LEWISTON – It took just a few minutes during warm-ups for Jonathan Bernier to know that this night would be different.

The Lewiston Maineiacs goaltender did not have a stellar performance in the quarterfinal series opener with Halifax on Friday. He gave up two goals on the first three shots and allowed four overall. That was after giving up just 10 in the first four playoff games.

“I just had to have some fun out there,” Bernier said. “I think I put too much pressure on myself in the last game. I just had to play my game the way I can play.”

Bernier did that and more Saturday, backstopping Lewiston to a 4-1 victory. After seeing just 13 shots through the first two periods, Halifax made a last-ditch effort in the final stanza, producing 13 shots. Many came of a pair of five-on-three power plays. Bernier was up to the task, turning aside all but one, while making a few game-savers along the way.

“It was important for him to bounce back,” said Jeff Guay, the Maineiacs assistant coach. “You knew that he was going to. He made some great saves at the end. He was very focused. That’s the Jonathan Bernier you expect to see.”

Bernier looked a bit rusty in the first game Friday. The sloppy defense around him didn’t help matters, but it took nearly half the game before Bernier settled in. Before Saturday’s puck was even dropped, Bernier knew he’d be ready this time.

“During the warm-ups, you know when you feel the puck pretty well,” said Bernier, who missed significant time late in the season to injury and was just getting back in the swing of playing regularly when Lewiston faced a lengthy layoff between playoff rounds. “When you feel the puck like I was in warm-ups, you know that it may be a good game.”

Bernier looked sharp from the get-go. He moved well in the crease and followed the puck effectively. His reflexes were sharp, and he effectively closed off all the angle. What rebounds he gave up, were cleared or kicked out of harm’s way. For two periods, the only thing Halifax put in the net behind him was Bernier’s own stick, after he charged out to clear a puck, and it went flying during the collision.

“I just had to bounce back,” said Bernier. “You have to give credit to the guys. I just had to make the first save. They were there for every rebound. It makes a big difference when the guys play the rebounds.”

The defensive play around him for the first two periods was significantly more sound than the previous game. Bernier only had to make a crucial save on occasion. In the third, aided by an abundance of Lewiston penalties, Bernier faced a pretty consistent onslaught as the Mooseheads tried to rally.

Up 2-0, Halifax finally scored with a power play when a blast from the point got through a crowd in front with 13:12 left. Moments later, a fluke bounce in the neutral zone allowed Halifax sniper Ryan Hillier to skate in alone with a chance to tie it. Bernier got his stick on the shot and preserved the lead. He later made a sprawling pad save on Yuri Cheremetiev and kicked aside a quick shot from Garrett Peters.

“A goalie has to make saves at the right time, just like a forward has to score at the right time,” said Bernier. “It was a good save. They never gave up, and they battled hard.”

When asked which he preferred, the inactive first two periods where he saw 13 shots total or the frenzied final 20 minutes in which Halifax doubled their output, Bernier flashed a grin.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “especially if your D is playing well.”


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