LEWISTON – For the second time in three days, Chris Tutalo earned the title of hero at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Pardon him if Sunday’s game-winning goal means a bit more to him than Friday’s did.

Tutalo lofted a backhander past PEI netminder Evan Mosher at 4:12 of the third period on a loose rebound to lift the Lewiston Maineiacs to a regular-season-championship-clinching 4-3 win over the visiting Rocket in front of a sellout crowd of 3,677.

“It went up to the point, (Kevin Marshall) took a shot and (Simon) Courcelles was battling hard with a guy in front,” Tutalo said. “He took a shot, the goalie made a save and the rebound kicked out. I ran around the other side, took a shot and put it in the top corner.”

“I think I hit it two or three times,” Courcelles said. “I’m happy he finally put it in. Our line is clicking now, and we’ve pulled through in some big times. My linemates are stepping it up now, and Tutalo is burying the puck. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

The Maineiacs (47-14-2-4) have reached the 100-point plateau for the first time, and clinched the Jean Rougeau Trophy – given to the regular-season champion in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – after Cape Breton fell to the Saint John Sea Dogs in Saint John.

“Winning it so convincingly, there’s nobody even close to us,” Courcelles said. “Now, we get to take those three games left and get ready for the playoffs.”

Easter Division runner-up Cape Breton can now finish with no more than 98 points if it runs the table. In the Telus Division, Val d’Or clinched the division title Saturday, but cannot earn any more than 92 points after losing Sunday to Shawinigan.

“Yes, Saint John beat Cape Breton, but I told them, I said let’s do this by the front door,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “By winning our hockey games, and not relying on anybody else.”

Jodoin kept his players in the know during the game, telling them after two periods that Cape Breton had lost. At that point, the game was tied at three, despite a 29-9 differential in shots.

Defenseman Michal Korenko nearly coughed up the puck in front of Lewiston netminder Peter Delmas less than 30 seconds before Tutalo scored the winner.

“I tried to put the puck through the guys legs, and he maybe left his skate there or something,” Korenko said. “I saw Giliati and he was breaking out so I got it up to him. I was lucky, the guy lost the puck. I got the break and I got the puck back. God was with me on that one.”

Despite playing their third game in three days – and having arrived in Lewiston at 6 a.m. Sunday – the Rocket played a solid road game, and didn’t trail in the game until Tutalo’s goal.

“They gave us a hard time,” Courcelles said. “I didn’t think they were going to stay in the game and be able to work as hard as they did, but we pulled through again.”

“We battled,” PEI coach Yanick Jean said. “That was good, but we had come in at six in the morning, and we were tired.”

Part of the reason the Rocket stayed in the game was their power play, on which they went 2-for-3.

“It only took about 10 seconds after we got the power play to score those goals because we moved the puck well,” Jean said.

And in net, Mosher, getting just his second career start, played like a goalie possessed.

“He played a very solid game,” Jean said. “You’ve got to love the kid’s guts, he came out, hung in there and gave us a chance to win the game.”

Guillaume Doucet scored a pair of goals in the first period from the same spot, low along the goal line to the left of Delmas. Lewiston offset those with goals from Eric Castonguay and Jakub Bundil.

In the second, Martin Latal again put his team ahead, this time on a turnover by Chad Denny.

Stefano Giliati knotted the score less than two minutes later on a goal from the left side of the cage.

Lewiston finishes up the regular season on the road with a game in Moncton on Wednesday, followed by a pair in Prince Edward Island against the Rocket on Friday and Sunday.


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