LEWISTON — Two years ago, Adrien Lemay’s hope was that 500 fans would filter through the doors to watch him play.
And, perhaps, a scout or two.
That was in Saskatchewan, a long — long — way from his home in Quebec.
Tuesday, the Lewiston Maineiacs’ 20-year-old goaltender earned the praise of a far greater number of fans, one much larger stage. And his wide smile beamed his appreciation.
By a wide margin — perhaps the largest margin of victory in the seven-year history of the team — Lemay walked off stage Tuesday with the Pepsi Bottling Group trophy as the fans’ favorite player.
“I never would have expected this was possible two years ago,” Lemay said. “Sometimes, you know, in your 20-year-old year, you wish to be traded to a team with a better record, but what a lot of fans don’t realize is that, as a player, sometimes you don’t want to leave. It means a lot to us, the support the fans show us, and here they have been great to me.”
Lemay’s award was one of 10 the Maineiacs handed out Tuesday at the Ramada Inn of Lewiston, part of the organizations sixth awards banquet.
“It’s a way for us to say thank you to the fans, to the billets, and to the sponsors of the team, to show how much we appreciate them,” Lewiston coach J.F. Houle said. “These players have been through a lot this year, from a coaching change to a losing streak, but this is a strong group, and they’ve shown their ability to overcome adversity, and to persevere.”
That characteristic helped land Lewiston’s other 20-year-old skater, defenseman Matt Boyle, the Rowe Auburn Unsung Hero trophy. Boyle played quietly in terms of offensive production, with just four goals and 13 assists in 62 games. But his physical, stay-at-home play in the defensive zone hardly went unnoticed by the staff.
“I’ve never been one of those guys with fans wearing my jersey in the stands,” Boyle said. “I’m definitely a role-playing type of player, and that’s fine with me. Everybody on every team has a role to fill, and I take pride in doing my job the best I can.”
Lewiston native Eric Bonawitz fittingly took home the Lepage Bakeries trophy for outstanding community involvement. Sidelined for a large chunk of games by an upper-body injury, Bonawitz lent his time to school appearances, autograph signings and other social functions.
“I had a lot of time to think about how I could contribute to this team,” Bonawitz said. “I was always told, if you can’t be seen on the ice, be seen in the community, and every chance I got to go to a school and read to students, or skate at youth hockey practices with kids, I took that chance. I love the team being here, and I know being involved in the community is a big part of the team staying here, so I wanted to do my part.”
Pierre-Olvier Morin was the lone multiple trophy winner on the night, earning the City of Lewiston trophy for academic achievement and the Oxford Networks trophy as the team’s regular-season scoring champion.
Sam Carrier was the team’s top defenseman (Sam’s Italian Foods trophy), Sam Finn earned the Pat Tillman Award as the most inspirational member of the squad, Michael Chaput took home the Federal Distributors trophy as the most-improved player, and Sam Henley earned the TD Bank trophy for displaying the best sportsmanship.
Francis Beauvillier, a 16-year-old rookie, won the Androscoggin Bank trophy for the rookie of the year after posting 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in his inaugural campaign.
Each year, the team also hands out a trophy to the most valuable member of the organization, named in honor of team majority owner Mark Just’s father, Bernard Just.
An original member of the Lewiston Maineiacs, Tom Bourdon earned that distinction this season. In six of the last seven years (he plied his trade in Providence for the AHL’s Bruins last season), Bourdon has been the team’s athletic therapist and equipment manager, putting in long hours to ensure the comfort, safety and health of the players.
Houle also used Tuesday’s event to point fans in the direction of the playoffs, which begin Friday on the road in Drummondville. Despite the long odds for a playoff series win, Houle was positive.
“I’m proud that we made it to the playoffs,” Houle said. “We did lose four in a row to close out the season, but we had to win some good games to get here, a win over Moncton, and two over Quebec come to mind. We have a great group of guys, and (assistant coach) Jeff Guay and I have been hard at work, looking for new ways to approach Drummondville. Let’s all go out there and surprise them.”
Lewiston’s first round begins Friday at 7:30 in Drummondville, with Game 2, also in Drummondville, scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. Games 3 and 4 will be in Lewiston on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23 and 24.
2010 Lewiston Maineiacs Awards list
Lepage Bakeries trophy, Outstanding community involvement
City of Lewiston trophy, Outstanding academics
Oxford Networks trophy, Regular-season scoring champion
Pat Tillman trophy, Most inspirational player
Sam’ Italian Foods trophy, Best defenseman
Rowe Auburn trophy, Unsung hero
Federal Distributors trophy, Most improved player
TD Bank trophy, Best sportsmanship
Androscoggin Bank trophy, Rookie of the Year
Pepsi Bottling Group trophy, Fans’ choice