L/A Nordiques’ Colby Audette cuts in toward the net as Maine Wild’s Hunter Smith trails during Wednesday night’s game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

LEWISTON — The L/A Nordiques have an opportunity both as a team and individually this upcoming week when they travel to Blaine, Minnesota, for the NA3HL Showcase.

The Nordiques leave Saturday for the showcase, which starts Sunday.

The team gets show the rest of the rest of the NA3HL how good it is, as L/A enters the showcase as the league’s top team with a 28-1 record.

The Nordques will face top teams from the league’s Midwestern divisions. They face the Milwaukee Power (22-4-1-1), who are first in the Central Division, on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. On Monday, they take on Granite City Lumberjacks (18-4-1), who are first in the West Division, also at 7:30 p.m.. L/A wraps up the showcase Tuesday against the St. Louis Jr. Blues (19-3-1-1), the second-place team in the Central Division.

Individually, the Nordiques will be playing in front of scouts, whether they are from the NA3HL’s parent league, the North American Hockey League, which is Tier II, or college teams.

“It’s a big weekend,” L/A Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud said. “We have a great opportunity to have a lot of schools and Tier II teams interested watching what we do, solely because we have a 28-1 record. That record is going to get us the first look, and how we perform in the first game is going to get us a second look or no look (at all). I have been preaching that all week (to the players): you have a great opportunity. The reason why you play junior hockey is to move up to the higher tier of junior (hockey) at the Tier II level or college. That’s what this showcase is about.”

The showcase games count in the NA3HL regular season standings, so Robichaud will have to balance showcasing his players and trying to win games.

Robichaud said he likes the idea of playing a brand new program, Milwaukee, and two that have been around for a while — Granite City started playing junior hockey in the 2006-07 season, while the Jr. Blues go way back to 1978.

Joe Bisson believes the Nordiques will be able to play their game and not have anybody try being the next Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr.

“We don’t really have anybody (above the team). We all play and we are all close to each other,” Bisson said. “We are a big family, and when we play we try to play for our team and not ourselves. That’s been working really well, we are 28-1 right now. You can’t play like that as individuals. We sit down and we try to play together as a team.”

Robichaud said video coach Eric Michaud has been doing a good job of tracking putting together video of the three teams L/A will be facing so that the players can see the systems those teams run and their styles of play.

With most of the players back from last year’s squad, Robichaud believes the team will be better prepared and better know what to expect at the showcase. During the Nordiques’ first game against the North Iowa Bulls last year, the Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead and out shot L/A 17-1. Robichaud said he settled the players down during the first intermission and they were able to play their game, but still lost 5-2. They went 0-3 during the showcase a year ago.

Cole Ouellette said last year’s experience will help this weekend.

“Being on the road is hard, in general, especially flying, and Minnesota is an experience on its own,” Ouellette said. “It happens only once a year, so everybody is all nervous, but I think this year we won’t be as nervous because we have some guys that are a lot older and more experienced.”

NORDIQUES SIGN MATTHEW MCDERMITT

The Nordiques announced Friday that they signed 19-year-old Matthew McDermitt, who started the season with the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he appeared in five games.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenseman from Brick, New Jersey, also practiced and trained with the South Shore Kings of the USPHL’s Tier II league, the National Collegiate Development Conference, but didn’t appear in any games.

“He’s coming to Minnesota with us, as we need a defenseman at this time,” Robichaud said. “We have five (defensemen), and one of them is coming back from a head injury. If he were to drop in the first game and not able to play (the rest of the showcase), we would only have four defensemen. That would be tough playing three games in three days.”

Robichaud said the hope for McDermitt is to latch onto a NAHL team after the showcase or maybe another team in the Canadian Junior “A” Hockey League system. If that doesn’t happen then Robichaud will sit down with McDermitt and talk to him about playing the rest of the season with the Nordiques.

Avery Matthews of Long Beach attempts to get past Joe Bisson and Andrew McCormick of the Nordiques during first-period action Saturday at the Androscoggin Back Colisee. (Ron Morin photo)

Nordiques goaltender Jason St.Pierre makes a pad save on a shot from Wild forward Luke Church during second period action in Lewiston. (Ron Morin photo)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.