The road to the President’s Cup, already a tough road to travel, got much tougher for the Lewiston Maineiacs this week.

Jeremy Duchesne, nearly single-handedly responsible for ousting Lewiston from last year’s first round with magical play between the pipes for Halifax, is back.

This time, he’s with Val d’Or. This time it’s the finals.

And this time, he has a little bit of extra help.

Duchesne, acquired by Val d’Or during this year’s Christmas trade period, missed the first two games against Cape Breton in the semifinals after his father, former NHLer Gaetan Duchesne, passed away suddenly.

“It’s an inspiration and a little bit of a motivator,” Duchesne said. “It was really tough when I came back the first couple of games, but now, more and more, I feel more and more like I was before, being in my game and staying focused for 60 minutes.”

Duchesne was rusty in his first game back, a Game 3 loss to the Screaming Eagles in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

“He didn’t work on the ice for one week,” Val d’Or coach Eric Lavigne said. “He came back and told me, ‘Eric, I want to play, I’m ready to play.’ And, at this time of the season, I want to go with my veterans, and I have to show my respect for him.”

With their backs against the wall after Game 4, the Foreurs clawed their way back to win Game 5 in overtime. In Game 6, Duchesne took over.

Cape Breton played their best game in Game 6 and Jeremy made the difference by himself,” Lavigne said. “He was unbelievable during that game.”

“The last three games, I’ve been starting to feel exactly like I was when I left,” Duchesne said. “I’m getting back into it and feeling better and better every game. I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back to the way I was.”

Message to the rest of the Q: He’s back – a fact not lost on Lewiston head coach Clem Jodoin, who saw first-hand what a difference Duchesne can make last season.

“He beat us last year, and he has the experience of the playoffs, there’s no question,” Jodoin said.

Despite the experience, Duchesne has a new take on his chances this season.

“I know I’ve been there, and I know I’ve done it before,” Duchesne said, “but it won’t be the same at all because it’s a completely different team, and it won’t be easy at all.”

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