LEWISTON — Bryce Milson is not your prototypical power forward.

Standing a shade less than 6 feet tall and weighing less than 190 pounds, Milson is one of only nine players on the Lewiston Maineiacs’ active list of 24 listed as shorter than 72 inches tall.

But when he’s in a corner, grinding it out with the team’s fourth unit — or with the team’s second power play group — opposing players hardly notice a difference.

“He’s using his speed, and he’s a hard worker,” Lewiston coach J.F. Houle said. “He’s not one of those guys who’s going to ‘wow’ you, but he’s been pretty effective for us. He’s doing his job, he knows his role. He’s not trying to dangle people at the blue line. He’s getting it deep, finishing his hits and keeping it simple.”

“Just in the offseason, you have to physically work hard,” Milson said. “You get stronger, and learn to use a lower center of gravity. It’s physical, but it’s also determination to win those battles. Winning those battles can win you a game.”

Milson began the season on a team expected to go deep in the playoffs — the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. In December, after Lewiston forward Cole Hawes went down with an injury, the Titan made the former second-round QMJHL pick available. The Maineiacs jumped at the chance.

“He’s fitting in well and he’s giving us more depth,” Houle said. “He’s a reason why we’re at where we’re at now. We need that effort. It’s not just the guys who are scoring that need the credit.”

Milson arrived in Lewiston to find a handful of former teammates, becoming the sixth player on the Lewiston roster to at one time have played for Bathurst.

“It’s great to see guys I’ve already played hockey with,” Milson said. “It helped the transition a lot.”

Milson found himself in and out of the lineup at first, in a rotation with a handful of players in a deep group of forwards. But Milson made sure the coaching staff noticed him.

“I knew I had the skill to improve my role, but I just had to work hard,” Milson said. “Every day I’d come to the rink, just focus, want to play hockey and want to win games. If you truly want to win games, that carries on to the way you play the game.”

Eventually, Houle added Milson to the team’s second power play unit.

“He’s able to get pucks down low and get them back on top,” Houle said. “Because of his compete level, he comes up with loose pucks. If you come up with loose pucks, you have a chance to play anywhere in the lineup.”

Houle also showed confidence in the 18-year-old skater (17 for QMJHL purposes) during the team’s second-round playoff series against Montreal. In Game 5, with the game in overtime, Houle rolled Milson out on a regular shift. he turned into one of the team’s better players in the extra session.

“Some guys on the team probably get a little bit more ice time than I do over the course of a game,” Milson said. “When it comes down to the extra periods, I think I probably have a little bit more gas left in the tank. But also, you don’t want to lose. You get close in those tight games, you just want to win.”

“He was good, he moved his feet, he had a two-on-one and he created a couple of chances,” Houle said. “He’s been winning battles on the wall, and whenever you have a guy like that on the fourth line who can win battles like that, you have a better chance to win.”

The Maineiacs will need Milson — and the remainder of the squad — to continue playing strong along the boards as Lewiston heads into its league semifinal series against the vaunted Saint John Sea Dogs, the top team in the Canadian Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s two-time regular-season champion.

Milson’s just happy to be along for the ride and a contributing factor to the team’s success.

“Bathurst was said to have a contending teams, and obviously they had a good team,” Milson said. “I guess I joined a team that wanted to win more. The guys here, they really want to play hockey in the postseason. It’s great. Everybody came together. We have a good playoff team.”


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