LEWISTON — Most teams would be happy knowing that they’ve lost three consecutive games only three times all season.

Unless that third such streak is current, as is the case with the Lewiston Maineiacs.

In a rare swoon, Lewiston has dropped three consecutive decisions, one to Montreal and two to Quebec, and will welcome Montreal to Lewiston on Thursday for the fourth in a brutal stretch of games against two of the top teams in all of Canada.

“It’s important now for us to win one against these top teams,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “It’s been a while now since we’ve won against one of them. Just for the guys, to prove, for the mental aspect, that we can compete with those top guys, I think we need this win. We need to be more disciplined, our power play needs to improve and we need to learn against the big teams.”

The power play has been a sticking point with the Maineiacs this season, and moreso recently. The Maineiacs have scored three power-play goals in the past 11 games, and only 39 all season on 236 chances, a 16.5 percent efficiency rate.

That puts Lewiston 16th overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Maineiacs are dead last in terms of the percentage of total goals scored by the power-play units (17.41 percent).

“There’s no doubt we have to work on it and be better, and we know it,” Houle said. “We’ve worked on it all week. It’s a good thing our penalty-killing has been so good for us.”

In those same 11 games, the Maineiacs scored more than double the goals — seven — while a man down. Lewiston leads the QMJHL with 15 short-handed goals for, and speedster Etienne Brodeur leads the team with a club record-tying nine of those 15.

One positive piece the Maineiacs have gained from losing a few consecutive games has been the ability to study their opponents, and perhaps learn a few things to help get better down the stretch. Only 12 games remain for the Maineiacs in the regular season.

“The key for Lewiston against Montreal this time around,” Houle said, “will be to start the game with more fire.”

In three games against the Junior this season, the Maineiacs have crossed the midway point of the game behind by at least a goal in all three games. In the teams’ most recent meeting, Montreal put up four goals in the first period.

“The last two games we played, we were flat right off the bat,” Houle said, “and they’re a team, there’s a good example of a team that thrives in the first period. It’s not just against us, it’s against a lot of other teams. You have to try and get the momentum early in the game and you have to try and keep it. The first five or 10 minutes of the game are very, very important.”

On the injury front, the Maineiacs are nearly back to full strength. Defenseman Sam Carrier, suffering from a minor upper-body injury, should be ready to return Thursday, according to Houle, and he also said forward Sam Henley is likely less than one week from a return to the lineup.

Thursday’s game against the Junior is set to begin at 7 p.m.

For fans holding season tickets, Thursday’s game — one of four remaining home games — is also the final chance to redeem unused season tickets for game vouchers.


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