Before each hockey game, Mariners goalie Connor LaCouvee takes a racquetball into a narrow hallway outside the team’s locker room, gets into a crouch and tosses the ball against a wall. He tracks the carom with his eyes as it zigzags off both walls, then snags it with his left hand.

Sometimes he tosses the ball low so it bounces off the floor as well.

“I think it makes your mind work in different ways, stimulates it,” LaCouvee said. “Different motor patterns.”

LaCouvee’s racquetball ritual, which he took up a few months ago, seems to be working well. On Friday night, he shimmied out of his crease as the final seconds ticked away in Maine’s 2-1 ECHL victory over the visiting Worcester Railers, as he finished with a season-high 45 saves.

A crowd of 2,449 at Cross Insurance Arena saw 18 of those saves come in the final period, which wound down with first one and then two Mariners in the penalty box as Worcester emptied its net and finished with a 6-on-3 skater advantage.

“The key with that is not getting too flustered,” LaCouvee said. “Penalties are going to happen. It’s all about how you control yourself. I just tried keeping calm and staying in the moment and enjoying the opportunity that presented itself.”

The Mariners and Railers were meeting for the second game in a row, following Tuesday night’s 4-1 Maine victory, also in Portland. The next day, Coach Riley Armstrong took the team outside for a fun practice at Thompson’s Point.

“Just have a little fun, skate outside and get some cold wind in your face,” Armstrong said. “It kind of wakes you up once in a while.”

The Mariners have won five in a row and have surged into sole possession of third place in the ECHL North for the first time all winter.

Worcester, which held a 46-27 advantage in shots, cut the margin to one early in the third period when Justin Murray spoiled the shutout bid by LaCouvee.

The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in a first period that got a little chippy and included six penalties, three for each team. There was some yapping back and forth and a roughing call on Worcester, and the Railers squandered a potential power play by throwing a punch at Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin after he was whistled for a trip in the final minute.

It was Dillan Fox who scored the goal, his 20th, after splitting the defense thanks to a long pass up the middle from Ryan Culkin. The secondary assist went to Cumberland native Ted Hart.

Morgan Adams-Moisan made it 2-0 late in the second period after a give-and-go from Brian Hart – Ted’s older brother – set up Adams-Moisan from the left dot for his seventh goal. Ryan Ferrill also assisted on the play.

The victory lifted the Mariners to 54 points, two ahead of the Brampton Beast. The Beast bus arrived in Portland on Friday afternoon ahead of a three-game set at CIA, with games against the Mariners on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night.

Saturday’s game, which starts at 6 p.m., is billed as Pride Night with EqualityMaine, and sunglasses will be given to the first 2,000 fans. Sunday’s promotion is the Underwear Toss, with fans encouraged to shower the ice with new packages of underwear after the first Mariners goal, to benefit Preble Street Teen Services.

When Brampton leaves town, so too will the Mariners. They have a four-game series in Newfoundland, starting Friday.

Glenn Jordan — 207-791-6425

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Twitter: @GlennJordanPPH

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