Roughly 75 minutes before game time, Rouyn-Noranda congregated outside the Colisee and soaked in the late afternoon sun.

Maybe the Huskies were trying to get loose for the start of what’s sure to be a grinding semifinal series with the Lewiston Mainieacs. Or perhaps they were hoping to get a little extra Vitamin D into the blood stream, knowing they’ll need all the help they can get making up for the energy gap that could ultimately decide the series.

For the first 40 minutes of Game 1, Rouyn-Noranda skated, hit and goaltended with Lewiston. Maineiacs fans were probably marking off April 30 on their mental calendars, because it looked like there was a good chance this series would be coming back to Lewiston.

And, it may still. The Huskies showed the kind of pluck that carried them through upsets over Gatineau and Drummondville. Goalie Jean-Philippe Levasseur offered numerous reminders why he’s on par with Jonathan Bernier among the Q’s elite goalies, stoning Chad Denny and Jakub Bundil on a pair of first-period opportunities that on most nights would have given the Maineiacs a quick upper hand.

Pierre-Luc Faubert finally solved Levasseur 15 minutes in, but Tyler Hawes answered for the Huskies just 80 seconds later on a rare Lewiston mistake, a giveaway in front of their own net.

Unfortunately for the visitors, that’s as easy as it would get.

“They gave us nothing free,” Huskies coach Andre Tourigny said. “We had to work for all of the opportunities we had.”

And by making Rouyn-Noranda work for every inch of ice and every puck it could get, the Maineiacs made themselves another, not wholly unexpected, ally, – Drummondville.

The seven-game series between the fourth and sixth seeds really didn’t end Tuesday night. It carried over for at least three more days.

“They have a lot of speed, good rest and good energy,” Tourigny said of Lewiston. “We played seven games, and we saw that our guys don’t have a lot of energy.”

“I think it was a big advantage for us,” Marc-Andre Cliche said. “They played a seven-game (series). I think it showed in the third period.”

Yes, Lewiston carried a 2-1 advantage into the final 20 minutes, thanks to David Perron. But the second wasn’t exactly highlight-reel hockey for either side. It almost seemed as if the Mainieacs were waiting for the Zamboni to interrupt them one more time before turning on the after-burners.

“That’s always the story of our team – the third period,” Maineiacs coach Clem Jodoin said. “It’s our conditioning. It’s the little things. In the third, we’re always finding a way to score.”

Tourigny seemed resigned to the distinct possibility that his team will be fighting an uphill battle in the third period throughout the series.

“We should find a way to win without that energy,” he said, “because it’s easy to see our players are tired.”

Cliche, wisely, isn’t buying that.

“They’re coming back pretty hard (today) and we know that,” he said.

Indeed, Rouyn-Noranda has shown the unbreakable spirit of true underdogs throughout the playoffs. But Unbreakable met Unbeatable Friday night, and if Game 1 is any indication, Unbeatable has a lot more left in the tank.


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