IROQUOIS FALLS - The Abitibi Eskimos find themselves on the brink of elimination, thanks to a 5-4 loss to the Elliot Lake Bobcats in Game 5 of their best-of-seven quarter-final series Sunday night.
And the Bobcats will be looking to push them over the brink Monday night at the Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake.
Defenceman Max Glashauser’s goal with 5:14 to play in the third period Sunday night snapped a 4-4 tie and lifted the visitors to victory.
“We kept getting rushes and we were shooting wide, when we were using their defencemen as screens, so I just threw it on net,” Glashauser said.
“It didn’t have to be a good shot. I shot it far side and it ended up going in.
“(On a play like that), it doesn’t have to be the hardest shot, it just has to be place right. It went in for us and it got the boys going and we just kept pushing after that.”
Clearly Glashauser has not scored a bigger goal in his junior career than Sunday night’s game winner.
“It is only my second year of junior and it was my first game-winning goal, so I was pretty pumped up,” he said.
One of the Bobcats top defencemen, Glashauser also had a solid game in his own zone.
“It (defending against high-scoring forwards like Erik Robichaud, Brady Clouthier and Landon Hiebert) is tough, but you have got to try and keep them to the outside, keep them shooting from the outside and we have got to trust in our goalies,” he said.
“We know they are going to make that save every time, we have just got to keep them to the outside.”
Up until that point, the Eskimos and the Bobcats had exchanged goals, with the home side taking the lead on four separate occasions and the visitors fighting back to tie it up four times.
Robichaud had a pair of goals for the Eskimos, while Clouthier and Zach Innes each scored once.
For a while, it looked like Innes’ goal would be the game winner, but it was not meant to be.
“Clouts and Tront were working it well in the corner and Tronts got a shot on net and I just sort of got the rebound and put it in,” he said.
“Then we had a couple of breakdowns in the neutral zone.
“We had a bad pinch on their tying goal and their forward beat our defenceman to the net and he got a stick on the puck and scored.
“Then we gave up a bad goal on the last one, we had a little breakdown and that was it.”
While Innes was glad to get a goal Sunday night, he would trade it in a heartbeat for the victory.
“Scoring goals is nice, but overall you want the win,” he said.
“It would have been nice to go up 3-2 in the series
Aaron Carmichael paced the Bobcats attack, netting a pair of goals, while Mike Gambino and Dustin Cordeiro each added a goal.
Bobcats coach, general manager and owner Ryan Leonard was a lot happier with his team’s effort Sunday night than he had been with their performance in Game 4 on Friday night.
“It was one heck of a hockey game played by both teams,” he said.
“It kept the fans on the edge of their seats and you have to give both teams credit, they played hockey tonight. That was some good playoff hockey. It was almost like it was the championship series for the league the way both teams were playing.
“No team wanted to give up and they both played clean and respected each other. I was happy to be part of this game tonight, win or lose.
After fighting back to tie the game four times, Leonard felt it was huge for the Bobcats to finally take a lead late in the third period.
“It was definitely important,” he said.
“Come the third period, you are running off adrenaline. The first 10 minutes of the game you are trying to get the bus legs gone. We jumped on the bus at 8 a.m. and got here at 5:30 p.m. It is one of those things were you have got to get prepared. That is kind of what happened to them in Game 3 in Elliot Lake. We got a quick two-goal lead right away because they were on the bus all day.
“We battled back after the first goal they scored tonight, so that kind of lifted our spirits in the dressing room.”
The secret to the Bobcats success Sunday night was simple.
“Everyone stuck to the game plan,” Leonard said.
“Nobody was loafing out there. Everybody was skating and we were getting to the pucks and we were playing physical. We were backchecking and our goaltender played well when we needed him to, in the second and third period, and their goalie was playing well. We were crashing the net.
“It was a great overall hockey game played by both teams.”
Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne was frustrated that his team played so well, but could not find a way to gain the victory.
“I thought we played great,” he said.
“They just got a couple of goals right there at the end that made a difference in the game.”
If the Eskimos had been able to add a little insurance while they had the lead it might have made a difference.
“We didn’t even make mistakes and we got scored against,” Gagne said.
“That is what I don’t like. It is unfortunate, but that is hockey. You have got to have good goaltending, you have got to have good defence and you have got to have good forwards. At times we didn’t have the forwards, at times we didn’t have the defence and at times we didn’t have the goaltending.
“We let it slip away, because it was our game.
“The only time we got into trouble was when we had the puck and we were holding onto it and not moving it out, not dumping it out. It just goes to show, if you play in the defensive zone you are going to get scored against, that is the way it is.”
What do the Eskimos have to do Monday night in Elliot Lake to ensure the series returns to the Jus Jordan Arena on Wednesday night?
“It is cliché and I have said it before, but we are going to have to bring our A game,” Gagne said.
“Everybody, the goalies have to bring their A game, the defence, the forwards, the coaching staff, the training staff. We have to. If we have passengers, we are not going to win, not a chance.”
Alex Bitsakis made 26 saves to pick up the victory for the Bobcats, while Sylvain Miron of the Eskimos turned aside 27 Elliot Lake shots.
Game 6 at the Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.