MATTAWA - The Blackhawks scored three-unanswered third-period goals en route to a 7-4 win over the Abitibi Eskimos at the Mike Rodden Arena Sunday.
The loss forced the visitors to settle for a split of their two road games on the weekend and saw them fall three points behind the second-place Cochrane Crunch in the NOJHL’s East Division.
“I would say that we played 75% of the game in the offensive zone,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We had some great opportunities, but on our best opportunities, we didn’t hit the net, but we still played excellent.
“They scored seven goals on us, including one into an empty net, but I would say at least three goals should have been stopped by either goalie.
“Chet (Tooker) had a hard time. Wrist shots from 30 feet out hit his arm pit and went in. There was goal from the goal line, five feet from the net, that went into top shelf.
“And with Braddock (Baalerud), it was the same thing. Goals were scored that should have been stopped and they weren’t.
“We were playing three shifts in a row, for example, in the offensive zone where we bombarded their net and were making things happen in the offensive zone and then they came down and got a real cheapy.
“It is devastating. It is hard on the morale.
“Chet did fairly well the night before, but you can’t allow those types of goals.
“That was the difference in the game, basically.”
Tooker, who started the game, turned aside 20 of the 23 shots he faced in the first 28:33 of the game, before giving way to Baalerud, who made 14 saves and allowed three goals to take the loss.
Four times the Eskimos took a one-goal lead during the first two periods of the contest, but each time the Blackhawks battled back.
Brady Clouthier, Blake Cudmore, Jake Holland and Ryan Tront scored for the visitors.
Tyler Broderson had three goals for the Blackhawks, while Jimmy Philbin added a pair of goals and Brett Ouderkirk and Reed Gregory each scored once.
Joe Sheppard stopped all 26 shots he faced in relief of Josh Horner, who turned aside 12 of the 16 shots fired his way before he got the hook, to pick up the win for the Blackhawks.
“They switched their goalies, too, but I didn’t think he (Horner) played all that bad. There were a couple of deflection shots, but they made the change and it gave them a little life.”
Things went much better for the Eskimos Saturday night, as defenceman Ryan Kerr scored a short-handed goal and added four assists to lead the Eskimos to a 10-6 win over the Voodoos at the Powassan Sportsplex.
The home side appeared to be in control of the game after building up a 3-1 lead in the first period on goals by Brendan D’Agostino, Steve Harland and Jacob Erwin, but the Eskimos stormed back in the second period to pull in front 6-5.
Nicholas Hautanen, whose short-handed marker was the only goal for the visitors in the opening frame, added a power-play goal in the second period, while Holland, who would finish with three goals and an assist on the night, scored twice and Kerr and Tristan Salesse each added a goal.
Hautanen and Kerr both finished the weekend with six points.
“Ryan played extremely well on Saturday,” Gagne said.
“He didn’t play much in the third period on Sunday, because we were playing a little tighter defensively and you can’t be nonchalant defensively.
“The young Hautanen was really focused and knew his assignments. He is really paying attention and he wants to learn. He was playing better defence and he was committed. He had the opportunity to play more power play and he really excelled.”
Harland netted his second goal of the night for the Voodoos, while Steve Moore also scored for the home side.
Nathaniel McLeod scored a power-play goal early in the third period to get the Voodoos back on even terms, but the Eskimos scored four-straight goals to put the game away.
Tront’s first of two goals on the night proved to be the game winner.
“Ryan was playing centre on the line with (Ryan) Attwood and Cudmore, with (Brenden) Locke being away at (Canada East selection) camp (in preparation for the 2014 World Junior A Challenge),” Gagne said.
“He stepped in and he was full of energy and came through with some nice goals.”
Holland completed his hat-trick to make it an 8-6 game in favour of the Eskimos, before Tront’s second of the night increased the lead to 9-6 and Cudmore’s goal closed out the scoring and made the final 10-6.
Tooker made 25 saves to earn the victory for the Eskimos.
Matt Young, of the Voodoos, turned aside 30 shots and was tagged with the loss.
The Eskimos did not pick up any new injuries during the weekend games, but are still without captain Kevin Walker, who is out with an upper-body injury.
“He is going to be out another week, or so,” Gagne said.
“He has been practising with us, but with no body contact.”
The Eskimos will travel to Kirkland Lake for a game with the Gold Miners on Friday night and then return home to the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday night for a game against the Voodoos.