LEWISTON – Marc-Andre Crete blends into his Lewiston surroundings well.

Pass him on the street, and Crete will likely smile and nod, even though he doesn’t have a clue who you are.

Try to pass him on the rink, though, and Crete, despite being one of the smaller defensemen in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, won’t likely be as hospitable.

“He has one big asset – he’s a good competitor,” Jodoin said. “A kid of his size, he plays like he’s 220 pounds. He’s not flashy, but he’s usually making the right decisions when he’s on the ice with the puck.”

Not to say that 5 feet, 10 inches is small. Crete is of average height in the general population. But on the ice, he is often dwarfed by players who are five, six and even eight inches taller than he is.

“Since I was young, I was always one of the smallest players,” Crete said. “I just needed to adjust and play smarter than the big guys, who can do stuff I can’t do. I just have to use my head.”

Sticking with it

Crete’s level head helped him deal with being a human yo-yo during his first two years with Lewiston. Not drafted through two years of eligibility at the QMJHL’s entry draft, Crete received an invitation from the Maineiacs to their 2004 training camp.

“The first year I came, I was just an invite player,” Crete said. “I was just coming to make a good impression. My goal was not, like, to make the team, just make a good impression and maybe come back the year after.”

He left enough of an impression that the team added Crete to its 55-man protected list, and later in the season, with the Maineiacs battling some injuries, Crete got the call.

“They called me at the end of the season to play a few games and everything went good, so I thought I had a chance the year after.”

He had a chance, but he was again released.

“Maybe I didn’t have a good training camp, I don’t know,” Crete said. “They cut me again.”

But again, the team needed reinforcements after some injuries again depleted the team’s blue line.

“My dream was always to play in the Q, so when they called me, it didn’t matter from before. I just wanted to come here and play for the team.”

After another set of late-season games for Lewiston in 2005-06, Crete got the vote of confidence he was looking for.

“When I came back (in 2005), I didn’t really know what the plan was for that year,” Crete said. “At the end of last year, though, the coaches were good with what I did. They called me this summer and wanted to know how my training was going, so I was pretty confident to have a good training camp and my place was here.”

Utility man

Crete has played the bulk of the 2006-07 season in a four-man rotation for two positions on the blue line, along with Tom Michalik, Michael Ward and Patrick Cusack.

“It was hard at the beginning,” Crete said. “I wanted to play, and everybody wants to play, but I know last season when I wanted to play they gave me a second chance, so I understand that the young guys, they will be the team in the next few years, so they need to play and improve, too.”

Then, with a few minor injuries to a few forwards, the coaches asked Crete to step briefly into a forward role.

“It shows that he’s a smart kid,” Jodoin said. “He showed that as a forward or a defenseman, he can play both positions. He’s always listening.”

“I really don’t know how that started,” Crete said. “I really never played forward. They are not scared to use me now. I’m happy because if they miss some forwards, I will still get a chance to play. When I play hockey, I’m happy.”

In the semifinals against Rouyn-Noranda, after Chris Tutalo and Danick Hudon-Paquette went down with injuries, the Maineiacs again called on Crete.

Playing for the prize

With both of those injuries on their way to healing, Crete is unsure what his role will be this weekend, as the President’s Cup final begins.

“I think it will be the same thing as the rest of the playoffs, because it went well, and we won,” Crete said. ” I think they will maybe do the same thing.”

Jodoin called Crete a “safe player,” one he’s not afraid to use in key moments in the game. Other teammates have agreed. He got here with a level head, and he’s stayed with the team because of a level head, Jodoin said.

“He never gave up, and now he has the chance to realize his dream as a junior hockey player,” Jodoin said. “Sometimes, life is full adversity, and here’s a kid who had that adversity and never gave up.”

As for this week, Crete is holding no expectations. If he plays, he plays. If not, that’s life. He knows there’s a reason. But he’ll be ready, one way or another.

“If they give me the chance to play again, I’ll give 100 percent and play hard,” Crete said. “That’s why I am here.”

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