LEWISTON — Unheralded for much of the season, it’s hard to miss Pierre-Olivier Morin now.

A late-season position shift and a linemate juggle for the 19-year-old Lewiston Maineiacs forward has again thrust the former team points leader into the spotlight.

Nowhere has that light shined as brightly as in the 2011 President’s Cup playoffs. Morin, who now centers a line with Kirill Kabanov and Etienne Brodeur, netted a pair of goals in Lewiston’s Game 6, series-clinching victory over the Montreal Junior on Sunday, going about that task about as quietly as one can score two goals in a playoff matchup.

“He never gets enough credit for the way he plays the game,” Lewiston coach J.F. Houle said. “He’s very fast, very solid defensively, but he’s been a key part of that line with Kabanov and Brodeur in the playoffs. We know he can put up the offense, but we also know how good he is at coming back and helping out.”

“It was pretty exciting to beat Montreal,” Morin said. “It was again another chance to shake hands at the end of the day and not be the ones going home. We get to keep playing.”

The Maineiacs will indeed play on, drawing top-seeded Saint John in the league semifinals beginning Friday, thanks in large part to Morin’s pair of goals. His first gave the Maineiacs a 2-1 lead in the first period, and his second made it 4-2 in the third.

“Ever since we put him at center, he’s been making more plays, he’s been scoring more goals,” Houle said. “That line is just clicking right now.”

That shift, Houle said, came with a couple of games remaining in the regular season.

“This season was a bit disappointing, that I didn’t score as many points,” Morin said. “I didn’t have the offense like I had last year. But the playoffs were a good opportunity to start fresh.”

Against Moncton, Morin had three points as he adjusted to the new role. In six games against Montreal, Morin, Kabanov and Brodeur combined for seven goals, 18 assists and were a collective plus-14, despite a minus-five rating in Game 1.

“It clicked almost instantly,” Houle said. “They’ve been together ever since. When guys play well, you let them continue to play together. They get used to each other.”

“Playing with Kabanov and Brodeur has helped a lot,” Morin said. “We’ve been pretty good lately, and it’s good in the playoffs to make things happen.”

Adding Morin’s quick burst of speed to Brodeur’s ability to score — he did that 53 times in the regular season — and Kabanov’s playmaking ability has forced opposing defenders to back off the trio a bit.

“It’s a big asset we have,” Morin said. “I think now, D-men see us coming and they have to give us a little bit of extra room because of the speed, and that makes it a bit easier to get into the zone and set things up. It’s a big thing for us, and it makes it harder on the other teams, for sure.”

The combination has also been solid on the backcheck, and inside the Lewiston zone, something Morin picked up quickly while with the Vancouver Canucks early in the season.

“Guys like me who went to pro camps, we get to see what it takes,” Morin said. “It all starts with having a good defensive game. You need to always know to get the puck out, know where your teammates are to get that next pass to them.

“With two-and-a-half weeks in pro camp, I got to see how fast the game is there, and you really have to be careful how you play. You have to dump the puck at the right time, make sure it leaves your zone, and then worry about the offense.”

“If you want to play at the next level, you have to be a good two-way player now,” Houle said. “You can’t be only about the offense anymore. (Morin) is that kind of player. He’s good down low, he wins his battles and he’s very responsible with the puck.”

Morin, along with Kabanov and Brodeur, will have to continue to be on the ball as the Maineiacs move on to face top-ranked Saint John in the semifinals. With two good rounds under their belts, the Sea Dogs are likely going to be looking hard at stopping them.

“Obviously that’s our key line right now,” Houle said. “I am sure Saint John has been watching our games, and I am sure they know that. They’ll probably put their best defensive unit against them, and it’s going to be up to the players to figure out how to play against that. It’s never easy when the other team knows things like that.”


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