L/A Nordiques forward Armand O’Keefe loses and edge and falls in front of Northeast Generals forward Jacob Kelly (7) during their game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — In a battle of the top two teams in the NA3HL’s Coastal Division, the top-ranked L/A Nordiques rang in the new year with a resounding 7-2 victory over the second-place Northeast Generals on Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Before the game, the Nordiques (22-8-1-1, 44 points) carried a two-point advantage over the Generals (20-9-2-0), and stretched their division lead to four points with the win.
Cliff Ogle, Donovan Tehan, Caleb Labrie and Colby Audette each had a goal and an assist in the victory, while Michael Errico made 45 saves.
“We had a line of (Shayne) Plummer, Labrie and (Josh) Malone that played a lot in the beginning (of the season) that we put back together,” Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud said. “We moved a couple of people around in the other lines, but we felt like we had four lines that were equal that we could roll.”
It was an inauspicious start for the Nordiques, though. The Generals came out of the gate flying. Errico made a couple of back-to-back saves early on to keep the game scoreless. Shortly thereafter, he faced a similar situation and made the first save, but the puck was pushed out to the slot. Matt Hammel deflected the puck high into the air and went over Errico into the net at the 3:44 mark.
“It was a good start the first five minutes or so,” Generals coach Daryl Locke said. “We were getting pucks deep, getting pressure, and making them cough the puck up that led to a turnover where we scored. I think we got confident that we would keep doing that and sort of stopped our game.”
L/A used the power play to get going offensively. Nick Ventura and Shayne Plummer worked the puck to defenseman Cole Ouellette who straddle the blue line. Once Ouellette moved to the middle of the blue line he fired the puck past Generals goalie Lucas Souza at the 7:20 mark.
The Nordiques were 1-for-3 with the man advantage while Northeast was 0-for-4.
The Nordiques kept feeding the point. Malone fed Tehan, who threw the puck on goal from the left point and it found its way past Souza 51 seconds after Ouellette’s tally. Labrie was also credited with an assist.
“Last time they came here, (Souza) had a shutout, he played extremely well and didn’t put a ton of shots on him,” Robichaud said. “I think we had 24, and the message for this game was to put up shots and make them tough shots to see. Get sticks and tips on them, and screen, make him have a difficult night.”
Tehan showed off his passing skills, finding Zack Mullen with a 140-foot pass, Mullen used his speed to get past his defender and went all alone on Souza to make it 3-1 with 6:11 remaining in the period.
Ogle capped the scoring in the first with 38 seconds remaining, beating Souza with a changeup. Audette and Nick Ventura had the assists.
The Nordiques kept the momentum rolling early when Labrie streaked into the offensive zone, lost an edge at the right circle, got back up and ended Lucas Souza’s night in goal. Plummer and JP Chauvin picked assists on the goal.
Souza made eight saves on 13 shots while backup Nick Sesock made 21 saves.
Kyle Secor stretched the lead out to 6-1 at the 4:18 mark of the second period with Adam Colclough and Andrew McCormick setting goal up.
The third period saw the Nordiques take three penalties that rejuvenated the Generals.
“Because of the score, I think we got a bit complacent and they were continuing to work,” Robichaud said. “Because of that we got caught in a couple of situations where we were behind the play and too make up for it we took a stick penalty and a slash.”
David Piela notched the Generals’ second goal at the 3:12 mark with the assists going to Tommy Bellew and Luke Whalen.
“The third period was our best period other than the first five minutes of the game,” Locke said. “I thought we grinded it out and keep it simple, kept it the pucks going to the net, worked along the side boards. We were lucky to get a nice goal there from our fourth line which was a big boost for us.”
Audette capped the scoring scoring off for the Nordiques with 38 seconds remaining in the game with Ogle notching the assist.
The two teams go at it again Saturday evening at the Colisee at 7 p.m.
Northeast Generals forward Fedor Lopaev, left, protects the puck from L/A Nordiques defenseman Donovan Tehan during their game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)L/A Nordiques forward Kyle Secor celebrates after a teammate scored a goal at the far end of the ice on Northeast Generals goalie Lucas Souza during their game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)L/A Nordiques goalie Michael Errico makes a stop on a crossing feed from the corner as Northeast Generals forward Stephen Toal, right, swipes at the puck during their game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. in the corner are Northeast’s Todd Gianetis and L/A’s JP Chauvin. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)