VAL-D’OR, Quebec – The Lewiston Maineiacs are in a familiar position today, but the steps they’ve taken to get here are more akin to Norm stumbling home from Cheers than Fred Astaire hot-stepping across a parquet floor.

The Maineiacs hold a 2-0 edge in their best-of-seven President’s Cup final series against the Val-d’Or Foreurs thanks to a pair of wins at home Friday and Saturday.

Tonight, the series shifts to Val-d’Or – the Valley of Gold – and to a raucous and sometimes rude Air Creebec Centre.

“We saw we can play their game,” Foreurs’ coach Eric Lavigne said. “We’re going home, and that seventh player, the crowd, will be on our side. There is nobody on our side who has given up.”

And they shouldn’t.

In the semifinals, the Foreurs faced a 3-1 series deficit to Cape Breton, and trailed in Game 5. Val-d’Or pulled out an overtime win, and came all the way back to win the series in seven games.

“For us, the biggest thing now is to win the game (today),” Lavigne said. “We start there.”

The Maineiacs, meanwhile, spent Sunday stewing over a game in which they admittedly played a sub-par game. On Monday, it was back to business.

“You know who played well, you know who played bad,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “I would say (Jonathan Bernier) has been the best. The rest of the crew has to look in the mirror.”

Bernier, the Maineiacs’ goaltender, wasn’t passing any blame out, and managed to find the positive in the team’s performance Saturday.

“We didn’t play our ‘A’ game, but we found a way to win,” Bernier said. “That’s the main thing.”

Monday, the team got a lesson on manners, so to speak.

“We talked about it (Monday) morning,” Jodoin said. “First off, everyone needed a rest. It’s a game played only with three lines. The fourth line didn’t play at all, but it’s not possible to play a game with energy killing nine minors. It is impossible. We are taking away the game plan of our game like that.”

When the penalty-killers had to play, though, they played well. In two games against Val-d’Or, the Maineiacs have allowed just one goal on 16 chances.

“We killed eight today and seven yesterday,” Jodoin said. “How lucky are we still going to be? I don’t know. We did a decent job, but we don’t have to be happy, comparing the performance we gave (Friday) with the performance we gave (Saturday).”

Lavigne agreed, and was horribly disappointed in his own penalty-killing units, which allowed the Maineiacs to score four times in five chances.

“The difference was the special units,” Lavigne said. “You don’t give four goals on five chances and win.”

Also in Game 2, Jodoin was upset at his players’ deviation from his game plan.

“Our game is to put the puck on the boards. Our game is to do the little things,” Jodoin said. “Our game is not creating turnovers. How many times did we turn the puck over at their blue line trying to deke the guy instead of keeping the puck deep in their end? We kept the puck in the neutral zone instead of in their end.”

Things will be different still, the coaches say, in Val-d’Or, where the crowd can be as much of a pain to visiting teams as the Foreurs themselves.

“It’s going to be a different ballgame going into their building,” Jodoin said. “It’s going to be a war. It’s going to be a battle in the trenches.”

The Puck drops tonight for Game 3 and Wednesday night for Game 4 is scheduled for 7 p.m. If a Game 5 is necessary, the teams will square off Friday at 7:30 p.m.


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