LEWISTON — The spark returned to their strides, the passes were crisp through the first couple of periods and the Lewiston Maineiacs outshot an opponent for the first time in six games Sunday. They even scored first and sent stuffed animals showering down onto the ice in the second period.

But thanks to a 31-save effort from Cape Breton backup Christopher Holden and a couple of timely tipped-in goals, the Screaming Eagles spoiled the Maineiacs’ bid for their first win since Nov. 4 with a 3-1 victory in front of 1,697 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“We knew they were going to come out hard, after the change in coaching,” Cape Breton coach and former Lewiston bench boss Mario Durocher said. “They’re a hard-working team, a very young team, but they battled hard.”

“There was life, there was energy,” Maineiacs interim head coach Jeff Guay said. “The kids played hard. I was happy with the way they played.”

Both teams were missing key players. Cape Breton played without sniper Luke Adam and goaltender Olivier Roy, who are with Team Canada trying out for the World Junior squad, and former Lewiston defenseman Michael Ward, who will be out through the end of January with a shoulder injury.

Lewiston, meanwhile, skated without 20-year-old starting keeper Adrien Lemay (illness) and defenseman Matt Boyle (finger). 

The Maineiacs had an extra jump in their step in the first period, and though neither team scored, both squads had chances to do so. Goalie Tyler Piercy, making his first QMJHL start, and Holden held the fort for their respective squads and sent the game to the middle period scoreless.

“Playing his first game in the league, that’s a huge step for him,” Guay said. “He played well.” 

The Maineiacs sent the stuffed animals flying 6:07 into the second when Sam Henley buried a wrist shot from the left circle on a 2-on-1 rush. Using his teammate as a decoy, he roofed the puck over Holden’s glove hand to put his team on top, 1-0. 

Two deflections helped the Eagles get back into the game.

Brad Cuzner fell to the ice as he released a wobbling wrister from the right circle. The puck hit Piercy in the left shoulder and popped up into the cage as Cuzner face-planted onto the ice to even the game with 4:55 to play in the second. Then, with 16 seconds remaining in the frame, Francis Meilleur’s slapper from the left point hit someone in front and deflected past Piercy’s glove.

“To get those goals at those times, that was big,” Durocher said. “The momentum going into the third was important in a game that was as tight as this one was.”

Meilleur’s game-winner came after a failed clearing attempt from behind the net off the stick of a Maineiacs defender.

“We talked about eating the puck instead of just rimming it around the boards,” Guay said. “For the most part, we did that (Sunday), but on that one, he rimmed it around, it got picked off and it caused a goal.”

The Eagles tacked on another in the third on another tip-in, this one on a power play. Nick MacNeil deflected a Taylor MacDougall shot through Piercy from the right side to put Cape Breton on top 3-1.

The Maineiacs’ next home game is after the team’s holiday break, and after three more road games. Lewiston will skate in Drummondville and Gatineau this week, take a week off and return to action in Victoriaville on Dec. 27 for the front end of a home-and-home. Victoriaville will then travel to Lewiston for a Dec. 28 contest at the Colisee.

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