IROQUOIS FALLS – Newly minted 18-year-old Eskimos forward Ben Miller celebrated his birthday in style with a 7-4 win on Saturday.
Miller was one of two Abitibi Eskimo players who recorded two goals against the Elliot Lake Bobcats at the Jus Jordan Arena.
The other was captain Richard Therrien who will be celebrating his 20th birthday on Sunday.
“It feels pretty good,” said Miller. “I worked hard for it and I was pumped to play. We wanted to get the win tonight.”
Eskimos head coach and general manger Paul Gagne added, “The birthday boy had a great night. He missed getting the hattrick with 1.3 seconds left.”
In fact, the entire Eskimos roster worked hard for the win.
Abitibi came out of the gate flying and brimming with confidence against a Bobcats team who was coming off a double overtime 3-2 loss at the hands of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners on Friday.
“Two games in two nights and tonight I think we did an excellent job on the powerplay,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Ryan Leonard. “We outshot them, but we don’t have the veteran snipers like Therrien and Poulin-Roy.”
The top line of Therrien, Ryan Wildman and Peter Poulin-Roy clicked for four goals and nine points in the contest.
“They’re quick and they make things happen,” said Gagne.
Elliot Lake were without three defenceman who are recovering from injury, forcing Leonard to make some adjustments by using forwards on the backend.
Despite the lopsided loss, the Bobcats managed to score four powerplay goals, while sprinkling Eskimos netminder Etienne Roy with 40 shots.
Roy was screened on three of the Bobcats’ four goals and Elliot Lake’s third goal was deflected.
“We’re a first year team in the league, but I thought for three quarters of the game we took it to them hard,” said Leonard. “We didn’t quit all game. The puck could have bounced either way. We just have to find a way to keep the puck out of our net.”
Kyle Salmon had two goals, while Henry Berger and Nicholas Tassone each scored once.
Cory Simic got the start for Elliot, but was pulled four minutes into the second period after giving up three goals on 16 shots. He was credited with the loss, as Thomas Graham finished out the game.
All in all, the Eskimos threw 34 shots at the Bobcats’ net.
“We want to play in the offensive zone more so we’ve been moving the puck and the defence was moving the puck up,” said Gagne. “We’re working it down low and creating chances.”
Role player Aaron Sullivan didn’t register any points in the game, but for Gagne, skaters like that are invaluable.
“Even the young Sullivan took the puck and drew a tripping penalty against him,” said Gagne. “He did his job. It’s the little things like that. You need that definitely.”
With the win, the Eskimos are enjoying a two-game winning streak and will travel to North Bay on Sunday to take on the second-place Trappers.
Abitibi leaps over the Blind River Beavers into fifth place with their sixth win of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League season.
Eskimos notes: A ceremonial faceoff was held prior to the start of the game to commemorate Remembrance Day, followed by a moment of silence. Captain Richard Therrien recorded his 17th and 18th goals in the contest to put the 20-year-old power-forward at the top of the scoring leaders race. He has 29 points on the season, which is good for a fourth place tie in the points race. Defenceman Kealey Cummings is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury.