Well, our season is over. The MAINEiacs ran into the freight train that is the Drummondville Voltigeurs, who knocked us out of the playoffs in four games.
This was a tough year for our team. We went through things many teams never had to experience. We started the year with one coach and ended with another; we thought the franchise was moving to Quebec, then New Brunswick, only to find out we weren’t going anywhere. To say the least, it’s been a roller-coaster ride in and out of the dressing room. Under these circumstances, it certainly has been a challenge to stay focused.
When coach Don MacAdam came to the team in January, we set a goal to make the post-season. Our aspiration hinged on the final game of the regular season against Chicoutimi Sagueneens and our destiny was in our own hands: win and we’re in.
We were tied with the Val-d’Or Foreurs for the last playoff spot, but we had the tiebreaker. We were down 2-1 in the third period with eight seconds to go and our goaltender was pulled for an extra attacker. Billy Lacasse poked one past the Chicoutimi goaltender to tie the score and send the game to overtime.
Overtime came and went without a goal. In the shootout, the Sagueneens’ Jacob Lagacé scored in the first round and Chicoutimi came out on top and put us in a nervous position. Although we lost the game, it gave us a confidence boost like you wouldn’t believe. It’s crazy what one well-executed game can do for a team.
Val-d’Or lost to the Montreal Juniors that same night, which meant the point we earned was enough to give us the 16th seed in the Quebec League playoffs. Of course, the down side to this was we had to face a powerful Drummondville team in the first round. The Volts dominated the league this year. They had the most goals for and are by far the best team. Every game we played against them this year was very tough and we played them a lot because they share a division with us.
We hoped the games would have been a lot closer in the first round, but were swept by the best the QMJHL has to offer; a series win just wasn’t in the cards. Still, I am very happy we even made the playoffs; we set a goal and achieved it together.
Off the ice, the MAINEiacs have been one of the biggest stories in junior hockey. After all the speculation of relocation, the MAINEiacs will be right here in Lewiston again next year. I couldn’t be happier. The people here really deserve a franchise. They love their MAINEiacs and the players know and appreciate that.
People have been asking me what I thought of my year. I think it went great and I don’t have any regrets. I worked very hard on my consistency, defensive play and all-around awareness. One thing in particular I learned this year was how to stay focused on my play. We had a lot of distractions through the season, but had to stay focused if we wanted to win any games. You know what they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
The upcoming NHL draft has been another challenge on my concentration. Since my appearance in the Top Prospects Game in January, I have been in contact with many NHL scouts. I have been dreaming about becoming an NHL player one day and the draft is an important step in the pursuit of that dream.
I still clearly remember how nerve-wracking the QJMHL draft was for me, so I can only imagine how nervous I will be in June. I have tried to focus on the things I have to learn to execute well in order to be a better player and help my team. This, along with much support from my coaches, has helped me stay on track in the second half of the season.
I know there is lots of speculation about how the NHL draft will play out; that is to be expected, I suppose. However, I try not to think about where I am going to be drafted. To me, the important thing is to just get picked. Of greater importance is how a player handles himself after being drafted; he must continue developing as a player and eventually earn a chance to make a pro roster and, eventually, a spot in the NHL.
If I get invited to the Ivan Hlinka memorial under-18 tournament, I’ll get another opportunity to prove myself on the ice and will also have another chance off the ice at the NHL combine in late May. In the coming weeks I’ll be hard at work preparing myself for that challenge.
I’ll be heading home to Quebec this week and I have a few things on my to-do list I’ll tackle once I get there. No. 1: get the biggest bowl of poutine I can find and, No. 2: cut my hair! The whole team dyed their hair blonde for the playoffs. It was a nice statement, but I just don’t think I cut it as a blonde.
I’ll be headed to Quebec City in May to spend time with my brother Karl, who plays for the Capitales de Québec in the Canadian-American Baseball League. I’ll be working out with him and some of the other pitchers during their season. Hey, you never know, you might see a Gélinas in the bullpen… and it might not be Karl. Don’t laugh, I used to play baseball – and enjoyed it very much – but I don’t know if I could hit at that level. Perhaps during batting practice?
Until next time. . .
A 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman, Éric Gélinas is in his second season with the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the Quebec Major Junior League after putting up three goals and 19 points in 54 games last season. The St-Jean-sur-Richelie, Que., native is eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.