Playoff stretch begins tonight

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LEWISTON – Every drill had a hint of playoff intensity, and every save was that much more important, even though the goaltenders were stopping shots from their teammates’ sticks.

With 25 games to play in the regular season, the Lewiston Maineiacs are kicking off their drive toward the No. 1 seed in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs this weekend with a pair of games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“Consistency is the most important thing,” Maineiacs’ head coach Clem Jodoin said. “The second half of the season, you have more adversity. Teams are getting better. There is less space out there on the ice. A young 16- and 17-year-old, they have more games in their back pocket so they know what to expect now. They play with no fear.”

The Maineiacs square off against the Shawinigan Cataractes today at 7 p.m., and will see the Saint John Sea Dogs for the sixth time this season Saturday, also at 7 p.m.

The Cataractes have posed problems. Shawinigan is 5-1-1 all-time against Lewiston, with one shootout win and one tie. The Cataractes are the only franchise that the Maineiacs have not beaten at least twice in the regular season.

“They beat Quebec in Quebec City the other night,” Jodoin said. “They have some good players on this team and they work hard.”

The playoffs, however, were a different story. In 2005, Lewiston swept the Cataractes in four games to advance into the second round of the playoffs.

The Cataractes are 18-22-2-3 and sit ninth out of 10 teams in the Telus Division.

The Maineiacs have enjoyed much greater success against the upstart Saint John Sea Dogs over the past two seasons. Lewiston is 5-0 this season, and 10-2-1 since Saint John entered the league.

But even they, say Jodoin, pose a problem.

“Every game with them has been close,” Jodoin said. “They made a lot of changes, and having Travis (Fullerton) in net has added consistency for them there. It won’t be easy.”

Lewiston, meanwhile, continues to lead the league with a record of 32-9-1-3 for 68 points. Cape Breton and Moncton trail Lewiston in the East by six points, while Val D’Or leads the Telus Division with 60 points.

Breakout/teaser

Check out Justin Pelletier’s blog, ‘The Q Factor,’ at sunjournal.com for more news and updates. Also, watch out for “Ice Time with the Maineiacs,” which runs on page D8 every Sunday during the season.

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