LEWISTON — In a rare departure from convention, by the time most people are packing up their lunches and heading back to work for a second round Tuesday, the Lewiston Maineiacs may well be on their way home.

After having played a regulation game.

“Middle of the week, to have a game at 10:30 in the morning, it’s kind of weird,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle admitted.

For the second time this season, the Montreal Junior will host a morning game at the Verdun Auditorium aimed at rewarding area school children by providing them a game during school hours.

But, Houle said, that’s not going to change the way the team prepares.

“It’s going to be tough to get used to it, but once you get into warmups, it doesn’t really matter what time it is,” Houle said. “As a hockey player, you kind of forget what time it is, you just prepare for the game.”

In their first attempt with an early start, the Junior thumped Rouyn-Noranda. The Maineiacs are hoping Tuesday’s early start goes better than than that for them, against a team they have yet to beat this season.

“They’re a deep team, they’re good offensively, they’re good defensively and they’re goalie’s good, as well,” Houle said. “When you play a team like that, there’s not much space for mistakes. If you make one, it ends up in your net.”

One thing that will remain the same for Lewiston on Tuesday will be the players available from which Houle must craft a lineup.

“The players that are suspended are still suspended, the guys who were hurt are still hurt,” Houle said. “It’s going to be the same lineup, I believe, the same exact lineup as last game.”

That may not be a bad thing for Lewiston, which is riding a five-game win streak and has won 10 of its past 12 games. Saturday, against a tough cape Breton squad, the Maineiacs stood toe to toe with the Screaming Eagles. They won on the scoreboard, 6-0, and more than held their own in four separate fights.

“Since the beginning of the year, I don’t think we’ve ever back down,” Houle said. “I think, if teams want to play physical against us, we can play physical. We have speed, we can play a speedy game. We’re a pretty well-rounded team.”

And Tuesday’s game is just the beginning of a brutal stretch, during which Lewiston will play No. 2 overall Montreal twice, and No. 3 overall Quebec twice, all while trying to steal the No. 4 overall position in the league standings from Drummondville (which it faces the following week).

“It’s a tough stretch, for sure, they are all good teams, but we’ve been pretty good this year at making sure we take the whole thing a game at a time,” Houle said. “We need to concentrate on (Tuesday), and then after that, it’s Quebec.”

The Maineiacs return home for three more games after Tuesday’s early contest. They host Quebec for a pair Friday and Saturday, and will host Montreal next Thursday. Faceoff for all three is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Top performer

Andrey Makarov has certainly sprung into the limelight in recent weeks for the Maineiacs. The team’s 17-year-old rookie Russian goalie turned heads at the league level, this time.

Makarov was named Monday the league’s third star of the week after allowing two goals in two games. His official stat line included a 1.00 goals-against-average and .969 save percentage. Makarov stopped 37 shots in an impressive 4-2 win over the Shawinigan Cataractes, and then pushed away 25 attempts in a 6-0 shutout victory over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He earned a star in each of his two starts.

“He had a great week, played awesome and made all the key saves,” Houle said. “He was outstanding. He’s really coming on right now.”


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