For two periods, young Jordan Kennedy and the rest of the Lewiston Maineiacs stood toe to toe with one of the top teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
For two periods, the Maineiacs looked nothing like a team full of 1991- and 1992-born skaters playing their third game in less than 72 hours.
That all changed in the third period.
Five players combined for six goals in the final frame to lift Victoriaville to an 8-4 victory over a stubborn but tired Lewiston Maineiacs squad in front of 2,534 at the Colisee Desjardins on Sunday.
“The guys played great for the first two periods,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “I think they just ran out of gas in the third, they were tired.”
The teams began the final frame even at two goals apiece, but Joel Chouinard gave the homestanding Tigres their first lead of the night at 3:45 on the power play. Chris Doyle, Tomas Kubalik and Joel Champagne followed as Victoriaville busted out four goals in the first 10:50 to take a four-goal lead.
“Even then, after (Saturday) night, I think the kids felt we still had a chance,” Houle said. “Jordan kept making key stops and let us get back into it.”
Billy Lacasse, who’s been on fire this weekend, netted back-to-back goals to draw the Maineiacs within a pair at 6-4.
“We pulled thr goalie with three minutes and had a lot of chances to make it 6-5,” Houle said.
But Victoriaville drew a penalty against the Maineiacs with less than one minute to play, forcing Houle to return Kennedy (42 saves) to the cage. Chouinard scored quickly on the power play, and Andrej Nestrasil added another several seconds later to cap the scoring at 8-4.
Despite watching him allow eight goals, Houle was impressed with Kennedy’s play.
“I thought he played very, very well, especially early,” Houle said. “He made a lot of good saves to keep it close, even in the third.”
This game maked the first time since 2009 that Adrien Lemay did not see at least one minute of game action. He’d played in more than 25 consecutive games, and only three times as a backup in relief of either Kennedy or Dwayne Rodrigue, who backed up Kennedy on Sunday.
“He’s been so good for us, he needed a break,” Houle said.
Francis Beauvillier and Sam Carrier also scored for Lewiston to offset a pair of Victoriaville goals in the first two periords to send the game into the third knotted at two.
Sunday’s contest marked the fifth consecutive game in which Lewiston has scored four or more goals. The Maineiacs scored 27 goals in that stretch, but have a record of 2-3.
Four of Lewiston’s final five games of the regular season are on home ice as the Maineiacs continue to try and hold off Baie-Comeau for the final playoff spot in the QMJHL. With five games remaining, Lewiston is 22-38-0-3 with 47 points. The Drakkar are 18-38-4-2 with 42 points and a game in hand.
Lewiston’s first of four in a row at home is Friday against Chicoutimi. The Sagueneens’ coach, Richard Martel, became the winningest coach in QMJHL history Sunday with his 570th career win, a 3-1 Sags’ victory over Baie-Comeau.