Abitibi Eskimos can thank Trapper Justin Schneeberger for the single point they were able to salvage from Thursday night’s contest in North Bay.
And with only four points separating the Eskimos, the Trappers and the Sudbury Cubs at the top of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League Eastern Division standings, that could prove to be an important point.
That’s especially true given that the Cubs will be paying a visit to the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday night.
With the Eskimos trailing 5-2 midway through the third period on Thursday, Schneeberger took a five-minute major penalty for charging, along with a minor penalty and a game misconduct.
Three power-play goals later, the Eskimos found themselves back on even ground, 5-5, with the game headed to overtime.
Matthew Salituro’s third goal of the game made the final 6-5, sent the North Bay fans home happy and moved the Trappers to within three points of the Eskimos in the standings.
Still, from an Eskimos’ perspective it could have been a lot worse.
“The game was 5-2, it looked like the game was over and one of their players took a stupid penalty,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“He accelerated and hit our goaltender and he got a five-minute major for it and that’s when we made it 5-5.
“And even when it was 5-5, we could have easily made it 6-5 and there would have been no need for overtime.
“We had great opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on them.
”I’m disappointed at the way we lost it, in overtime, because two of our defencemen were back and it was a one-against-two rush and nobody touched him and he walked in an he scored.
“But at least we got a point out of it.”
The Trappers also got two goals from Danny Desrochers, who was recently returned to the North Bay lineup after spending time with the Ontario Hockey League Sudbury Wolves, and one from Ryan West.
Defenceman Justin Kord scored three of Abitibi’s five goals, all of which came on the power play.
Richard Therrien and Nicolas Fournier also scored for the Eskimos.
All three of Kord’s goals and Fournier’s came on shots from the top of the circle.
“They (North Bay) were playing really tight, a box down below the top of the hash marks,” Gagne said.
“We had a defenceman standing at the top of the circle and shooting from there.
“I don’t understand what they were doing, but if that’s their tactic, I like it.”
North Bay’s Gianluca Palmieri made 28 saves, as did Abitibi’s J.P. Fecteau.
“There were a lot of mistakes, obviously, five-on-five, four-on-four,”Gagne said.
“We had a few of our defencemen who made mistakes down low and it cost us goals.
“They scored some cheap goals because our defencemen were not taking their man.
“They were just playing the puck.
“Four of the six goals were from about two or three feet in front of the net.
“The assignments were not being done in front of the net. I’m not going to blame our forwards for that.”
Looking ahead, Gagne is hoping to see a more consistent effort from the Eskimos on Saturday night.
“The effort we put in in the third period to tie the game against North Bay was incredible, so we are pretty disappointed right now to not get that extra point, so we will be ready for Saturday,” Gagne said.
It should be noted, as well that the Eskimos have not forgotten the result of their last meeting with the Cubs in Sudbury a 9-3 loss.
“It’s motivation,” Gagne said.
“We need to be consistent in our play.”
The coach wants his defencemen to keep closer tabs on their men in the defensive zone.
“It’s a matter of playing more physical, not fishing for the puck,” Gagne said.
“There are a couple of defencemen who when the opposition had the puck could have had a dozen eggs in their pants and they would have never been broken.
“Our defencemen will not be able to afford to play the same way we did to give away six goals like that (against North Bay).
“They are not even a high-scoring team.
“Can you imagine doing the same thing we did (against North Bay) against Sudbury?
“So I think we will be ready for that.
“We are going to have a meeting on Saturday and get ready for this game.”
The puck is scheduled to drop at the Jus Jordan Arena at 7:30 p.m.