Nothing is certain but death, taxes and the Abitibi Eskimos sucking the life out of Memorial Gardens with a shut-down game to protect a one-goal lead.
The Eskimos won for the eighth time in nine games against the North Bay Trappers at Memorial Gardens — a period spanning more than a calendar year and three different head coaches — with a 3-2 win in front of 567 fans, Sunday night.
In five of those nine appearances, including the past three dating back to the first round of last season’s playoffs, the Eskimos (7-4-0) boarded the bus back to Iroquois Falls with a one-goal victory over a frustrated Trappers club.
The only Trappers’ win came when Eskimos head coach Paul Gagne missed the trip with the flu and the Trappers won 5-4 in Game 2 of the opening round last March.
But with a new season, new head coach and new players, the Trappers’ trend of not being able to score goals at home against Gagne’s Abitibi club picked up right where last season ended with a 1-0 Eskimos win in Game 6 of the opening round.
“I’m very disappointed,” Trappers head coach Tom McCarthy said after Sunday night’s game. “I didn’t think our effort was there tonight. There was a lack of caring in my mind.
“When the game is that tight and it’s 2-2 going into the third period — sure, we had our back against the wall killing a seven-minute penalty from another play that wasn’t very smart, either — we just kept digging ourselves deeper by not playing hockey together. I don’t believe our effort and our energy was there tonight.”
The Eskimos took a 1-0 lead 4:43 into the game on a goal by Jacob Kord before the Trappers’ Adam Marceau tied it up on a deflection in the final minute of the first period.
The Trappers (5-5-0) went up 2-1 midway through the second period when Cory Sellers’ slider from the point slipped under Abitibi goalie J.P. Fecteau, but Nick Beaudoin tied the game a few minutes later on a power play, banging in a rebound during a scramble in front of North Bay goalie Michael Lucia.
After the Trappers killed off Adam Marceau’s seven-minute fighting major and aggressor to start the third period, it was the Eskimos who took the lead, with captain Richard Therrien banging home a loose puck in the crease.
The final 10 minutes of the game flew by, unfolding much like the past nine Abitibi visits to the Gardens — very few stoppages in play and even fewer scoring opportunities as the clock continued to run.
”You have to start scoring a little earlier in the game and when you have opportunities, you’ve got to bury it,” McCarthy said. “Something we’ve been working on is trying to make the goaltender move or looking past him. We know their goaltender is quick, a small guy who covers the ice well and moves around and tonight we were shooting pucks into his chest and his glove constantly. We weren’t doing the things we worked on all week.
“We left the other team in the game in a sense and when it got to an urgent situation, we just weren’t there tonight.”
Fecteau stopped 38 of 40 shots fired his way in earning first-star honours, while Lucia made 25 saves in taking the loss.
McCarthy said his players are in top condition, so it’s more a case of being mentally prepared to execute.
“It’s just something in their head that they weren’t prepared as a group tonight, mentally,” he said. “It’s the mental part of the game that’s hard. They’re in shape. They can skate with anybody. We just weren’t there collectively and we couldn’t get that spark to carry any momentum.”
The Trappers play a return game against the Eskimos on the road Friday at the Archie Dillon Sportsplex in Timmins before a Saturday game in Kirkland Lake against the winless Blue Devils.