COCHRANE - The Crunch crushed the visiting Abitibi Eskimos 9-2 at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night in the second half of a home-and-home series.
The line of Josh Racek, NOJHL scoring leader Cody Gratton and Henry Berger once again led the way, as they combined for 11 points.
With the win, the Crunch increase their lead over the Eskimos for second place in the NOJHL’s East Division to five points and they still have a game in hand.
“This week was a perfect week,” said Ryan Leonard, coach, general manager and owner of the Crunch.
“It is kind of how we played two weeks ago. We took the weekend off last weekend (losinig to Powassan and Kirkland Lake) and it hurt us.
“We thought we could have gone into this break only one point out of first place, but that is not the way it went, but we got the four big points this week that we needed.
“We have to keep that spread as big as possible, because home ice advantage is big in the playoffs.
“If thing stay the way they have been from September until now all we have done is juggled second to third, second to third, second to third, so chances are you are going to see these two teams meet in the playoffs in the first round, so we know home ice is going to be important and that is why these games are important.”
The Crunch won the first half of the home-and-home series 7-5 in Iroquois Falls Tuesday night.
In that game, the Crunch blew a 5-2 lead, before going on to secure the victory. There was no danger of a repeat Friday night, however.
“I think the guys learned Tuesday night that you can’t take your foot off the gas peddle,” Leonard said.
“We get in trouble for running scores up, but look what happens when you take your foot off the gas peddle. You let teams back in the game. There will be no more of that. We will just keep going.”
Leonard was happy to see the Crunch once again get balanced scoring Friday night.
“We had five or six guys with multiple points,” he said.
“We had three lines score tonight for us. The only line that didn’t score was the fourth line and they got a lot of opportunities, too.
“Everybody did their job this week. Our goaltender played strong. Our D played really well tonight and played strong in front of the net.
“We were just happy we got out of this game without anybody getting injured, because it got a little silly out there tonight.”
Crunch captain Max Glashauser had another strong game at both ends of the ice.
“(The key to beating the Eskimos was) staying disciplined and getting some shots,” he said.
“We have been working all week in practice on finishing and that is what we did tonight. We executed and we finished. We worked as a team and had some team toughness tonight. The boys stepped up and things worked well.”
Glashauser feels another key to beating the Eskimos was getting off to a good start.
“The whole point is to get the first goal and that is what we did,” he said.
“We just kept rolling with it and things went our way tonight. Everyone stepped up to play tonight. It was our last game of the year and we wanted to end off on a good note.”
The Eskimos game Friday night, on the other hand, was certainly off key.
“It is hard on the morale, it really is,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“One player makes a mistake and it is a goal. It is always a mistake, always a mistake.
“F..k, we have got to learn from them, but it is hard. If we make a mistake the odds of it being a goal are that it is going to happen.
“It shouldn’t be. If there is an odd-man rush from 50 feet, we are like ‘it’s going to be a goal.’
“I am not being hard on our goalies, but if we don’t play that great, they have to play better. And if they play good, we have to play better. We have got to back each other up. We have got to support each other and we are not doing that right now.
“Tomorrow night we might end up winning five to friggin’ nothing. Why? Because we have everybody on the same page.
“Right now, there is always a mistake, always a mistake and it is costly. It really is.”
From the outside looking in, it appears the Eskimos are suffering a crisis of confidence.
“Confidence, I don’t know, but morale, we have got guys right now who think it is over after three goals,” Gagne said.
“The other night, we are down 5-2, tonight we are down 5-1. We could have easily … but we make a mistake and we are down 6-1. We shouldn’t be making mistakes like that.
“There is no big secret what they (the Crunch) do. We just have to capitalize.”
Cochrane jumped out to a 2-0 lead, as Gratton and Blake Peavey put shots behind Eskimos starting goalie Chet Tooker in the first 3:38 of the opening period.
Tooker got the hook after the second goal, with Ryan Ferguson coming on in relief.
It appeared the Eskimos had gotten back into the game when Tristan Salesse beat Crunch goalie Brett Young at the 16-minutes mark of the period, but goals by Racek and Dustin Cordeiro put the Crunch in front 4-1 before the end of the frame.
Tooker returned to the Eskimos’ net to start the second period and he stayed between the pipes the rest of the way.
Gratton got one by him during the second period to increase the Cochrane lead to 5-1 heading into the third period.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Eskimos in the final frame, however, as the Crunch scored early and often.
Racek’s power-play goal 53 seconds into the period made it a 6-1 game.
He added his third goal of the game midway through the frame to increase the lead to 7-1.
Cordeiro then netted his second goal of the game 34 seconds later to make it an 8-1 hockey game.
Brenden Locke scored for the Eskimos to cut the Cochrane lead to 8-2, but by then any hopes the Eskimos had of a comeback had long vanished.
Berger scored a power-play goal with just under three minutes to play to add insult to injury.
Young turned aside 35 shots to earn the victory for the Crunch.
Tooker and Ferguson combined to make 46 saves for the Eskimos, with Tooker taking the loss.
NOJHL NOTES —The Crunch went 2-3 on the power play, while the Eskimos were 0-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 515 … Ryan Kerr, of the Eskimos, and Brandon Janveau, of the Crunch, were ejected from the game for fighting.