LEWISTON – It’s hard to ignore the regular season meetings between the Lewiston Maineiacs and Halifax Mooseheads.

The Maineiacs went 4-1-0-1 in six games. They outscored Halifax 21-15, scored six power-play goals and won all three games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

It’s hard to ignore it, but the Maineiacs are trying their hardest. Faceoff for Game 1 is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Colisee.

“We played some good games against them this year, but this game now, it’s different in playoffs,” Maineiacs’ forward and assistant captain Marc-Andre Daneau said.

In practice this week, Maineiacs’ head coach Clem Jodoin stopped practice a few times, banged his stick on the ice and preached respect.

“You have to respect your opponent,” Jodoin said. “They made it this far, they are a good team, and they are going to play hard. This is not going to be easy.”

At the other end, the Mooseheads know what they’re up against, and they’ve had little time to prepare. On Tuesday, the team slogged through four-plus periods of Game 7 hockey before finally dispatching the Moncton Wildcats in the first round at the Moncton Coliseum.

On Wednesday, they left for Saint John, New Brunswick, and on Thursday they arrived in Lewiston at 4 p.m., just in time for a 4:30 practice at the Colisee.

“We probably could have just stayed right there in Moncton,” Mooseheads coach Cam Russell joked. “But no, we had to give the kids a chance to go home and change their underwear, I guess.”

On top of a hectic travel schedule, the Mooseheads have the daunting task of facing the No. 1 team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, though with the momentum the team gained in its Game 7 win, Russell said that’s not a big deal.

“The strength of our team all year has been the depth, and we haven’t burned anybody out,” Russell said. “They’re a well-balanced, well-coached team, but we’ve had success against them at times this year.”

The Mooseheads have relished playing the role of underdog against Lewiston before, and fans and players alike don’t have to dig too deeply into the past to find the playoff history between these two clubs.

Last year, No. 4 Lewiston lost to No. 5 Halifax in the opening round, 4-2.

“Of course it’s in the back of my mind, I’m sure some of the other guys have it in the back of their minds, too,” Maineiacs’ defenseman and assistant captain Chad Denny said. “Halifax is a good team, and we know we have to respect them.”

The best matchup of the series will likely be the Halifax forwards and the Lewiston defense. Both are blessed with some experience, but also rely heavily on newcomers.

For Halifax, QMJHL Rookie of the Year Jakub Voracek led all players in the first round with 18 points in seven games, and linemate and second-year player Logan MacMillan was right behind him with 15.

“He’s a great player, he has good vision and he’s a good puck-handler,” Daneau said of Voracek. “You have to be aware when he’s on the ice and keep our heads up.”

Also lurking are Bryce Swan, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick, and Ryan Hillier, who has underachieved to date but is always a threat.

For Lewiston, Chad Denny anchors the blue line made up of two 19-year-olds, two 18-year-olds and three 17-year-olds.

“Against Shawinigan, we gave too many shots, we weren’t as good on defense,” Maineiacs’ goaltender Jonathan Bernier said. “We have to get back on track and play our style against the Mooseheads.”

“We’ve been going over meetings with the videos of what happened, what they do on the forecheck, on the power play on the PK, what they do in the center zone,” Denny said.

On the other end, Lewiston appears to have an edge by being able to roll three lines of scoring threats into a depleted defensive line.

Andrew Bodnarchuk, a Boston Bruins prospect, has been stellar for the Moosheads, and Guillaume Monast has done well since coming over from Bathurst.

But hard-hitting Jiri Suchy is out for at least two games with an injury, and the Halifax blue line gets thin from there.

In net, Jonathan Bernier finished second in the league in goals-against and fourth in save percentage. This year, against Halifax, Bernier is 3-0 with a 1.16 GAA and a .963 save percentage.

On the other end, Mark Yetman is 1-1 with a 3.23 GAA and a .908 save percentage against Lewiston, while Roger Kennedy did not play against Lewiston.


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