Saint John cruised through the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in convincing fashion. They had some troubles with the Victoriaville Tigres in the second round but were still able to dispose of them in five games. Now, the No. 1 team in the regular season will face a stiff test in the Maineiacs.
Lewiston downed the Moncton Wildcats in the first round in five games. In the quarter-finals, Lewiston pulled off the upset by defeating the Montreal Juniors in six games. The Maineiacs know what it takes to pull off an upset and they will be looking to do the same this round.
With the excitement building for the semifinals, here are five things we will be watching when this thing kicks off on Friday.
Remember that crazy Russian guy who that once played for the Moncton Wildcats? Well, he plays in Lewiston now, and he is actually having an impact! Gasp!
The wild and whacky adventures of Kirill Kabanov shifted to Maine after the Wildcats traded the much-hyped forward in the early parts of the season. He got off to a slow start with his new club, recording just three goals and four assists in his first 13 games. But once December struck, the New York Islanders prospect heated up.
Kabanov finished the regular season with 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points in 37 games played.
His hot play in the second half has certainly carried over into the post-season. After recording just two goals and two assists in the first round against his former team, Kabanov turned it up a notch in the second round. He recorded three goals and nine assists in the Maineiacs’ six-game series upset win over the Montreal Juniors.
He managed to get a point in all six games against Montreal, including five multi-point games.
Selected seventh overall in the 2009 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, Kabanov has never been able to live up to expectations and his time in the QMJHL has been, to say the least, a bit of a circus. But he his finally living up to some of that potential and could be a major factor for Lewiston in this series.
This series will feature two of the league’s best snipers in Saint John’s Jonathan Huberdeau and Lewiston’s Etienne Brodeur.
Brodeur stunned the QMJHL this season by being beast-like, recording 53 goals in 68 games. He led the league in goal scoring and was the only player to reach the 50-goal mark. In 62 games in 2009-10, Brodeur recorded just 18 markers.
On the other side, Huberdeau shot up the draft rankings by racking up 43 goals in 67 games. He led the Sea Dogs in goals and finished third overall in the league. The 17-year old was one of just three players to reach the 100-point mark.
Huberdeau has bested Brodeur so far in the playoffs, scoring 10 goals in nine post-season games. The Maineiacs’ forward has three goals in 11 playoff matches.
WILL ABISALIH SURVIVE THE INTENSITY?
If you are a frequent reader of hockey blogs on the interweb, you have probably heard this footage by now.
Lewiston play-by-play announcer DJ Abisalih, in his first season as the voice of the Maineiacs, comnpletly lost it as the home team scored with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation to give them a 2-1 victory and 2-1 series lead over the Montreal Juniors.
Abisalih later explained himself in the team’s newsletter:
Of course, the most noteworthy game of the series thus far was game three, when Etienne Brodeur scored with 5.2 seconds left for a 2-1 MAINEiacs win. As most of you have seen or heard by now, my call of said goal on the radio was different to say the least. Since the video is practically everywhere online, I suppose I should talk a bit about it.
At the end of the day, I want to see the MAINEiacs win almost as much as the players on the ice, and since this is my first season doing play-by-play, playoff hockey is a new experience. As I've told many people, the intensity and excitement of playoff hockey is out of this world, and it's hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the games.
Typically, when Lewiston scores a goal, I will take a deep breath, before powering out a "SCORE!" In this case, I was so excited and surprised (remember, the puck found Brodeur off of a deflected shot) when the puck went in that I just reacted immediately, and the rest is history. While the call definitely wasn't one of my best ones, I'm not going to lie - it's pretty cool to receive national attention, while also having the MAINEiacs' name be heard nationwide. Plus, it will be good for some laughs for a little while.With the Maineiacs just four wins away from a President’s Cup Final berth, we can only imagine what he has up his sleeve (or down his throat?) for this round.
Of the four remaining teams, Saint John and Lewiston are averaging the most penalty minutes.
Saint John is averaging 16 penalty minutes per game while Lewiston has an average of 16.9. The Maineiacs have served 186 penlaty minutes in 11 games and the Sea Dogs have taken 144 in nine matches.
In their second round series against Victoriaville, the Sea Dogs’ penalties didn’t hurt them too much thanks to a solid penalty killing performance. But anybody who watched that series knows that penalties were a bit of an issue for Saint John.
Lewiston has taken a lot of penalties all season long. They had the highest per game average during the regular season with 17.7. If you are frequent reader of the Maineiacs’ Facebook page (well, who isn’t), you’ve probably seen the constant complaints from fans about the officiating.
For the first time in a long, long time, the Sea Dogs will enter Harbour Station on Friday night without a massive home game winning streak. Saint John’s Game Two loss against the Victoriaville Tigres was the first regulation loss for the Dogs on home ice this season.
Will home ice play a big factor in this series?
Saint John will have home ice advantage for this series as they will through the entirety of thier playoff run. The Sea Dogs finished the regular season with an unreal record of 32-0-1-1 at Harbour Station. The top-ranked team in the CHL outscored their opposition 177-70.
At the Androscoggin Bank Colisee this year, the Maineiacs went 21-12-1-0 and outscored their opponents 142-107.
It’s also worthy of noting that in the season series, the home team won each game.
Photo Credits: Getty Images, Getty Images, Marc Henwood/Station Nation, Google, QMJHL Arena Guide