LEWISTON – The Lewiston Maineiacs arrived home early Sunday following a week-long road trip to Nova Scotia trailing their best-of-7 series 3-2.
On the brink of elimination, the players are hoping a little home cooking will help serve up a win in Game 6 of their with the Halifax Mooseheads tonight.
A victory would force a Game 7 on Tuesday.
“We are playing in our building now,” said Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin. “We have to take advantage of that, of the support of our fans. We know there is no tomorrow if we lose.”
The Maineiacs played a solid game Saturday in Game 5, a 2-0 loss, which included an empty-net goal in the final minute. Lewiston outshot the Mooseheads 13-4 in the third period. As has been the case for much of the series, Halifax netminder Jeremy Duchesne was in top form, stopping 32 shots to earn the shutout.
Duchesne has stopped 148 of the 156 shots in the series, a .949 save percantage. Four of those eight goals, came in a Game 3 loss in Halifax. His goals-against average is 1.61.
“He has done a great job for them,” said Jodoin. “He has made all the key saves. We have to find a way to change the momentum, we have to generate that.”
Early momentum has been pivotal in the series. In all five games, the team scoring first has won.
“Up or down, there’s still a chance to come back if we work hard,” said Halifax forward Bryce Swan, whose first-period, power-play goal Saturday was the game-winner. “But scoring first always helps out, gives us the confidence.”
Goals have been hard to come by in the series. Lewiston goalie Jonathan Bernier has been equally impressive against a normally potent Halifax front line. Bernier has a 2.20 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, having stopped 159 of 170 shots.
“Both goalies, they are rising to the occasion,” said Jodoin. “Bernier has been making the key saves for us.”
The Maineiacs are also welcoming the chance to play at home for the simple reason that their home ice at the Colisee is bigger than that at the Halifax Forum, site of Games 3, 4 and 5.
“It’s about speed, using the speed,” said Jodoin.
“We can play well all we want, and use our speed, but we have to put the puck in the net. The width of the ice here, it has to help us, but if we don’t put the puck in the net, we still won’t win.”
The larger ice surface should also cut down on the amount of big hits in the neutral zone and along the defensive boards that both teams threw in the three games in Halifax.
“But being physical, that’s part of the game, that’s part of hockey,” said Jodoin. “I like that. If you want to play hockey without getting hit, don’t play. It’s intensity, it’s playoff hockey.”
Jodoin alluded to a special team meeting this morning, but did not comment on the nature of it, only saying the team “will be ready.”
“We’re getting prepared,” said Jodoin. “We have a good meeting (today), a very good meeting, and everyone, everyone will be ready.”
NOTES: Jonathan Paiement will serve the second of his five-game suspension tonight. Paiement was suspended for leaving the bench during an altercation in Game 4. … David Taylor “might” get a chance to play in his first QMJHL playoff game today, according to Jodoin.