Sixteen, if you’re counting.

The Lewiston Maineiacs haven’t lost a hockey game since Friday, Feb. 23.

That was at least a hundred one-syllable words ago in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s grasp of the English language. It was halfway through the six more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil said we wouldn’t experience. The Celtics still had their dignity. Britney Spears had hair.

Long time ago.

Lewiston’s active winning streak is perhaps the most undersold part of this dream season that’s unfolding before our eyes.

That’s because talking about such unfinished business is considered: A) Uncool as ripping off a noisy remnant of last night’s baked bean supper at today’s Easter service; or B) Unlucky as audibly anticipating a no-hitter after Julian Tavarez walks the bases loaded before somehow escaping the first inning.

You don’t do it. Unless you’re me, who has a history of serving up Judas Iscariot’s kiss to every sports entity that’s ever mattered in my neck of the woods. So why stop now?

It’s over. I am persuaded, convinced, converted. I’m a believer. I get it.

Sixteen is also the magic number of wins it takes to wrap your heavily taped fingers around the Governor’s Cup, symbolic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship. That’d be a more important Sweet 16 than any sort of joyride that begins during school vacation week.

You might as well paint that milestone blue-and-orange, too.

Will Lewiston lose another game this season? Probably. But I’ll bet you a Molson it isn’t happening in this series. And the thought of any team catching the Maineiacs asleep at the switch four-out-of-seven is ludicrous.

The Maineiacs and the members of their fan base with flexible schedules will make the mind-numbingly long trip to Halifax (average number of pee stops for a family of four: 3.78). The only people who don’t believe it will be two-and-through are the eight, hoarse Maritimers who sat in the bottom row of Section 25, shaking cowbells and what appeared to be helium-filled prophylactics all weekend.

Lewiston is simply better. Goaltending, check. Defense, check. Quickness, check. Physical strength, check. Power-play efficiency, check. Offensive flow, check.

In four years of keeping an eye on the ‘Q’ (admittedly from the blue line and not the crease), I haven’t discovered the aura of unpredictability that pervades the NHL and even the NCAA.

Every team secures a finite level of talent and plays the hand that it’s dealt, or it drafts. You’ve got what you’ve got.

This is especially true of the Maineiacs. While Halifax and other contenders shuffled the deck at the trade deadline like drunken fantasy leaguers, Lewiston stood pat. And why not? The Maineiacs are syncopated as a doo-wop quartet.

Heck, much bigger puckheads than I saw this coming two years ago. When the Maineiacs made it look like they were married to the .500 mark in those formative seasons, the fan clubbers and front officers said just wait. Watch these 16- and 17-year-olds grow.

Most of ’em aren’t old enough to grow playoff beards yet, but they’ve delivered on that promise. Lewiston isn’t just good, it’s consistently good. Whether the Maineiacs win 8-4, 4-1 or 2-0, they make you feel like you watched the same, exact game on TiVo.

Five times in the playoffs, the Maineiacs have scored precisely four goals. On four occasions, they’ve come from behind. They win close games. They win tough games. Lately, they win all games.

Shawinigan knew it. Now Halifax knows it, just as Lewiston knew it in 2004 and ’05 when Sydney Crosby rolled in here with HBO, Sports Illustrated and his Rimouski teammates in tow. When Lewiston is at full song, nobody else in the league is close enough to provide background vocals.

Seventeen seems inevitable. Twenty-six wouldn’t shock me. But anyone else hoisting a banner next fall certainly would.

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


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