IROQUOIS FALLS - Dustin Cordeiro scored three goals and added an assist to lead the Cochrane Crunch to a 10-3 win over the Abitibi Eskimos at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
The Eskimos’ worst defeat on home ice in recent memory in the second half of a home-and-home series was no easier to swallow than the 9-3 setback they suffered at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane one night earlier.
“When our defensive corps stops moving the puck and holds on, holds on, holds on, causing turnovers, I feel sorry for the goalies,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“That was the difference in the game. We have to move the puck and we weren’t moving the puck.
“At the start of the year, we talked about our D being our strong point, but we didn’t show it the last two games, end of story.
“We have got to go back to the drawing board. I know it is a cliché, but we have to, because we tried to get a little bit of momentum, get a goal here, get a good forecheck going and then the puck goes back there and something happens, they (Eskimos defence) hold onto it, they lose it, goal against.
“So, we are going to go and work hard this week in practice.”
The Crunch jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Jason Berube and Cordeiro Saturday night, but a Brady Clouthier power-play goal with one second remaining to play in the opening frame appeared to breathe some life into the Eskimos.
Three goals — from Cody Gratton, Reed Gregory and Connor Lovie — in the first 3:17 of the second period quickly turned the momentum back in favour of the visitors, however.
Cameron Etherington’s second goal in as many games pulled the Eskimos back to within three goals, making the score 5-2.
Gratton’s short-handed goal five minutes later restored the Crunch’s four-goal advantage.
Scott Peng’s goal for the Eskimos was able to make it a 6-3 game prior to the end of the second period.
The third period was all Crunch, however, as the visitors scored four-straight goals to hit double figures for the first time this season.
Cordeiro netted his second and third goals of the game, while Berube and Lovie each added their second of the night.
“I thought that if we could just put the puck in the net at the beginning of the game we would already be over them, because of how we played last game and they crumpled down after we scored a few,” Cordeiro said.
“Then I knew if we got a couple of more in the second period they would crumple down again.
“It was a big win.”
The Crunch sniper now has 19 goals on the season, to lead the NOJHL in goals, four more than Gratton.
Cordeiro was a little surprised at just how one-sided the two games turned out to be this weekend.
“Since our last game against Abitibi, I knew in this rink they know how to play against us in this rink,” he said.
“The boards are wild and everything. In our rink, we didn’t know, but knowing our game, I thought we had a good chance in our rink, but today I thought it would be a tougher game, but we came out and played our game and did a good job.”
Crunch coach, general manager and owner Ryan Leonard was happy to see his squad pick up another two points against a team with a winning record.
“I told the guys all week in practice that we had to step up and we needed to make a statement,” he said.
“We are not just a team that is middle of the pack.
“We got two solid efforts in two nights, with goals being contributed from all over the place and great goaltending.
“We played without our top two defencemen, Max Glashauser and Brandon Plourde, tonight and those are two big keys to our puzzle that weren’t in the lineup.”
It was almost a case of déjà vu, as the Crunch enjoyed a 5-1 advantage and then after the Eskimos cut the lead to 5-2 they were able to get a sixth goal on a short-handed effort, before pulling away late.
“We just kept our composure,” Leonard said.
“We outskated them again and we outshot them. The shot clock here is way off. Our count was 61-33 and and they showed us with 39 shots. I feel bad for their goaltenders getting ripped off on a lot of those shots.
“That is how you score lots of goals, you get lots of shots on net. I don’t know how many rebound goals we got in front of that net tonight. It was great to see.
“That is what we have got to do. We are getting guys to the dirty areas. I think we scored four goals tonight right in the crease area, with guys just battling. We weren’t doing that earlier in the season. We were perimeter guys, trying to score the fancy goals. Last night and tonight you weren’t seen fancy goals.”
The Eskimos, on the other hand, did not have much of a presence in front of Cochrane goalie Troy Paquette.
“It is hard to get in front of our net when we have big boys like Ned Simpson and Jackson Atkinson back there,” Leonard said.
“Connor Lovie and Joey Mavrin stepped up, as well, and they are all big guys. Those guys are developing into good Junior ‘A’ hockey players.”
Etherington was one of the few bright lights for the Eskimos as he has begun to find the scoring touch that made him successful with the Kapuskasing Flyers of the Great North Midget League.
“It is nice to finally be able to contribute and get in a groove,” he said.
“I have started moving my feet more and I have been getting the puck on the fly.”
Paquette made 28 saves in the Crunch net to pick up the victory, while Eskimso starting goalie Braddock Baalerud turned aside 17 shots to take the loss. Chet Tooker, who came on in relief during the second period, made 12 saves.
Gagne realizes that if the Eskimos are going to snap out of their current funk it will take some hard work and focus — even against teams lower in the standings.
“We are going to have to play some better hockey, because we don’t have a chance to win if we don’t,” he said.
“I talked about it before the game and said we weren’t in a crisis, but right now, yes we are, so we are going to have to go back and have a reality check.”
The Eskimos will travel to Powassan for a game against the Voodoos Friday night and then to Mattawa for a game with the Blackhawks on Saturday night.
The Crunch, meanwhile, will visit the Nickel Barons in Sudbury Wednesday night and the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake on Friday night.