Seven months. Almost eight, really.

The Lewiston Maineiacs have been in hockey mode since arriving at training camp in late August of last year. They are hoping to play for at least another month.

But it was something they started doing back in August that has them primed for their current run.

“There’s no question our conditioning is there,” head coach Clem Jodoin said. “In August and September, we did a lot of running, a lot of running and it pays off now.”

That running has helped turn Lewiston into a third-period machine. In the six games the Maineiacs have played in the playoffs, they have outscored Shawinigan and Halifax 14-2 in the third period and overtime.

Last season, the Maineiacs had a bad habit of blowing late leads.

Jodoin cited his team’s work ethic from the beginning of training camp, but he also offered another potential explanation for his team’s shift: The kids are a year older.

“It’s probably our poise and composure,” Jodoin said. “Sometimes it’s a chess game, and even when it’s close, you don’t need to panic. It’s hard to explain, sometimes it’s just a feeling.”

Part of that compsure comes with having veteran leadership, something of which Jodoin knows he has plenty.

“There’s no money for experience,” Jodoin said.

Good and bad

The Maineiacs’ penalty-killing unit is the second-best in the playoffs is a great statistic, one that has earned a place on the team’s locker room door.

But the fact that the team has needed to call upon this special unit so often is a cause for concern. In two games against Halifax, the Maineiacs have killed off 15 of 17 Moosehead power-play chances.

“We almost played 40 minutes short-handed in 120 minutes of hockey,” Jodoin said. “That means we were wasting some good energy for nothing. We have to spend that energy on the ice at even strength.”

In an effort to stem the tide of penalties, Jodoin met with the team Sunday.

“They’re going to be on (David) Perron, they’re going to be on Chad (Denny), they’re going to be on Joe (Jonathan Bernier),” Jodoin said. “You have to stay out of the box. That’s going to be a big factor.”

Apparently, the message is loud and clear to the players.

“Our PK has stepped out a lot, but we definitely want to stay out of the box more,” Lewiston forward Triston Manson said. “I know all the boys still want to beat the Mooseheads. They have it in the back of their minds from last year. Me and Peter, we want to beat them because they’re from our hometown, but they actually lost to them last year, so they’re hungry for the win, but we can’t do that taking so many penalties.”

Bad memory

One particular incident from the team’s last playoff appearance in Halifax drew specific attention from Jodoin, that being the penalty former Maineiac Jonathan Paiement took for leaving the bench to fight former Moosehead Frederik Cabana at the end of Game 4. Paiement sat out the final two games of that series, which Halifax won, 4-2, with a victory in Lewiston in Game 6.

“I had a meeting with the veterans (Sunday), and I told them we don’t need to be doing things like we did last year, like when Jonathan Paiement lost his mind, lost his focus,” Jodoin said. “I don’t want to go through that. Our discipline has to be better. They’re going to be on (David) Perron, they’re going to be on Chad (Denny), they’re going to be on Joe (Jonathan Bernier). You have to stay out of the box. That’s going to be a big factor.”

Again, message received.

“We know we’re not going to fight,” Manson said. “We need to get in their face, hit the defense, tire them out. Get them to take the penalties, they’re already tired.”

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