LEWISTON – Calling this training camp the team’s deepest ever, Lewiston Maineiacs’ head coach and general manager Clem Jodoin struggled hard with his staff of coaches and scouts to make his first big cut of the year.

The third-year skipper assigned to his training camp attendees their hockey fate – at least for now.

“There were a lot of very, very tough decision already,” said Jodoin, who announced Sunday that 16 players had failed to advance into the second phase of the preseason.

“It’s amazing how many of these kids fought hard until the end, all thinking that they had the chance to be here this year,” Jodoin said. “And next year, the will have that chance again.”

In a new twist, Jodoin has decided to go with three goaltenders to start the season, knowing that starting keeper Jonathan Bernier will leave the team for an undisclosed amount of time starting Sept. 6 to attend camp with the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.

“He’ll be gone, maybe for a month there,” said Jodoin, “and maybe for a month in December for the World Junior tournament. It’s a hard time to bring up a player in the middle of the season, so we are going to keep three for now.”

Along with Bernier, the team will go with Marc-Andre Perron, a 19-year-old who has been in the system since 2004 when he was drafted in the 10th round, and Peter Delmas, a 5th round pick in this year’s draft.

On defense, Jodoin has pared his list of players to nine, with eight expected to make it past the next line of cuts on Sept. 1.

“There are still a lot of players we want to be patient with, to see where they will fit,” said Jodoin.

Making the first cut are veterans Chad Denny, Michal Korenko, Sebastien Piche, Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Crete. Joining them are Patrick Cusack, a first-round pick along with Marshall in the 2005 draft, Tom Michalik of Massachusetts, 2006 second-round pick Michael Ward and Matt Carroll of Newfoundland.

“As an organization, we are pleased with the defensemen we have,” said Jodoin. “These players, they all have skill, and they are all only going to get stronger.”

The biggest cut the team made – and the biggest yet to make – is on the front line. Eight forwards were released from camp Sunday, leaving 19 – 20 including newly-acquired Triston Manson – left to battle for 14 roster spots.

The players still in contention for those positions include every returning veteran on the roster but one. Seventeen-year-old Rob McCarthy of Massachusetts was released early Sunday morning after breaking curfew.

Among the rookies still with a chance to make the team are David Perron, Alexander Beaton, Steven Pearson, Kirk Harris, Karl Hayes No. 1 draft pick Danick Hudon-Paquette and Chris Noonan, who apparently fought his way onto the club over the weekend.

“Noonan did what he was supposed to do this weekend,” said Jodoin. “He knew his role, he accepted that role. He knew why he was here and he earned the time to be here longer.”

For now, at least, veteran 20-year-old Maxime Mathieu, a favorite of many fans for his tenacious style of play, has been spared. Mathieu is now one of three 20-year-olds on the roster, along with Pierre-Luc Faubert and Manson.

Also of note, last year’s backup goaltender, Travis Fullerton, was excused from the team Sunday after being pulled over for operating under the influence overnight (see story on page A1.)

The Maineiacs will be in Bathurst tonight and Tuesday night to take on the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, and in Moncton on Wednesday to face the Wildcats.

Lewiston will host Moncton on Friday in the team’s next home preseason game.

On the trade front, a deal that has been brewing for a few days seems to have finally come to fruition.

According to various published Internet reports, the Maineiacs have completed a deal with the Quebec Remparts that will send 20-year-old returning captain, Simon Courcelles, to Lewiston. In return, Lewiston is purported to have sent a third-round pick at the 2007 draft.

Last year, Courcelles played in 69 games, collected 12 goals and added 52 assists for 64 points while also racking up 133 penalty minutes.

In the league playoffs, Courcelles had five goals and 10 assists in 23 games, and in the Memorial Cup tournament, which the Remparts won, the team captain won better than 50 percent of his faceoffs.

The Lewiston Maineiacs coaching staff would not comment Sunday night to confirm the deal. For more information as it develops during the day Monday and throughout the season, please see the Sun Journal blog, ‘The Q Factor.’

Goalies (3) – Jonathan Bernier, Peter Delmas, Marc-Andre Perron.

Defensemen (9) – Matt Carroll, Marc-Andre Crete, Patrick Cusack, Chad Denny, Michal Korenko, Kevin Marshall, Tom Michalik, Sebastien Piche, Michael Ward.

Forwards (20) – Alexander Beaton, Jakub Bundil, Eric Castonguay, Pier-Luc Champagne, Stefan Chaput, Marc-Andre Cliche, Marc-Andre Daneau, Pierre-Luc Faubert, Stefano Giliati, Kirk Harris, Karl Hayes, Danick Hudon-Paquette, Triston Manson, Maxime Mathieu, Chris Noonan, Jonathan Paquet, Steven Pearson, David Perron, David Taylor, Chris Tutalo.

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