The Kal Tire Sudbury Cubs wanted to make an impression in their first regular season game in NOJHL action, and Nick Esposto, Jamie Haines and Jordan Carroll helped them do just that.
The Cubs defeated the Abitibi Eskimos 9-5 on Wednesday night at McClelland Arena with the trio of former OHLers leading the way.
Esposto scored three goals, while Haines and Carroll netted two apiece, the top line for the Cubs on the ice for seven of the nine Sudbury goals. “When we were younger we all played together,” Esposto said of the chemistry between the trio. “All being players from the O (OHL), it’s the same style of play and we all understand each other and we all read real well off each other. They both think the game the same as me. I know where they’ll be at all times and it really helps me out.”
In the first period, Drew MacMillan nearly opened the scoring for the Cubs when, on a two-on-one, his shot when off the post. At 11:25, while on the power play, Esposto, who found himself all over the score sheet, potted his first of three goals with help from captain Joel Gagnon. After each team took turns on special teams, the Cubs, while on a penalty kill, had a two-on-one handed to them, with Carroll capitalizing on the Eskimos’ mistake, making it a 2-0 game for the Cubs. Esposto found the back of the net once more in the period before the Eskimos’ Remi Bernier cut the lead to two. Shortly after the goal by Bernier, at 19:52, Haines scored his first of the game and extended the Cubs’ lead to 4-1 just before the end of the first period. Esposto finished the period with two goals and two assists.
” Those guys (Haines, Esposto and Carroll) have great vision on the ice,” Cubs head coach Bryan Ver reault said. “They come with a lot of experience and that’s why it was an easy decision to put all three of them together. I think they’re a force to be reckoned with, with Jordan Carroll’s speed, Haines’ smarts as to where to be on the ice and Nick Esposto can bury the puck when he gets opportunities. It’s a good line to have together. They played together in midget hockey and it showed tonight. But it’s just the first game, we got off to a new start and tomorrow is a new day.”
To start the second period, the Eskimos tried to salvage the game and pulled goaltender JP Fecteau, who allowed four goals on 13 shots, and in came Martin Bilodeau. The change in net didn’t do much to stop the Cubs’ offensive surge. With the Cubs again on the power play, Carroll scored his second of the game. A couple of minutes later, Haines again put himself back into the mix, scoring his second of the game.
“We just happened to jell together really good,” Haines said. “We like playing with each other and I think we made that kind of obvious tonight. We’re happy with what we were able to do tonight, but we have to try to have good games like this every night.”
With the score 6-1, Eskimos finally got to Cubs’ netminder Alex Laino, scoring two quick goals. Making the game 6-3 didn’t put a bump in Esposto’s game as he scored his hat-trick goal not too long after, extending the lead to 7-3. When Gagnon scored right after, it was the first goal for the Cubs by a player not named Esposto, Carroll, or Haines.
“It was a good way to start the season,” Carroll said. “We know every game is going to be tougher and tougher, but tonight we happened to be in the right spots at the right time.” Sebastian Leroux topped an impressive second period by the Cubs with a goal of his own.
In the third period, Fecteau was put back in net for the Eskimos. He was not scored on in the final frame and the Eskimos managed to score two more goals, but their sudden burst back into the game was short-lived as the time ran out.
“Abitibi is a strong team,” Verreault said. “They never gave up in this game and they always competed hard. I don’t see games happening like this next time we play. They’ll be stronger and even better next game.”
On Twitter: @keith_dempsey