalty kill did a good job, and Champion made some key saves.”
Lewiston finally found the back of the net with 8:54 remaining in the period when Alex Zafiris swept the puck around Thibeau to give the home team the 1-0 lead. Christophe Lalonde and Bryce Milson set the goal up.
Antoine Houde-Caron, who returned to the line-up after serving his three-game suspension, had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 with a wide open net, but the puck rolled off his stick.
“We showed a lot of resiliency and we didn't let it affect us and we got the momentum right back, Houle said.
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“(MacAusland) had a bit of time in front of the net and he's a good shooter,” said Maineiacs goaltender Nicholas Champion. “He knows where to put the puck. I got down, but not just in time.”
The Maineiacs would strike twice in the second period to take a two goal lead into the locker room after 40 minutes of play.
Michael Chaput put one top shelf at the 8:04 mark on the power play as the two defensemen on the ice, Samuel Carrier and Olivier-Dame Malka set up the play.
Kirill Kabanov scored for the third time in the series against his former team as his snap shot deflected off Thibeau into the back of the net with 7:44 left to play in the period.
Matthew Bissonnette made it 4-1 just 4:10 into the third period when he intercepted a pass from Daniel Petterson deep in the slot area and fired the puck into the net.
“Petterson and I go way back in Moncton,” said Maineiacs forward Matthew Bissonnette. “We are good friends, but I didn't know we were that good of friends. It made it real sweet that I put the dagger in, a huge goal. I got a bit lucky with the pass, but I was pretty happy that I scored.”
Ian Saab, who is known more for his defensive game led a two-on-one rush, feeding Stephan Fournier in the slot, potting his first goal of the playoffs at the 7:55 mark of the third period.
In the middle of the period, Houde-Caron went to finish his check and Ryan Penny flew into the stanchion on Moncton's bench similar to a hit suffered by Montreal Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty, but was able to get right back up with no ill effects, but a brawl ensued. After all the penalties were given out, it was Lewiston who got a five-minute power play.
Bryce Milson scored on the ensuing power play with Malka and Bissonnette setting goal up at the 17:07 mark of the third period.
“We learned all year,” said Bissonnette. “We blew a couple of leads this season, 3-1 and 2-1, but we learned from that lesson. We came out shooting.”
Lewiston went 2-for-7 on the man advantage while Moncton went 0-for-3.
Nicolas Champion made 30 saves for Lewiston while Brandon Thibeau stopped 25 shots.