You didn’t need to see what happened on the ice to know how Game 1 of Lewiston-Halifax ended. The evidence outside each dressing room Friday night was enough of an eyeful.

Scattered across a table in the Maineiacs’ corner was a garish array of about a dozen hats. They ranged in size and sartorial splendor from the sombrero that finds its way over the glass every time a homeboy scores three goals in a game, to an expensive-looking, flex-fit souvenir cap with an emblazoned team logo, to a blaze-orange chapeau that might have escaped from Elmer Fudd’s closet.

Overlooking the tunnel that led to the Mooseheads’ meeting place: The shattered remains of what was once a plastic, neon ‘exit’ sign, battery pack dangling by a wire. Yup, just about stick-high.

Round Two of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs commenced with a flurry of power-play goals, concluded with fisticuffs and contained a whole lot of Lewiston hugging and hand-pounding throughout.

That top-ranked home team that plays it close to the vest and wins with smothering defense and opportunistic offense? Those Maineiacs might show up tonight, but their running-and-gunning alter ego delivered the opening argument with an explosive 8-4 victory.

“We had a long break,” said Eric Castonguay, who logged three assists. “We were ready for that game.”

Nine days separated from a physical and relatively low-scoring four-game sweep of Shawinigan, Lewiston attacked the puck like sumo wrestlers jockeying for position at the buffet line.

Two goals in the first period begat three in the second, leading to three unanswered in the third and triggering the late flood of headgear and histrionics.

Beefy defenseman Chad Denny delivered the hat trick. Stefano Giliati sent the red strobe light spinning twice. Marc-Andre Cliche connected on a penalty shot 13 seconds into the third period and dished out three assists.

This from a team that needed six regular-season games against Halifax to score 20 goals and tallied precisely four per night from October through March.

“We were anxious to play the game,” said Lewiston coach Clem Jodoin. “When you haven’t played for a long period of time, you don’t know what will be the reaction of your players. We felt like, let’s play, let’s play.”

Halifax survived a seven-game series to get here and looked every part a team that had two days to shake the rubber legs.

Mark Yetman started the game between the pipes for the Mooseheads. Has he made a big save in this series? Not yet, man.

Roger Kennedy mercifully took over at 6:19 of the second period. Halifax probably could have dressed Martin Brodeur, given him a close shave and fudged a birth certificate. It wouldn’t have mattered.

“They bombarded us,” said Bryce Swan, who scored two first-period goals for Halifax.

“We can’t use (being tired) as an excuse. Even coming off that series, we were still on a high. They just came at us hard. Hats off to them. They’re the No. 1 team in the league, and they showed it tonight. They just outworked and outclassed us. They have a lot of veterans over there. They poured it on the whole time. We’ve got to be ready for that for the next however many games it takes.”

Fact is, the Maineiacs had their own legitimate, built-in explanation if the night went differently. Hockey is a game of precision, crisp passing and momentum, after all.

Lewiston’s offense atoned for whatever timing was lost from its week of hurry-up-and-wait.

“Practice this week was basically game situations, like small games,” Denny said. “We didn’t take a bunch of days off. We just went right straight to work.”

Consider the table leveled. Everybody punched the clock Friday night. As the stigma of the snowman on the home side of the scoreboard set in with the visitors, other punches were thrown, too.

Everyone logged the same mileage and applied roughly the same amount of ice to their bruises. It all hints at a return to normalcy tonight.

“I’m sure they’re going to bounce back tomorrow,” said Castonguay. “Playoffs, you don’t feel your legs. You battle. They want to beat us. It’s a big difference between 1-1 and 2-0.”

Not as big as the difference between eight and four, though. The hats don’t lie.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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