LEWISTON — The was an unmistakable surge of energy from a handful of players in the first couple of games of the Lewiston Maineiacs’ second-round playoff series against Montreal last weekend.

Lewiston snagged a win in Game 2 after nearly poaching one in Game 1 and returned home having secured home-ice advantage as the road team in the best-of-seven series against the Junior.

That handful of players had more than playoff pride on the line in those first games, and helped contribute to the Lewiston fan legion on the road in a big way. Nine Lewiston skaters have roots in the Montreal area, and their friends and families added to the fans who made the trip from Maine.

“It’s always fun to go back home. There’s that extra spark,” Lewiston forward and Montreal native Michael Chaput said. “To go back to your hometown, when all your friends and family are there, it’s pretty fun. Now we just want to bring that momentum from the win up there into the games here.”

The added edge the Maineiacs brought into the first pair of games — a 6-5 overtime Montreal win followed by a 6-2 Lewiston victory — is something the coaches expected not only in those games, but in all of the team’s playoff contests.

“We’re at home now, it’s our home rink, our fans,” Houle said. “We need everybody to play with an edge and have everybody bring their game up a level. That’s what playoffs are all about. You have to do that if you want to win.”

Saturday’s victory, and the fact that it was a third-period effort that helped secure the win, went a long way toward helping Lewiston psychologically. The Maineiacs had been winless against Montreal this season through Game 1, despite either being tied or leading the Junior in second period of four of the five contests.

“Whenever you can go on the road in the playoffs, especially when we start on the road, and get a split, it’s a good thing,” Houle said. “I think we might have let the first game slip a little bit; we had the lead. But in overtime anything can happen. That’s just part the game.”

That mystique is long gone now after a resounding win in Game 2.

“We didn’t beat them all year, but I think all year they were close games,” Chaput said. “Now, it’s playoffs, it’s a new season and anything can happen. It was close games all year, and we knew we could beat them. We have the team to do it. We have four good lines and a good defense.”

Defenseman Olivier Dame-Malka provided most of the Maineiacs’ offense in Game 2, netting a league-record four goals from the point position, three of them coming on the Lewiston power play. During the regular season, Lewiston’s power play clicked at 17.4 percent, good for 13th overall in the league. In the playoffs, Lewiston is 11-for-36 on the man advantage, a 30.6 percent clip.

“It’s nothing that we’ve really changed all year, it’s the same guys,” Houle said. “It’s just clicking right now.”

On the flip side, the Junior’s power play has also been effective. The Junior are 7-for-24 with the extra skater. The key for Lewiston, though, has been its ability to stay relatively penalty-free.

“We saw we put them on the power play early in the game and they scored on it,” Chaput said. “If we stay disciplined, I think that will be a key for us. We need to just keep playing hard, keep to our game plan and hit them.”

“That’s our strength all year,” Dame-Malka added. “If we would have stayed out of the box all year, we would have finished top four, top five in the league. We were pretty disciplined in Montreal. Five-on-five, we’re pretty good, and not a lot of teams can beat us five-on-five. We showed that against Montreal. We played hard, we competed, we hit them.”

The other outwardly apparent obstacle the Maineiacs overcame with relative ease was the lack of playoff experience. Much has been made of the Junior’s roster, which is loaded with 16 players ages 19 and 20.

But the Maineiacs’ core leaders — and essentially the whole team — performed admirably.

“A series is pretty long, it can go seven games, so if you lose one game, especially the first game on the road, it’s not that big of a deal,” Dame-Malka, one of the team’s 20-year-old skaters, said. “We try to cool things down because we have experience. We’ve been to the playoffs before. But even the young guys have demonstrated a lot of maturity, and they’re showing the example to the older guys, too. Everybody’s just helping everybody.”

Take me out…

As the weather cleared through the afternoon Monday, several of the Mainieacs watched the sky intently. Seventeen of them — all on a volunteer, optional basis — were scheduled to attend the Portland Sea Dogs’ game against the Trenton Thunder. Goaltender Nick Champion was slated to throw out the first pitch of the game, and captain Cameron Critchlow was to spend some time in the team’s radio booth.

Honoring the champs

In a ceremony prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, the Lewiston Maineiacs are planning to honor area youth hockey players who recently won a national title. Last week, the Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League midget squad competed in — and won — the 2011 USA Hockey Tier II National Championship in Ohio. Members of that squad will be on hand at the Colisee on Tuesday as they roll out their championship banner. They are scheduled to take part in the ceremonial faceoff prior to the Maineiacs’ game against the Montreal Junior.

Schedule shift

Contrary to the season-long tradition of playing Sunday game at 4 p.m., there is a wrinkle in the playoff schedule. The Maineiacs, should Game 6 be necessary in their second-round series against Montreal, will host the game at 7 p.m. Sunday instead of 4 p.m.


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