ROUYN-NORANDA, Quebec – Practice was all but over at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Monday morning when Lewiston Maineiacs’ coach Jeff Guay called all of the defensemen over to the dry-erase board hanging on one of the panes of glass.

“Their rink is smaller here and here,” Guay said, demonstrating with his marker. “So we need to be better here, and we have to make sure we take care of the forwards here.”

After some last-minute preparations, the Maineiacs boarded a bus for Sherbrooke, where a private jet waited on the tarmac.

From there, they arrived less than two hours later in Rouyn-Noranda. They were on the ground by 6:45 p.m.

“This was a good decision,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “This way, they will be rested.”

The Maineiacs will need their rest.

Game 3 of their best-of-seven QMJHL semifinal series with the Huskies is tonight at the Dave Keon Arena. Game 4 is Wednesday night. The Maineiacs lead the series, 2-0.

“Their rink is a very hard rink to play in,” Jodoin said. “Very, very hard. This is not over yet.”

That’s exactly what the Huskies are banking on. The arena gets loud. Very loud.

Three years ago, when Lewiston played the Huskies in a first-round playoff matchup, the arena staff had just installed an eardrum-piercing siren behind the visitors’ goal cage. Their fans nearly drowned it out during the games.

“It’s a very hard building to play in for sure,” Maineiacs’ captain Marc-Andre Cliche said. “We have to be ready. It’s going to be more physical, and their fans really get into the game.”

Cliche would know. He and defenseman Sebastien Piche are from Rouyn-Noranda, and the Huskies originally drafted Piche before dealing him to Lewiston.

But even though there will be a handful of friends and family supporting the two Maineiacs’ players and the team, there will be close to 3,000 other fans screaming for their Huskies.

“It will be very good going back,” Huskies’ coach Andre Tourigny said.

The Maineiacs played a technically sound Game 1, allowing one goal in a 4-1 victory. In Game 2, after two dominant periods, the Maineiacs got a bit sloppy and allowed more goals than they scored.

“The guys never got down, they kept going, and that’s positive for our next game,” Tourigny said.

The Maineiacs coaching staff targeted those defensive breakdowns in Monday morning’s practice.

Compounding the difficulties the Maineiacs will face is the smaller rink. Lewiston’s home is a regulation 200 feet by 85 feet. The Rouyn-Noranda rink is roughly 185 feet by 80 feet, leaving a decidedly smaller neutral zone.

“The shots from anywhere in the rink can be trouble,” Maineiacs’ goalie Jonathan Bernier said. “You always have to watch the player with the puck, because they can shoot from anywhere, and it will be a dangerous shot.”

The Maineiacs will likely still have one key advantage, though – rest. The Huskies arrived home Sunday after taking a bus to Montreal and flying home from there. Sunday night was the first time in eight days that the players slept in their own beds.


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