LEWISTON — On to the third round.

Stefan Fournier exploded for a pair of goals and added an assist, Jess Tanguy came off the bench for the first time in the series and added a goal and an assist, Pierre-Olivier Morin potted two more and Nick Champion stopped 37 of the 40 shots that went his way to lead the Lewiston Maineiacs to a 6-3, series-clinching victory over the Montreal Junior on Sunday in game 6 of the teams’ best-of-seven, second-round playoff series.

The Maineiacs’ victory in Game 6 secured for the team a trip to the third round for only the second time in its eight years in Lewiston, and its first since the team’s President’s Cup-winning run in 2007.

“We’re very proud, everyone worked hard,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “It was a tough situation for a guy like Jess Tanguy, who hasn’t played, and he comes in and scores and has an assist. But it was a total team effort again. We worked hard and when you work hard, you win games.”

For Montreal, the No. 2 playoff seed after a 46-win regular season and a division championship, struggled Sunday against the Maineiacs’ speed and offense, much like it has all series long.

“We didn’t deserve that game, we didn’t deserve the series,” Montreal coach Pascal Vincent said. “We tried to push different buttons during the series, but their best players were better than our best players, and their offensive guys were more offensive, creating more offensively than we did.”

The two games the Junior won came on consecutive Fridays, and both in overtime. Lewiston’s four victories all came in regulation, and were all the result of a third-period push.

“Our third periods have been outstanding,” Houle said. “We’re up or down by a goal, but we keep working. It’s all about hard work. We keep plowing and keep coming. That’s when we’re successful.”

Lewiston outscored Montreal 12-4 in the third period over the six-game series.

“You always try, you always push, you always try, there’s only one way,” Vincent said. “But one-on-one, they won the battles. If you don’t win your battles, you won’t go anywhere.”

Fournier, one of three players who skated together for the Lac St. Louis Lions in Montreal together, had a memorable night, much like those other two players had earlier in the series. Matthew Bissonnette tallied a hat trick in game 1 of the series, while Michael Chaput offered up a four-point night in Game 5.

“I was hoping, at some point, with all the disallowed goals, that Lady Luck would bounce my way,” Fournier said. “At the end of the day, playoffs is like a full season. You learn to roll with the bad bounces and some bad games, and it’s about how you react. The points aside, the fact that I worked hard and put forward my best effort, that happened.”

Tanguy, meanwhile, hadn’t seen the ice since the first round against Moncton. But Houle, after a loss in Game 5, gave the sure-handed forward a shot Sunday. Tanguy scored on his first shift.

“I was hoping I would be able to score, and just do my best,” Tanguy said. “I’m pretty happy. It helped the team win.”

The Maineiacs wasted little time whipping the home crowd into a frenzy. Tanguy made Houle’s lineup change appear genius only 2:34 into the contest when he collected a missed shot off the stick of Chaput off the back boards at the low left circle. From a tight angle, he rippled the mesh behind Montreal keeper Jean-Francois Berube to put Lewiston on top 1-0.

“It shows the depth that we have,” Houle said. “Sometimes it’s not easy for those guys who are sitting out, but they have to be ready to play when we need them, and Jess was (Sunday).”

Louis Leblanc broke in on a 3-on-3 up the left side, faked inside and then out, and then shot through a pair of defenders. The puck, on edge, skipped on the ice in front of Champion and slid 5-hole to even the game at 1-1 at 7:07.

But that tie game lasted all of 25 seconds.

Kirill Kabanov threaded a perfect pass to Morin on a 2-on-2 at the other end, and Morin tipped the puck through Berube to reestablish the Maineiacs’ one-goal advantage.

“A couple of times this series, we scored right after they scored,” Houle said. “It really, really kills their momentum. That was a key goal.”

Lewiston went on the defensive after that, as Montreal enjoyed three consecutive power plays, including 38 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey. But the Lewiston penalty kill remained strong, as Champion and the team’s defenders stopped everything in sight.

Montreal eventually took advantage of the shift in momentum, put on an offensive surge and ultimately tied the game when Nicolas Chouinard banked the puck into the cage from behind the goal line to Champion’s right off a Lewiston player’s skate amid five or six players gathered in the low slot.

The Tanguy-to-Fournier connection worked later in the second as the Maineiacs again climbed out in front. Tanguy outworked Jonathan Narbonne on the way out of the Lewiston zone, and the Montreal defender lost his stick. He tried to haul Tanguy down anyway as he entered the Junior zone, but the Lewiston forward still managed to slide the puck toward the blue paint in front of Berube. Fournier, parked in front, tipped the puck up and over the Montreal keeper.

“I saw him get taken down, actually, but I stayed there in front and was hoping the puck would come toward me and hit off my stick, and it did,” Fournier said.

Morin netted his second of the game at 7:41 of the third to push the lead to two, and Fournier added another at 15:58 to all but ice the game.

The teams traded late goals, with Chaput firing the puck into the empty net in the game’s waning seconds to end the scoring.

The Maineiacs will now face Saint John in the third round of the playoffs. The schedule for the series will be announced at a later date.


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