TIMMINS – The Abitibi Eskimos had trouble developing an offensive flow until it was too late.
Despite striking for three goals in the third period, the Eskis were defeated 8-3 by the Blind River Beavers in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action on Saturday at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Both teams entered the contest without a win. With the loss, the Eskis’ record now sits at 0-3.
“One of these teams was going to win the game tonight and we were really desperate for the win considering we had lost on Friday night in the third period,” said Beavers head coach Doug McEwan.
Blind River won most of the battles along the boards for the first two periods, which resulted in the visiting club being on the receiving end of many favourable bounces and quality chances on Eskimos’ goalie Marc Audet. Audet was later replace by Darren Cave to start the third period after facing 25 shots shots through two periods, while allowing only four goals.
“Our defence is our strongest asset and they didn’t look good at all in our own end,” said Eskimos’ head coach and general manager Paul Gagne. “It’s no fun. As a coaching staff we’re in here right now at the start of the year to encourage our players, to build their egos and their confidence and that’s what it’s all about.”
Abitibi forward Aaron Kerr led the way for the offence scoring two goals, while linemates Zach Innes and Ben Miller recorded two helpers each. Captain Richard Terrien registered a goal and had two points in the contest.
“His play (Kerr) was beautiful,” said Gagne. “The guys gave him the hard hat award. The Kerr, Innes and Miller line was my best line. They complimented each other.”
Although the score was 3-0 after the first 20 minutes, the tally didn’t tell the whole story.
The Beavers’ first goal was bouncing puck that found its way through the Abitibi netminder’s armour, while the second goal was a weak shot from the point that got past a screened Audet.
Abitibi had several chances in the first period although the Beavers held them to only six shots on net versus Blind River’s 11.
“We just need to get that one win under our belt and everyone will start believing in what we’re trying to do,” said Gagne. “You can’t really be mad, but you’re angry about the outcome.”
Therrien had a goal called back in the first period as the net was knocked off its moorings and defenceman Daniel Villeneuve missed a wide-open net from the top of the crease.
A give-away by Jordan Ste-Marie on a pass to Simon Desrosiers resulted in the Beavers’ third goal of the period as Corey McEwen broke in on Audet while Blind River was killing a penalty.
“They want to have fun and it’s not easy right now,” said Gagne.
The normally solid defence of the Eskis looked mediocre with the puck in front of the home crowd, which was evident by their seemingly timid play during a long five-on-three situation in the second period.
“We seem to be taking a lot of penalties and that’s something we’re working on, so we have a lot of practice in the penalty kill,” said McEwan. “Luckily we have a few character guys on this team who do a good job for us.”
A scary moment unfolded early in the second period as Eskimos’ forward Aaron Sullivan went down in front of his bench and had to be helped off. Sullivan had the wind knocked out of him on the play and he returned later.
Eric Martineau and Brandon Windsor were part of a batch of signings which brought four new players into the Abitibi fold. Both Martineau and Windsor looked like they belonged with the junior ‘A’ club in their first game, with Windsor using his big body to compliment the top line alongside Therrien and Miles Nolan, while Martineau provided big hits and great hands.
“We don’t have much experience and we needed to get some offence going,” said Gagne. “He’s
(Windsor) experienced. He’s not as fast as the other guys, but he does the job and there’s less mistakes. It’s nice to have him here. With Nolan and Martineau, we haven’t seen what they can do yet.”
Abitibi made some adjustments in the second and third periods to minimize the Beavers’ chances and in turn outshooting Blind River a combined 24-13. However, the quality chances were still elusive for the Eskis.
“They did pick it up a little better, but it’s a confidence level,” said Gagne. “It was better, not great but better.”
The Eskimos had a second goal disallowed in the second period due to the fact Therrien lost his footing on a partial breakaway and went crashing in the Blind River net, knocking goalie Brandon Currie into the mesh.
Abitibi will travel to Sudbury to take on the Sudbury Nickel Barons (4-0) who sit currently in first place. The last time these two teams met was on Sept. 8 where the Barons triumphed over the Eskimos by a score of 6-2.