VAL-D’OR, Quebec – The Los Angeles Kings organization likely has a wide smile today, licking its chops as it waits for Jonathan Bernier to enter the system.

Bernier, the Kings’ No. 1 choice in the 2006 NHL Draft at 11th overall, made 20 saves in the third period and 41 overall to lift his Lewiston Maineiacs to a 2-1 victory over the Val-d’Or Foreurs on Wednesday.

“He was the reason tonight,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said after the win.

Bernier skated into the throng of teammates and hoisted the trophy high above his head, lowering it only to plant a kiss on the shiny metal surface. Flushed and likely overheated from his effort, a tear or two glistened among the beads of sweat.

“There are no words,” Bernier said. “I don’t know. It might take a while to realize this.”

Bernier was at his best in the middle of the game, and especially down the stretch. The Foreurs fired 20 shots at the 18-year-old netminder in the third period. Twice he was way out of position after his first save, and twice he somehow dove back into position in time to keep the puck out of the net.

“We owe him a big thank you,” Maineiacs’ defenseman Chad Denny said.

Bernier got a bit of help from his friends in front of him, too. The Maineiacs blocked numerous shots headed toward their netminder. In his typically humble manner, Bernier gave them all of the credit.

“One time it hit my helmet,” Bernier said. “It was a crazy feeling. My teammates were there all night to block the shots and clear the rebounds.”

For his efforts, Bernier received the most votes in the media balloting for the Guy Lafleur Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the President’s Cup playoffs.

“This is a great feeling,” Bernier said. “It’s not over, though.”


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