IROQUOIS FALLS – The Abitibi Eskimos dropped their home opener at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night, suffering a 6-2 loss at the hands of the visiting Sudbury Nickel Barons.
The Eskimos, best described at this point as a work in progress, did not play as poorly as the final score might indicate — especially considering captain Richard Therrien, the team’s one proven scoring threat back from the 2011-12 campaign, left the contest with a back injury after being cross-checked.
“Therrien getting hurt in the second period hurt us a little bit,” Eskimos assistant coach Marc Cashmore said.
“I think it’s just a pulled muscle in his back, from the cross-check.
“It took the breath out of him when he was twisting a little bit. I’m sure he will have a good rub down tonight and a hot bath, maybe, and I hope he is going to be back for tomorrow.”
Forward Shayne Borden, who was acquired in the off season from the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, was also not in the lineup.
“He was prognosed for three to four weeks (after being injured in the Eskimos’ first exhibition game in Kirkland Lake),” Cashmore said.
“So, he has another couple of weeks to go.”
The Nickel Barons got on the scoresheet first when Joshua Moore’s shot eluded Eskimos goaltender Marc Audet.
Audet, a 16-year-old Thunder Bay native making his first start in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League was outstanding in net, despite giving up six goals.
“We give out a (hardest working) player award after every game and our captain gave it to him, and it was a good choice,” Cashmore said.
“He really played well and they weren’t fluky saves, the ones he made. He made good saves, so we are pretty impressed with him.
Audet stopped 41 of the 47 shots he faced and at least three of the six goals that beat him were shots that travelled through screens and a fourth was deflected behind him by one of his own teammates, trying to stop a across the front of the net.
Jarred Nowry, who spent last season with the New Liskeard Cubs, got the Eskimos back on even terms a few minutes later when he deflected Kealey Cummings point shot past Sudbury goaltender Mike Muzyka for his first goal in the NOJHL. While he admitted it’s nice to get that first goal out of the way, Nowry was more focused on just playing well.
“I was hoping to just do the little things right and the goal came along,” he said.
Like most of the newcomers in the Eskimos lineup, Nowry was a little bit nervous at the start of the contest.
“It (the NOJHL) is a lot faster paced (than the GNML) and it’s harder to keep up,” he said.
“I think we have to work on getting the puck out of our end, the little things, scoring on our chances.”
The Nickel Barons regained their lead on Darcy Haines’ goal late in the first period.
Cory Vaillancourt’s second-period goal made it 3-1 and August Jarecki scored with 23 seconds to play in the frame to increase the Sudbury advantage to 4-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Haines’ second goal of the game made it 5-1 for the visitors, but Zach Innes scored for the Eskimos less than a minute later to give the home-town fans a little hope.
Haines completed his hat trick with 34 seconds to play in the final period, however, making the final score 6-2.
Sudbury coach Dave Clancy was quite happy with the outcome of Saturday’s contest, his team’s second-straight victory to start the season.
“We challenged our kids just to work hard and try to stay disciplined, as a hockey club, and they have followed those instructions pretty good,” he said.
“We have Darcy and we have another three or four players carryovers from last year and they are all good hockey players. We are going to be a four-line club this year.
“Come playoff time, I feel you need that and as long as they do a good job I feel we will be in good shape.
“And I thought our goaltending (Muzyka) played well tonight.”
Nowry was one of 11 Eskimos (counting backup goaltender Darren Cave) making their NOJHL debut on Saturday night.
“We were missing a little bit of experience out there,” Cashmore said.
“We had one guy in there (the penalty box) for that misconduct and then we were trying to kill off those penalties with rookies, so it was a little tough on us
“But our perseverance was pretty good in the third period. I was happy with them. The second period, I wasn’t too happy. The first period was good. We did a lot of good things, but they capitalized on our little mistakes and in the third period I thought we got a little tired, too.
“It’s a little different in game situations, when there is somebody tugging you, or pushing you. Conditioning is a big thing. I could see that in the third period, we slowed down a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Cashmore was able to find a number of positives in Saturday night’s loss.
“Our breakouts, our power play, in the third period we got away from it a little bit, but we explained it to them,” he said.
“We have got to stick with the program.
“Defensively, head-manning the puck. Getting the puck out of our zone again. Leaving our zone without the puck was one of our big issues.”