SUDBURY— Sitting pretty with a two-goal lead, the Abitibi Eskimos were 3:09 away from redemption against the Cubs on Wednesday night.
That’s when disaster struck, however, as the home side scored three times to steal a 6-5 victory over their Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League Eastern Division rivals.
“We had a great game, we played excellent,” Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne said. “It was probably one of our better games of the year … except the last three minutes and nine seconds.
“They scored on three out of eight shots (in the third period).
“I can’t explain it, but the bottom line is don’t let them shoot.”
Jordan Carroll, the league’s leading scorer, got the ball rolling with his third goal of the game and closed it out with his fourth of the night — the game winner with 41 seconds to play in regulation.
Jamie Haines’ second goal of the game had tied it just under two minutes earlier.
“We were in the game the whole way and, the next thing you know, a shot from Carroll, his third goal,” Gagne said.
“A shot from a bad angle, top glove in the middle of the net and then another goal right in front of his feet, the puck went in, and the game winner, it was a two-on-one and there was no reason for a two-on-one and the kid shot from another angle and it went between the legs.
“Now we are going to have to change our tactics and not let the players shoot.”
Carroll’s four-goal effort was accomplished even though the Eskimos were keeping a close eye on the talented forward.
“We were containing the whole play, whenever he had the puck he was being taken out of the play,” Gagne said. “Everything was great. We didn’t even give him good shots.
“I didn’t like the goals he scored. The first two were power play goals and that put us in a bad situation. We know they have a power play.
“He’s an explosive player, but I believe we have got to make a difference … I’m not going to blame the goalie, I’m going to blame our defensive play against an explosive player
“He just doesn’t belong in this league. He is better than anybody else in the league and he can make a difference and he does.”
Wednesday’s outburst leaves Carroll with 53 goals and 105 points on the season — tops in both categories.
The Cubs duo of Carroll and Haines had been just as efficient at the start of the contest, with Carroll scoring twice and Haines once to produce a 3-0Sudburyadvantage in the first period.
“We had a terrible first period,” Gagne said.
“We weren’t skating, we weren’t hitting, we weren’t doing anything, we weren’t forechecking.”
The Eskimos seized momentum late in the opening frame, however, when defenceman Karl Spenard scored the first of five-straight Eskimos goals, on the power play with just 21 seconds to play.
“The next thing you know, the second period we woke up and started giving it to them and finishing our checks,” Gagne said.
“We started playing a little bit better defensively and started putting pressure on the puck carrier. We were working it in down low and all of a sudden we got a little success and that’s also what we should have done in the third period.”
Newcomer Chris Green scored a power-play goal midway through the second period to pull Abitibi within one goal.
Chris Gartner, playing his first game after returning from a hand injury suffered in the 10th game of the season, then tied it 3-3.
“Gartner was a great addition … just his first shift, Chris had three checks,” Gagne said.
“He was the only one hitting and finishing his checks. Chris really adds that dimension to our team.”
Preston Lacasse put the visitors in front 4-3 before the end of the second period.
And when captain Richard Therrien scored at the 16:29 mark of the third period to give the Eskimos a 5-3 advantage it appeared the visitors were home free.
It took Carroll just 22 seconds, however, to get theSudburycomeback under way.
Jeremy Pominville stopped 35 of the 40 shots the Eskimos fired his way to earn the victory for the Cubs.
J.P. Fecteau was once again in goal for Abitibi and he made 26 saves.
Gagne feels the Eskimos deserved a better fate.
“We should have won 5-3, we were a better club last night, except we didn’t get the two points,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Gagne is confident if the Eskimos play as well against the Soo Eagles on Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena as they did on Wednesday against the Cubs they will be successful.
IGLOO NOTES — The three stars were Carroll, Cubs defenceman Brandon Scott (four assists) and Troy Columbus. Columbus, playing his second game since returning from a concussion, had a pair of assists. “For a 16-year-old who hadn’t played in a while, he played extremely well,” Gagne said. “He was aggressive, he was making some nice plays, he worked hard, forechecked well.” The Timmins native played on a line with Lacasse and Gartner … Newcomer Jake Ryan continues to put up points on the power play. He added another assist on Wednesday, to give him six points in three games with the Eskimos … Attendance at the game was officially listed at 55 … Formal approval of the new ownership group in Kirkland Lake has been granted and the Gold Miners will take to the ice Friday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Centre to face the Eagles.