LEWISTON – There was no lack of incentive for the members of the Rouyn-Noranda hockey team entering its semifinal round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

Forward Pier-Luc Champagne might have a little extra impetus to win this series.

“It’s a motivation to show them that I stepped up and learned some stuff,” Champagne said. “It’s a motivation, for sure. I want to beat them.”

Champagne spent two years with the Maineiacs. He was drafted in the fourth round, 58th overall, in 2004. He played two seasons in Lewiston before getting traded to the Huskies last August. His desire to win this series is more about proving himself than payback.

“I don’t really think about that,” he said. “I think about them like any other team, like any other opponent. That’s all I care about. I focus on my job and am not focusing on them.”

Returning to Lewiston sparked a few memories. After Friday’s 4-1 loss, Champagne got to visit with his former billet family.

“I had a good time here,” Champagne said. “My rookie year, I learned a lot. I had a good time with the players, too.”

Champagne played 59 games and registered four goals and nine assists in his first season in Lewiston. Last year, he had four goals and 16 assists in 66 games. He added an assist in six playoff games.

He marvels now at the Maineiacs. Most of the players are former teammates, but the club that boasted the best record in the league looks more formidable than any Lewiston team he played on.

“It’s a lot better,” he said. “They did some trades. They’ve got some older players. Even the players that were there when they were 16 is a good group. They’re used to playing together. They’re getting more mature.”

Champagne had five goals and 15 assists in 61 regular season games with the Huskies, and has a pair of goals in the playoffs. Though it took some time to adjust, he’s feeling more comfortable with his new club.

“I had a rough time at the beginning,” he said. “I think I learned a lot and I stepped up and became more mature.”

As one of the more experienced players on a young team, he has earned the trust of his coach. He is one of the club’s top penalty killers.

Though his Huskies were in a tight game with the Maineiacs until a late second-period goal broke a 1-1 tie, road-weary Rouyn-Noranda seemed to wear down in the final period. Lewiston added two more goals in the third to break the game open.

“I thought we did good,” said Champagne. “We came out flying in the first period. I thought we surprised them a little with our intensity, but every game we have to be perfect. They have so much talent, and they can bury the puck with every chance. I think we did good at the beginning, but we had too many penalties and turnovers.”


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