ROUYN-NORANDA, Quebec – At least he didn’t whiff completely.

Lewiston Maineiacs’ defenseman Chad Denny rifled a pass from just inside the blue line toward newcomer Alex Beaton. The puck hit the prospect’s stick and wobbled off into the corner. Beaton bent down onto his stick, upset with himself. Denny smiled, skated in a circle, and fired another one, this time a bit softer.

“You have to break ’em in,” Denny said after Tuesday morning’s practice with a laugh.

Beaton, who played for the Dartmouth Subways of the Nova Scotia Midget Hockey League and was a 2006 draft pick, arrived just prior to the 11:30 a.m. skate after catching an early flight from Halifax.

“It’s a lot faster, even the passes are harder here already,” Beaton said. “Everyone’s stronger. This is a big jump.”

In Dartmouth, Beaton was third with 105 points in 67 games. He led the team in plus/minus with a plus-65.

“He is here just to learn,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “He is here to skate in practice and to see what it’s like to be here in the playoffs. It’s the experience.”

Tuesday’s practice was Beaton’s first since the Maineiacs sent him back to Dartmouth after training camp for more seasoning.

“We had a pretty good year,” Beaton said. “We had a lot of good players. We made it to the finals of the Atlantics.”

Beaton has found some willing helpers. Captain Marc-Andre Cliche sat with him on one bus ride, while 20-year-old veteran Simon Courcelles planted himself next to Beaton on another.

“This really seems like a first-class organization,” Beaton said. “Everyone seems focused and ready to go.”

Though Beaton knows he is only with the team to learn, the team has the No. 5 game jersey bearing Beaton’s name.

“Just in case for the future,” Jodoin said. “You never know with injuries.”

Beaton doesn’t mind at all, either.

“Just being here, watching what these guys do,” Beaton said. “Practicing with them and learning some stuff. Even if I don’t play at all, it’s still a great experience.”

Can I have your autograph?

Minutes before the Maineiacs’ charter flight touched down in Rouyn-Noranda on Monday, the flight attendant emerged with a pen and a small piece of paper.

She turned to goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was seated in the front row.

“Are you the goalie?” the flight attendant asked.

Finding out that he was, she asked Bernier to sign her small piece of paper.

“The captain’s son is a little goalie,” she said. “He’d love to have the goalie’s autograph.”

Bernier smiled and signed it. It was likely the warmest reception he’ll get in Rouyn-Noranda all week.

Chill out

The Maineiacs left Lewiston at 11:30 a.m. Monday. The air was a sunny 79 degrees. They arrived on the tarmac in Sherbrooke at 4:30 p.m. The temperature there was 81.

Upon landing at the Rouyn-Noranda at 6:45 p.m., the players, some still in short sleeves, stepped into the wet chilly air. The temperature – 40 degrees.

Brrrr.

Back to school

The Maineiacs are used to traveling by bus. A coach bus has chauffeured the team to every game to date this season. A coach bus brought the team to the airport in Sherbrooke on Monday, and another picked Lewiston up at the airport in Rouyn-Noranda.

On Tuesday morning, though, the team boarded a classic yellow school bus.

The ride was a bit rougher than normal, and the bus tossed the players about with every dip in the road. But they still made it to practice on time.

And no, the bus driver didn’t get lost or bring them to an elementary school.


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