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Captain bolts Eskimos

IROQUOIS FALLS – The Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League’s leading goal scorer is looking for greener pastures.

Abitibi Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne confirmed Thursday morning that captain Richard Therrien is leaving the team.

Therrien, whose 29 goals lead the NOJHL?coming out of the Christmas break, is looking to be moved to another league.

“We are working on a deal right now,” Gagne said.

“The kid doesn’t want to play in this league anymore. He wants out of this league … and I emphasize out of this league.

“He wants to play somewhere else, it doesn’t matter where, and there is not much we can do if he wants out.

“It’s unfortunate, but we are going to have some changes.

“We have been working with a couple of teams and with the right offer we will see what happens … where he is going to be going.”

In addition to leading the NOJHL?with 29 goals and nine power-play goals, Therrien ranked third with 27 assists and third with 56 points.

He was named captain of the Eskimos at the start of the 2011-12 season.

A 20-year-old, Therrien is in the final year of his junior hockey career.

“Is it the right decision?” Gagne said.

“It’s his decision, whatever decision he makes. It must be the right decision for him.”

With Jan. 10 being the deadline to sign players, Gagne is expecting that there could be a few more changes to the Eskimos roster prior to the freeze.

The Eskimos will also be missing another member of the team’s top line on Saturday night when they host the Blind River Beavers at the Jus Jordan Arena, as right winger Peter Poulin-Roy serves the fourth game of the four-game suspension he picked up during the Dec. 15 loss to the Soo Thunderbirds.

The Eskimos, barring any bumps and bruises from practices on Thursday and Friday, will be injury free heading into Saturday night’s game at the Jus Jordan Arena.

Normally, the Eskimos practise on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but Friday’s practice has been added following a lengthy layoff for the team.

“They are here now,” Gagne said.

“They got back yesterday. Some of them drove quite a few hours. There were some that flew.

“They had lots of down time, with family and friends.

“Most of them skated too. They all brought their hockey bags with them, so they kept in shape.

“But today’s (Thursday) going to be a full practice with our program to get them thinking about what their assignments are. Normally we don’t practise on Fridays, but it is early morning and then there will be plenty of time to recoup before Saturday night’s game.”

Veteran defenceman Kevin Walker will take over as captain of the Eskimos, with a new associate captain to be named during Thursday night’s practice.

“He gets along with everybody,” Gagne said.

“He has got a good demeanor, he is committed and he is conscientious of the program.

“He is always there for practice. He works hard. He is really involved. He minimizes his mistakes.

“He shows leadership on and off the ice and that’s what you want in a captain.”

The Beavers, who trail the Eskimos by five points in the NOJHL?standings, will take on the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Friday night before travelling to Iroquois Falls.

“I don’t like to look at what teams are behind us, or ahead of us in the standings,” Gagne said.

“I just want us to start getting on a roll here.

“We were on a roll for five games and then we turn around and lose three in a row and we win the last game.

“I would like to get things going and have the players to continue to understand their roll.

“We have always had illnesses. We have had suspensions. We have players out of the lineup, in the lineup.

“That’s what I am really looking forward to is starting to play some good hockey and getting on a roll.

“And if we do that, yes, we will be moving up the ladder in the standings.”

Like the Eskimos, they will have a huge hole in their lineup after losing 6-3, 220 lb. defenceman Jonathon Lavigne to the Gatineau Olympiques, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“You hate to see that at this time of year,” Gagne said.

“If it’s early on in the year I can understand, but you are losing a player, you are losing a card.

“Business wise, it puts you behind the 8-ball.”

Following Saturday’s home game, the Eskimos will have 19 games left in the regular season — eight at home and 11 on the road.

All seven NOJHL?teams make the playoffs, with the top team getting a bye in Round 1.