L/A Nordiques players Crewz Berry, right and Cole Ouellette are greeted by team mascott Freddie the Yeti at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston Monday evening as they returned home after a tough 2-1 loss in the league championship game over the weekend. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

LEWISTON — Despite coming up short Sunday in the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup final in Woodridge, Illinois, losing to the Texas Brahmas 2-1, the L/A Nordiques came home to a hero’s welcome at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Monday evening for their 50-5 season.

Once the team got off Exit 80 of the Maine Turnpike, Lewiston’s finest gave them an escort back to the Colisee, where dozens of fans were waiting to greet the team to celebrate the season with a potluck dinner.

“The fans, they support us a lot, they help us get through some tough times,” Nordiques forward Crewz Berry said. “When we needed help, they are there for us.”

While some fans and family made the trip to Illinois, most gathered at Gridiron Restaurant in Lewiston throughout the week, where watch parties were being held. For the players and coaches, they were getting the updates on the turnout at the sports bar as the week went on.

“We saw pictures all week long of the viewing parties they were having at Gridirons,” L/A Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud said. “There was 50, 60 people during the pool play and the semifinal. There was over 75 people for the championship game on Sunday. That’s awesome and the support helps tremendously. … The players sense a pride and connected to the community. It’s a big part of our success.”

One-year-old Beau Robichaud isn’t sure what to make of Freddie the Yeti in the locker room of the L/A Nordiques at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston Monday evening after the team returned from their championship game over the weekend. At right is his father Cam, the coach of the team as one of the players, Crewz Berry looks on. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

The mood of the team had changed once the players got out of the arena last night to the realization of what they did accomplish throughout the season.

“Before the end of the night, our feelings started to change,” forward Joshua Sanchez said. “When you are in the rink, emotions are high and everyone is thinking about what just happened. At the end of the day we had a great season.”

For Lewiston native Cole Ouellette, the team was close-knit and he feels for the 20-year-olds on the team in their last year of junior eligibility.

“It just settled in it was all over,” Ouellette said. “We still have the boys, we are still a family. It’s a tough one to swallow. We will just get back at it next year. Unfortunate the 98s (birth year) can’t do it again with us, but those who still can be able to play, we can get after it in the offseason and get ready for next season.”

One-year-old Beau Robichaud shakes paws with L/A Nordiques mascot Freddie the Yeti at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston Monday evening after the team returned from their championship game over the weekend. His father Cam is the head coach of the team and returned to their home rink to several dozen fans and family members gathered there to greet them. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

In the three years of the Coastal Division, no team from the division had won a game at the Fraser Cup tournament, let alone coming one win from bringing home the league championship. The players had the sense — despite the 47-4 record heading into the tournament — there was still something to prove to the rest of the league.

“Everyone was against us,” Sanchez said. “Our back was up against the wall, we had nothing to lose. We proved everyone wrong, it was fun.”

The Nordiques began the tournament with a 4-1 victory over the Helena Bighorns to open pool play on Wednesday and defeated the North Iowa Bulls 7-4 on Thursday to earn a semifinal berth. They defeated the St. Louis Jr. Blues 3-2 in overtime on Saturday in the semifinal.

“The (fans) were really proud on how we did,” Robichaud said. “I don’t think there has been anyone that has said: ‘What happened? You lost in the championship game.’ It was the reverse of that. Everybody was like ‘Wow, you guys made it to the championship.’ It’s good to hear. It will make us more hungry next season and moving forward”

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