VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Two teams that had struggled to slow starts all tournament had to start somewhere Thursday night.

The Plymouth Whalers got there first, and the Lewiston Maineiacs caught the first flight home Friday morning.

Tom Sestito scored the Whalers’ first goal of the game just 5:39 into the opening period and teammate James Neal followed at 8:44 to give Plymouth all the cushion it would need in a 5-1 win over Lewiston in the play-in game at the Memorial Cup tournament.

“We hadn’t scored first all tournament,” Whalers’ leading scorer Evan Brophey said. “We got out to a fast start, and I thought we built off of that.”

For the Maineiacs, who went 1-3 in the tournament and finished fourth out of four teams, the frustration was evident.

“I don’t know what it is,” Lewiston forward Stefan Chaput said. “We haven’t been playing well all week.”

After a 3-1 opening win over Medicine Hat – which has already earned a pass into the tournament final — Lewiston fell to host Vancouver, 2-1, and to Plymouth, 2-1 in overtime.

In each case, the Maineiacs held a 1-0, third-period lead and collapsed.

“It’s frustrating,” Maineiacs rookie David Perron said. “It’s frustrating because we played well all year. We won the President’s Cup in 17 games, and we know we can play with and beat every team here, but we didn’t.”

Perron, who had 28 points in those 17 playoff games, was relatively quiet this week, registering just one goal and two assists in four games.

Following Sestito and Neal onto the scoresheet was Brophey, who banged home a power-play goal past backup Peter Delmas at 14:30 of the second to put the Whalers up 3-0.

“At that point, the game still could have gone either way,” Brophey said. “If they score to make it 2-1, it’s a whole new game, so that one was huge.”

Simon Courcelles drove home a loose puck past Plymouth keeper Michal Neuvirth early in the third to give the Whalers a scare, but Sestito took care of that on a breakaway less than three minutes later.

“They were trying to press and (defenseman Brett) Bellemore caught the D pinching,” Brophey said. “He fired a pass up to (Sestito) and he scored.”

Neal capped the game with an empty-netter.

The Maineiacs returned home to Lewiston in the wee hours this morning after a long day of travel.

The players will make their way back to their hometowns, most of them over the next 24 to 48 hours, to begin the off-season, which will last exactly 80 days.

“We leave here with no regrets,” Maineiacs’ head coach Clem Jodoin said.

Jodoin stayed behind in Vancouver over the weekend for the Canadian Hockey League’s awards banquet, which is tonight. Jodoin is a finalist for coach of the year.

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