Bernier shows he can handle pressure

WILLY PALOV -- Halifax Chronicle-Herald

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Jonathan Bernier was only half kidding when he said he wasn't about to let Jeremy Duchesne upstage him for a whole series.

The 17-year-old goaltender for the Lewiston Maineiacs earned first star in his team's 1-0 win in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Saturday, just one night after Duchesne stole the show for the Mooseheads in their series-opening win.

Duchesne was named first star Friday after stopping 39 shots, including several game-savers.

"Duchesne is a really good goalie," said Bernier, the younger brother of former Mooseheads right-winger Marc-Andre Bernier. "He made great saves (in Game 2), too so I have to make great saves to have a competition with him."

Heading into the series, Bernier's playoff inexperience was a bit of a question mark for the Maineiacs, but those have been put to rest so far. The highly-rated prospect for the upcoming NHL draft is proving he can handle the post-season pressure.

But when asked to comment on his strong start to the series, Bernier predictably credited his defence.

"They played really well," he said after Game 2. "I saw all the shots from the point and (in Game 1) I had an easy time seeing the puck. They kept their guys to the outside and I didn't really have any big saves to make from the slot so for sure that's easier for me."

Meanwhile, Duchesne's playoff credentials are already well established. He was a key player in the Mooseheads' run to the league final last year and he is flashing that same sharp form against the Maineiacs. He leads the league with a 1.01 goals against average and .974 save percentage so far in the playoffs.

"I feel good so far," Duchesne said. "I feel like my focus is good, but at the same time I try not to get too high or too low. I think that's important, too."

POWER PLAYS SPUTTERING

Sooner or later someone's going to score on the power play.

The Mooseheads and Maineiacs have combined to go 0-for-31 with the man advantage so far in their series, with the Maineiacs failing to convert 19 chances and the Mooseheads going scoreless in 12. The drought is even more noticeable because the referees have maintained the tight style of calling the play they used in the regular season, making the first two games fairly penalty-filled.

"We're obviously killing at 100 per cent right now and so are they but that won't last for the whole series," said Halifax right-winger Bryce Swan. "Special teams always make a difference so we want to be the ones that bear down on the power play and make good on our chances."

At least the teams can take solace in the fact that the Shawinigan Cataractes are 0-for-14 with the man advantage and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are 1-for-17.

SUCHY EXPECTED BACK

The Mooseheads will get a boost tonight when injured defenceman Jiri Suchy makes his expected return to the lineup tonight for Game 3 at the Forum.

The hard-hitting Czech rookie has yet to play in the playoffs after suffering a bruised side that made it painful for him to give and receive bodychecks. He skated with the team all week in practice and said he is ready to start throwing his body around again.

However, it should also be mentioned that rookies Ben MacAskill and Justin Pender stepped up admirably in Suchy's absence. MacAskill, in particular, was exceptional in an expanded role during the first two games in Lewiston and it wouldn't come as a surprise to see him receive the same kind of ice time even when Suchy comes back.

Notes -- The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and St. John's Fog Devils resume their series tonight in Newfoundland. The best-of-seven is tied 1-1 with the next three games to be played at Mile One Stadium in St. John's, where the Fog Devils were an impressive 25-8-1-1 during the regular season. ... Quebec Remparts star Alexander Radulov was named the QMJHL offensive player of the month on Monday. Chicoutimi Sagueneens goaltender Alexandre Vincent captured the defensive award and Gatineau Olympiques centre Alexandre Giroux won the rookie-of-the-month honour.


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