LEWISTON — The Lewiston/Auburn Fighting Spirit opened the second half of its season schedule with a road win over the Maine Wild last Saturday. The victory brought to light both the positives and the negatives from the Fighting Spirit’s first half.

It was another stellar defensive performance for L/A, which shutout the Wild 2-0 to improve to 20-5-1. Fighting Spirit goalie Zachary Barry recorded his ninth win in nine starts, and lowered his goals-against average to a miniscule 0.56. The Fighting Spirit have allowed a league-low 39 goals in 26 games — 23 less than the next closest team.

There was more to be desired from the L/A offense, which saw a decline in its goal output late in the first half of the season, according to assistant coach Cam Robichaud.

Some of that can be explained by the Fighting Spirit spending a combined 16 minutes in the penalty box on eight minors against the Wild. Trying to lower that number — on more than just a game-by-game basis — is the genesis for what Robichaud said the team needs to improve on for the remainder of the season.

“Coming back for the second half … we’re more focused on playing more disciplined and competing harder versus better teams,” said Robichaud, who has spent time leading the team during the season as head coach Rod Simmons deals with a family matter.

Robichaud said the team missed players for suspension, as well as injury, during a slump late in the first half of the season. He called the suspensions “a good lesson for us to keep our mouths shut, and not talk to the refs and get misconducts.”

The Fighting Spirit played on the edge during the season’s first half, with no better example than forward Colby Siering. He led the team in both goals (15) and penalty minutes (99, with four more against the Wild).

“Yeah that’s something that you need to work on, but the heat of the moment you just get fired up, just trying to get everyone going,” Siering said. “I learn from the past, try not to repeat myself in the second half of the season.”

Siering said he puts it upon his shoulders to get the team going. It’s the team that he credits for his team-high goal output as well as his +29 plus/minus, which is second to Dylan Vrees.

“I think it’s a team thing. I wouldn’t just say it’s me scoring,” Siering said. “The plus-minus is a team thing. It’s not just me out there, it’s all six of us doing our job.”

Vrees leads the team with a +31 plus/minus and 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists). Siering said the offense begins with Vrees and him, who have combined for 55 points.

The defense has been backed by not just Barry in net, but all three of L/A’s goaltenders. Claes Endre has played in the most games (15) of the three netminders, and has complied a 1.86 GAA. Marcus Mitchell has won both of his starts, allowing just five goals combined.

“Obviously you start from the net out,” Robichaud said. “And we have three very good goaltenders that I think, whoever’s in net, the guys are comfortable.”

The trio of goalies will get tested this second half of the season, as the Fighting Spirit face the team they’re looking up at for first place in the NA3EHL’s East division, the Cape Cod Islanders, three times over the final 18 games — all on the road.

“We need to win those games,” Robichaud said. “If we don’t win those games it’s making it tough to catch them. They’re going to win the games that they should win.”

Robichaud said he heard talk of a team fan bus following the Fighting Spirit down to Cape Cod for the first of those matchups on January 23. The team plays just two home games in January, and faces some of the league’s better teams down the stretch.

“I think our goal is to try to get in first again,” Siering said.

A first-place finish would mean more home games in the playoffs, something Robichaud said the fans deserve.

“We really want that for the fans,” Robichaud said of home-ice advantage in the playoffs. “We’ve had great fans all year, great core group.”

The playoffs are both a probability and a focus for the Fighting Spirit. Then once the postseason begins, it’s a whole, new season, according to Siering.

Robichaud said he believes this team has the ability to go far in the playoffs, but also could get knocked out in the first round. That is an indictment on the quality of the league, but also of his team’s volatility.

“I think it solely lies in the hands of the players,” Robichaud said of the team’s fate. “If they’re willing to do the little things — that’s another thing we’ve been talking about a lot — going forward the rest of the season here, we have the ability to win this league.”

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