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Eskimos’ comeback falls short

For the second straight game, the Abitibi Eskimos found themselves trailing by three goals in the third period.

Unlike Thursday night in North Bay, however, the Eskimos’ comeback attempt on home ice against the Sudbury Cubs fell one goal short.

Trailing 5-2 heading into the third period, the Eskimos got power-play goals from Corey Hamel and captain Richard Therrien to make it a one-goal deficit with just over five minutes to play.

The Eskimos swarmed around Sudbury goalie Jeremy Pominville, but were unable to come up with the equalizer, even with goaltender Martin Bilodeau on the bench in favour of an extra attacker in the final minute of the period.

“It’s heart-breaking to lose like that, especially coming so close at the end,” said Eskimos forward Delmer Moses, who had an assist on the first Abitibi goal.

“I really think we lost momentum when they scored all those quick goals.

“We seemed to struggle to get back into the game, but we tried our best.”

While the Eskimos trailed by three goals in both Thursday’s and Saturday’s games, Moses felt they were very different games.

“They (Sudbury) came out a lot stronger than North Bay and they stood up against us and didn’t less anything pass by and that was the biggest failure on our side, we couldn’t go through them.”

Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne hopes these past two games are not an indication of what the future holds for his team.

“You can’t play catchup hockey,” said

 ”We gave them too many chances and, again, they scored within two feet of the net and I am not going to blame the goalie for that.

“Their guys were driving to the net and we were not playing good position.

“We gave them three goals like that … we just can’t play catch up, catch up hockey.”

Bilodeau stopped 38 of the 43 shots the Cubs fire his way, including all 11 in the third period to allow the Eskimos a chance to stage their attempted comeback.

“Even in the first two periods, he made some nice saves,” Gagne said.

“A couple of goals from right in front of the net like that, it’s not 100% his fault.

“He did well. He made some big saves and even the fans supported him. It was nice to see.”

The two teams were tied 2-2 after the first period of play, with Corey Tozzi and Therrien scoring for the Eskimos. Jordan Carroll and Jason Lacroix replied for the Cubs.

Sebastien Leroux scored a pair of goals — including one with 16 seconds to play — and Andre Comtois added one, as Sudbury took a 5-2 lead in the second period.

Marc-Alain Begin, the NOJHL’s leading scorer, added three assists in the game, but could not bury a number of excellent scoring chances.

“He is getting points, but he would like to bury a couple of more goals here and there,” Gagne said.

Another Eskimo whose shooting was a little off target was Preston Lacasse.

“He had some better chances, but he missed the net tonight,” Gagne said.

“It makes a difference. It really does.

“All of a sudden the momentum continues and maybe we can end up being ahead.

“It could have been a tie game, or we could have been ahead. “They work so hard for their opportunities and they don’t capitalize on it … at least hit the net.”

The Eskimos spent a lot of time in their own zone during the first two periods.

“We had miscues, we had turnovers, it was just non-stop,” Gagne said.

“Then, the third period was much better. You didn’t see any turnovers in the neutral zone. You didn’t see any two-on-ones, three-on-ones against us.

“So, where was that coming from, that we didn’t see it in the third period?

“And we got a goal and as soon as we got that goal, we tightened up. We minimized our mistakes and kept going after them.

“And why did we get power plays? Because we were jumping on the puck. We were not being mesmerized by their play.

“When we get on the puck first, there are hooking, tripping, holding penalties, momentum picked up in the third period.

“We didn’t lose the game tonight, we ran out of time.”

Despite only picking up one point in the past couple of games, the coach has seen some progress.

“It’s a cliche, but we need to play 60 minutes of hockey,” Gagne said.

“We didn’t play 60 minutes tonight, I think maybe 50-something minutes.

“And the way we played in between cost us and that’s the bottom line.

“We have to play within our program.

“I have said the same thing many times, but we have to stick to it.

“If we don’t, we’re not that good. To be good, we have to be better, as a team.”

•••

• NOTES — The three stars of the game were Begin, Cub Jamie Haines (three assists) and Therrien …. Three points now separate the Eskimos (25), Cubs (23) and North Bay Trappers (22) atop the NOJHL’s Eastern Division standings … The Eskimos will play host to the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils at the Jus Jordan Arena on Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m.