LEWISTON – It’s not often a player hops off the ice after morning practice and tells people he had fun working through drills and skating hard in circles.

On Tuesday, several of the players did.

“It was pretty special,” Marc-Andre Cliche said. “It’s probably going to be the last time I skate here. I enjoyed practice today.”

As Simon Courcelles wiped a sweat bead from above his eyebrow after practice, it looked as though the Lewiston Maineiacs’ overager might have even dried a tear.

His final shot during practice – fittingly – clanged off the iron and into an empty net.

Five minutes earlier, Courcelles and the rest of his teammates gathered around head coach Clem Jodoin for one final Colisee lecture as a group.

Instead of the standard warnings, admonitions and game rhetoric, Jodoin issued a team-wide “thank you.”

“He talked about the season, how it was our last time practicing here,” Cliche said. “We had a good practice, and he was happy about that.”

Even Jodoin took a few extra cuts around the rink Tuesday.

“You could tell, even him, he was skating around at the end,” 20-year-old forward Pierre-Luc Faubert said. “He himself looked a little sad. It was special.”

Cliche, Faubert, Courcelles, Triston Manson, Michal Korenko and Chad Denny are likely not to return next season, either because of age or because of professional opportunities.

Still, the whole bunch said Tuesday that their season isn’t over just yet.

“It’s a little bittersweet to leave, but we’re going toward something good, too,” Courcelles said. “We still have some games to win.”

Thank you … again

Maineiacs’ majority owner Mark Just is a busy man. He has likely logged more air miles in the past month than the rest of the team combined.

On Saturday, at the team’s rally for the fans, Just spoke many kind words toward the fans, and spoke many times over about his organization, at times tearing up with joy.

But as he brushed his teeth Sunday night, Just didn’t feel right. He’d forgotten something.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Just said in a phone interview from Chicago on Monday. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Just then launched into the piece of his unwritten speech he’d forgotten.

“I have to thank Matt McKnight publicly,” Just said. “He’s been the face of the organization since Day 1, and without him, the team wouldn’t be where it is today.”

Just and several friends and members of his family are joining the team in Vancouver this weekend.


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