HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – The Lewiston Maineiacs’ team bus is the only bus carrying major junior hockey players to Lewiston today. Simon said so Friday night.

With team captain Marc-Andre Cliche sidelined due to illness, 20-year-old Simon Courcelles stepped in and did exactly what the Maineiacs brought him in to do – he led the team to victory.

Courcelles, playing with Pierre-Luc Faubert and David Perron in Cliche’s absence, scored a pair of goals in the first period and completed the hat trick in the second to lead the Maineiacs to a 5-1 victory over the Halifax Mooseheads to win their best-of-seven quarterfinal series, 4 games to 1, in front of 6,535 at the Halifax Metro Centre.

“All I had to do was just follow (Perron and Faubert), give support and put the puck in the back of the net,” Courcelles said. “

Perron finished with five points, including a goal of his own and four assists. Faubert had three helpers and Eric Castonguay earned two assists. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier had another solid outing, making 25 saves to earn his eighth victory of the playoffs.

“I didn’t have my shutout, but in the playoffs, the important thing is to win,” Bernier said.

One big factor in the Maineiacs’ victory was their ability to stay out of the penalty box. The Mooseheads, who had one of the best power plays during the regular season, only had five chances with an extra skater Friday, but did score once on those five chances.

“At the end of the third period, we had two penalties, but take that away, we almost played a perfect game,” Maineiacs’ head coach Clem Jodoin said.

On the other end, the Mooseheads were shorthanded 11 times, and Lewiston struck for three goals.

After a tightly-played first 10 minutes, Courcelles broke the ice with his first goal on a backhand rebound shot from the low slot at 10:22. His second, and most impressive of the night, came at 16:27. After breaking across the blue line with Perron, Courcelles slipped behind the defense and caught a feed on his forehand, faked a shot and stepped around Halifax goalie Mark Yetman to put the puck into the net.

“Perron saw the play real well,” Courcelles said. “I think (assistant coach) Jeff (Guay) was upset that he didn’t shoot, but when he saw us put the puck in the net he was fine. It was a great play.”

Perron’s goal came on a rush up the left side, and his wrist shot banked off the right post and in behind Yetman.

Lewiston had two other Grade A chances against Yetman in the first, but the rookie goaltender stopped both – a Chad Denny breakaway and a Chris Tutalo snipe.

The Mooseheads made a charge in the second period, but it was Bernier’s turn to shine. Twice the Maineiacs’ keeper made point-blank saves on Rookie of the Year Jakub Voracek.

“I had to stay focused there,” Bernier said. “The game wasn’t over, and I had to make the saves to keep the team in the game.”

On the Maineiacs’ second 5-on-3 of the second frame, Courcelles completed the hat trick when he tried to feed the puck across the Faubert. The pass instead hit Halifax forward Bryce Swan’s stick and deflected through Yetman’s pads.

Perron picked up his fifth point with an assist on Michal Korenko’s first playoff goal at 6:06 of the third, and Colby Pridham broke up Bernier’s shutout bid at 7:34 of the final frame with a power-play goal.

The Maineiacs will face the lowest remaining seed in the Telus Division in the semifinals, scheduled to start in Lewiston on Friday, April 20.

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