Swapping sides adds fuel to the competitive fire

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The game was less than four minutes old, and already they were at it.

Matthew Bissonette, who spent less than three weeks as a member of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and was traded away to Lewiston under less-than-amicable circumstances, rocketed a slap shot from the left circle toward Chicoutimi netminder Christopher Gibson.

Gibson stopped the puck with his shoulder, and grabbed the rebound with his mitt. As Bissonette skated past him, he felt two gloves against his shoulder. Turning, Chicoutimi defenseman Eric Gelinas stared back, having given him a shove on his way by.

Gelinas spent two and a half seasons with the Maineiacs before ending up in Chicoutimi this January as part of a separate three-team transaction.

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Bissonette and Michal Hlinka both once played for the Sags, while Chicoutimi dressed four skaters who once called the Androscoggin Bank Colisee home — Gelinas, Nicolas Therrien, Juilen Houle and Alexis Piette.

That atmosphere created a tight-checking, gritty flow to the game from the start. Players from both sides got together after almost every whistle, especially those where the action took place near the goalies.

“For a lot of the guys, you have friendships off the ice, but on the ice, it’s all business,” Bissonette said.

For Gelinas, the return to Lewiston was bittersweet. Given his chance in the league by Lewiston and drafted to the NHL as a member of the Maineiacs, Gelinas was stunned when he was traded back in January.

“It was really different being in here on this side, taking warm-ups on the other side,” Gelinas said. “It got normal after the first shift, I guess.”

But he’s taking it in stride, he said. And he’s already earned the respect of his new teammates, sporting an alternate captain’s ‘A’ on his sweater.

“Things are good over there,” Gelinas said. “I’m playing a lot, always on the power play. It’s good ice time and I’ve adjusted well.”

Piette, meanwhile, was particularly looking forward to his trip to Lewiston. He needed to pick up his car.

Bissonette, meanwhile, played in just one game for the Sags after they acquired him from Moncton before asking to be traded away.

“I’m thankful for them that they gave me my trade,” Bissonette said. “They could have just kept me there, so for that, I’m happy.”

And neither marquee name disappointed. Bissonette netted the Maineiacs’ second goal and added an assist in the second, and Gelinas potted a goal minutes later and assisted on another in the third.

“It was a good feeling to score against Adrien (Lemay),” Gelinas admitted, making sure the Lewiston goalie was within earshot as he shot him a smile. “It was a good feeling to score here.”

An even better feeling for Bissonette, though, who helped lead his team to the win.

“It was great to get a win,” Bissonette said. “There were a lot of people out there giving just a bit more tonight.”

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