Maletto spoils moment for Maineiacs

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LEWISTON – The Lewiston Maineiacs still can’t figure out how to beat the Shawinigan Cataractes, at least in the regular season.

The only team the Maineiacs have yet to defeat twice in the regular season since moving to Lewiston, spoiled the team’s fun again Friday night — in dramatic fashion, and in front of a record-setting crowd.

Danick Bouchard, one of the league’s top scorers, took a feed from Francis Pare at the Lewiston blue line, turned on the jets and slipped the puck past Jonathan Bernier just 32 seconds into overtime to lift the visiting Cataractes to a 1-0 win in front of a sold-out Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“I knew I had speed around the defenseman,” Bouchard said. “I saw the referee’s arm go up (to call a penalty), so I knew I had nothing to lose and went hard at the net.”

Bouchard leaned into the Lewiston defender, cut across the top of the crease and beat Bernier through the pads.

“I thought he was going to go to the far side,” a soft-spoken Bernier said. “He had a lot of speed, so I stayed patient with him, and I was too patient and he put it between my legs.”

On the other end, Kevin Maletto played one of the best games a goaltender has played against the Maineiacs all season. Quick to his angles, Maletto offered few rebounds on the 39 shots he faced. He is the first goaltender to pitch a shutout against the Maineiacs this season.

“I tried to stay in position and work hard,” Maletto said. “The team worked hard in front of me to make sure that I saw as many shots as I could, and I tried to stay in control of the puck all game.”

Maletto was making just his fifth career start.

“We couldn’t finish,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “We had the chances, we played a good game and we didn’t get any bounces. There will be games this year where we do get bounces when we don’t play as well. We just have to move on now.”

Early on, the Cataractes used a 2-man forecheck, which, at least at first, appeared to disrupt the Maineiacs’ ability to move the puck through the neutral zone.

“It was different, and they were on the puck, very intense from the beginning,” Maineiacs captain Marc-Andre Cliche said. “I thought the defense did a good job getting the puck to us after that.”

The Cataractes survived a critical sequence for Lewiston through the middle of the first period. For 8:33, Lewiston was at least one man up on the power play, including a five-minute stretch when Shawinigan’s Francis Filion hit Michal Korenko from behind into the boards and served a major penalty.

The Maineiacs could not capitalize.

“We’ve been working, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, on the power play, every day,” Jodoin said. “We couldn’t finish.”

Shawinigan’s only viable scoring threat through regulation came late in the second period, and Bernier was up to the task.

“It’s hard to stay in the game with so few shots,” Bernier said. “I just tried to do my best.”

The sellout crowd of 3,677 — two more than the listed capacity at the Colisee — is the first official sellout in team history, though the team did sell the maximum number of tickets allowed on three separate occasions in the team’s first season. Due to ongoing construction, fire codes did not allow the team to sell more than they did on those occasions.

The largest single-game crowd to date is still from that first season, and happened twice.

On Feb. 19, 2004 against Rimouski, and again on March 12 against Baie-Comeau, the Maineiacs drew 3,731.

Lewiston will face off against the Saint John Sea Dogs tonight at 7 at the Colisee. Lewiston is 5-0 this season against Saint John, which crushed Acadie-Bathurst 6-2 on Friday.

jpelletier@sunjournal.com

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