SASKATOON, Sask. — The late and lamented Lewiston MAINEiacs franchise is still imprinted on the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Last spring, the Shawingan Cataractes won the year-end tournament thanks to help from three players from the disbanded franchise, including tourney MVP Michael Chaput. Sunday, former Lewy teammates will go head-to-head when Halifax Mooseheads co-captain Stefan Fournier does his best to be a better door than a window in front of Saskatoon Blades goalie Andrey Makarov.
"I told him that he should have a fun time with me standing in front of him," Fournier, whose role with the Mooseheads is a little like the recently Tomas Holmström's was for many years with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, said of his meet-up with Makarov at the pre-tournament banquet. "He barked some remarks at me in Russian, I barked some inappropriate remarks at him in Russian. One of my very good friends in Lewiston was [New York Islanders prospect Kirill ] Kabanov. Makarov and Kabanov lived together in Lewiston so they taught a few things to say ... when we met here I gave him a little bit of an Urban Dictionary chirp."
In some other alternate timeline, where a torrent of red ink was no object, perhaps the MAINEiacs could have contended in 2011-12 if the franchise had remained solvent or if the financial situation had not made it more expedient for the QMJHL to fold the team and start over with the expansion Sherbrooke Phoenix, who had successful first season. Not knowing the outcome remains a lingering regret in Quebec League circles.
The where-are-they-know with Lewiston is impressive. Chaput, Kabanov and Pier-Oliver Morin helped Shawinigan win it all last season. Fournier set a Mooseheads team record with 16 playoff goals. His brother, Chicago Blackhawks second-rounder Dillon Fournier, helped the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies reach the QMJHL semifinal this spring. The coach, Jean-François Houle, has since guided the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to successive Telus West division titles.
Makarov, then 18, was not picked up in the Lewiston disperal draft. He instead re-entered the CHL import draft and went to Saskatoon. It's worked out well, since he has a contract with the Buffalo Sabres organization and also owns a pair of world junior championship medals, a silver and bronze with Team Russia.
"We had such a good team in Lewiston," he said. "We had a chance the next year to go to the Memorial Cup."
Fournier said it took time for the players on that final Lewiston team to accept their chance to peak was lot.
"The questions, what could have been, they're bothersome when you're 18 or 19 years old," he said. "Obviously now I'm in a different spot because I have a chance to win... I think that we could really have put in a solid fight for it. There's not much else you can do about it. We had our month of sulking, all the boys, because we had a big group from Montreal. Chaput was a childhood friend of mine and he was Memorial Cup MVP last year. [Matthew] Bissonnette was my linemate, also, and put up 40 goals in Bathurst. There was Jess Tanguy with 80 points [for the Armada]. We had a power-packed team, not with the names Saint John had [while winning the QMJHL in 2011-12]. I can't tell you what would have happened, but only theoretically."
Ultimately, it's water under the bridge. Makarov, speaking during the Blades' off-day Saturday, was more alight about facing Mooseheads stars Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon than he is about facing the best team from the league where no one picked him up.
"I like challenging somebody who is at the top of their game," said Makarov, who nearly stole the show Friday during Saskatoon's 3-2 loss to the London Knights. "Playing the QMJHL doesn't matter. I'm pretty happy with the Saskatoon Blades, that's a great experience in my life."
Fournier wouldn't go on the record saying he'll pot a goal against his buddy. It is worth noting the Mooseheads scored seven on Saturday and their leading playoff marksman was shut out. Does that mean Fournier is due?
"I can't guarantee that's going to happen, what's more important is we play our best to win," he said. "The battle between me and Mak is pretty irrelevant."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.