LEWISTON — Defense, goaltending and special teams play are purported to win championships.
Victoriaville certainly appeared ready for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s second season Friday and, at the same time, dealt a serious blow to the Lewiston Maineiacs’ hope of extending their own season.
Four different Victoriaville players scored power-play goals, Kevin Poulin made 26 saves to earn his team-record seventh shutout and the Tigres left the Maineiacs’ playoff hopes up in the air, skating away with a 5-0 win over Lewiston in front of the largest crowd of the season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“Victoriaville is a skilled team, they zing that puck around pretty good,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “They have a pretty potent power play. You’ve got to stay out of the box against them.”
A crowd of 3,267 people packed the Colisee as the Maineiacs had a chance to clinch a berth in the playoffs with a win. Instead, Victoriaville took advantage of Lewiston’s lack of discipline nearly every chance it got.
“You can’t win playing with a guy in the box against a team like that,” Houle said. “A team that has that much skill, you can’t be like that. We were very undisciplined, and we didn’t deserve to win.”
“We got five power-play goals and we took care of business on the PK, too,” Victoriaville coach Yanick Jean said.
In the battle for the final playoff spot, Lewiston’s loss, coupled with a 4-1 Baie-Comeau win over Chicoutimi, leaves the Maineiacs and Drakkar tied with 49 points, with one game to play. Should both teams achieve the same result in Sunday’s season finale, Lewiston owns the tiebreaker with more total wins.
“It’s time for a gut check for this team,” Houle said. “We’re going to have a big team meeting (Saturday), we’re going to talk about this.”
Last season, Lewiston’s playoff fate also came down to the season’s final day. Lewiston earned one point in its final game against Chicoutimi, while Val d’Or, the team with which Lewiston was battling at the time, got blown out.
In addition to battling frustration, the Maineiacs also had to deal with one of the better goalie in the league playing at the top of his game. Poulin, a three-year starter for the Tigres, robbed several Lewiston chances in tight, including a handful of highlight-reel saves on the Maineiacs’ six power-play chances.
“We got some quality chances and he made the saves,” Houle said. “We missed the net too much, though, too. We can’t afford to miss the net, not against a team like this. Every opportunity we get, we need to be scoring. But that’s not why we lost. We lost because we were undisciplined.”
The only goal of the first period belonged to Victoriaville.
The Tigres, with a 4-on-3 advantage, worked the puck back to Chris Doyle at the right point. He launched a soft wrister into traffic in front of Adrien Lemay. The puck bounced off of at least three skates and then trickled past the Lewiston keeper to put the visitors on the board first.
The Tigres benefited from two more power-play goals in the second period, another on a 4-on-3 and then on the ensuing 5-on-4. Chris Doyle netted the first at 9:44, and Joel Chouinard added the second at 11:42.
Lewiston then nearly spent the rest of the period on a series of four power plays, but Poulin was spectacular, twice plucking sure goals out of the air and twice kicking the puck out with his left skate on cross-crease passes.
In the third, Doyle and Joel Champagne lit the lamp for the Tigres. Lewiston keeper Lemay, who was honored before the game, along with fellow 20-year-old Matt Boyle, stopped 36 of 41 shots in the defeat.