LEWISTON – When Lewiston Maineiacs’ captain Marc-Andre Cliche and coach Clem Jodoin showed off their 2007 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship gold medals in January, fans fawned over them.

Jodoin and Cliche fawned over them, too, proud “parents” both.

With the Maineiacs on their way to the next most important junior hockey tournament in North America – and perhaps in the world – this week, the pair couldn’t help but reflect on the time they spent in Sweden this winter.

The similarities are striking, especially in attitude, if not in the overall quality of the game itself.

“The level is not the same,” Jodoin explained carefully. “That is the best players from across the nation.”

But, Jodoin continued, the effect on the players and their ability to process information and maintain their focus is similar.

“The challenge is as great as the World Junior Tournament,” Jodoin said. “It’s eight to 10 exhibition games, it’s 70 regular-season games, it’s another round, a fifth round of the playoffs. For this reason, this challenge is as big as the world juniors.”

“I know the feeling is going to be exactly the same,” Cliche said. “Every shift you play, the adrenaline is so high.”

Cliche would know about adrenaline. He watched as his Team Canada teammate Jonathan Toews buried three penalty-shot chances against the United States, and stood tall on the podium as officials from the International Ice Hockey Federation placed a gold medal around his neck.

“There are no words for that moment,” Cliche said in January.

Last week, he was equally star-struck as he stood on the ice in Val-d’Or, again muttering that there were no words to describe his feelings.

In Vancouver this week, the same words will likely cross his lips, just from being there.

“That is for one month, this one, this is three years,” Jodoin said. “These guys have been dreaming about this for three years. They are at the pinnacle right now of their career. In my mind, it’s worth as much as the world juniors.”

With the honor of representing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the Memorial Cup comes responsibility, Jodoin cautioned, very much like when Cliche represented Canada.

“We talked about this (Monday),” Jodoin said. “I told (the players), ‘There’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders now.'”

As he spoke, Jodoin rattled off a list of people and organizations – and regions – the team is now representing, from the Cities of Lewiston and Auburn, to all of New England and all of Eastern Canada.

“And, importantly, you are representing your family and friends, too,” Jodoin said. “Everybody is going to scrutinize every one of their moves, everything that you say, every time you talk, every time you go on the ice, just like when we were with Team Canada.”

In similar fashion to the team concept Jodoin and head coach Craig Hartsburg used with Team Canada, the Maineiacs will be all about teamwork as they head west.

“The focus has to be on team first,” Jodoin said. “Everything has to be together.”

“The biggest factor that made us win (in Sweden), it was the unbelievable team spirit that we had,” Cliche said. “We always played as a team, and the respect we had for each other was really good.

“If we bring that same thing to the Memorial Cup tournament, it’s going to help us. Even if we don’t have the biggest names on the sheet, the fact that we play as a team, we will have more chances.”

Team Canada players at the Memorial Cup

Lewiston Maineiacs: F Marc-Andre Cliche, Coach Clem Jodoin

Vancouver Giants: D Cody Franson, F Kenndal McArdle

Medicine Hat Tigers: D Kris Russell, F Darren Helm

Plymouth Whalers: F James Neal

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