BLIND RIVER - The Blind River Beavers will be in tough this weekend as they look to continue their strong start with road games in Kirkland Lake and Iroquois Falls.
“It’s our first big roadie,” said Beavers head coach Doug McEwen Friday morning before the team boarded a bus for the first leg of its trip and a game agains the Gold Miners who are tied for first in the NOJHL.
“We have a lot of new faces this year and I think the fans (in Iroquois Falls Saturday night) will be in for a very entertaining game.
“Both teams have been playing well.”
McEwen agrees with the assessment of Soo Thunderbirds head coach Jordan Smith that there is a lot of parity this season.
“The way things are panning out, it’s definitely looking that way,” he said.
“When you get a hot goaltender then there is a good opportunity that team is probably going to win that game.”
The Beavers have used three goaltenders so far this year — Dylan Knox (3.27, .919), Matt Young (3.43, .908) and Braedan Turco (0.00, .000) — but McEwen would like to see one of them step up and stake his claim to the No. 1 job.
“I have been rotating them in and out and off and on they have been hot and cold,”?he said.
“The one goalie will play a great game and I will play them back to back. They haven’t come back with a second solid game, so it is a little bit up and down at the moment.
“We are waiting for one of them, to coin a phrase, to grab the bull by the horns and grab that No. 1 spot.”
Eskimos fans can expect to see a high-tempo game from the Beavers on Saturday night.
“We have a lot of motion and a lot of movement on our team,” McEwen said.
“Generally, I think we are an agressive team, as far as being on the puck and that.
“We won’t be out there and trying to do anything crazy, but our team is pretty physical, too. We have been pretty well balanced, so far.
“I have always stressed to our guys to win their one-on-one battles and stuff like that and every game we have played so far, when we have won, has come down to that. They have been close-checking affairs and pretty low scoring.
“The games where we have lost, it has been basically because we lost our assignments and guys were just running around on the ice.”
The Beavers feature a good combination of speed and size, as well as a balance of youth and experience.
“We have got a lot of speed, up and down and in the corners,” McEwen said.
“On defence, we have a couple of guys who are injured right now, but we just had the return of Scottie Marshall (2, 0-1-1, 0) and the addition of Tyler Ploeg (2, 0-2-2, 6) who comes to us from Kirkland Lake.
“He has good size and he moves the puck well.”
Having coached against Eskimos bench boss Paul Gagne in the past, McEwen knows what to expect when his team takes to the ice at the Jus Jordan Arena.
“The know Abitibi plays a lot of stretch plays and they like to use their big ice surface, but we are pretty much ready for them, I think, as far as what they are going to throw at us on Saturday,” McEwen said.
The Beavers rely upon a key group of veterans to provide leadership.
“Scott Marshall is back and that is definitely a big bonus,” McEwen said.
“And up front we have Tyson MacLeod (5, 1-3-4, 17), Samuel Wilbur (6, 4-2-6, 6) and Tyler Shanush (6, 5-2-7, 2).
“Tyler Shanush has been an added bonus this year. He started off last year with us only scoring a couple of goals and this year he is our leading scorer. He has turned a corner.”
The Beavers routine was interupted this week when they were forced to cancel practice because of an ice issue at their home rink, the Blind River Community Centre.
“Our ice plant went down, so I guess you can say our guys are well rested,” McEwen said.
“So we should be ready to go.”
The Eskimos headed into Friday night’s game in Kirkland Lake sporting a 3-3-0-0 record.
“The team has been gelling really good,” McEwen said.