Eskimos edge Gold Miners

KIRKLAND LAKE - Jamey Lauzon’s power-play goal late in the third period lifted the Abitibi Eskimos to a 6-5 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in NOJHL exhibition action at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.

“(Ryan) Kerr passed it to be on the point and I saw a lane and took a shot and it ended up being a pretty nice goal,” Lauzon said.

“I didn’t really shot it that hard, but I saw Lockey (Brenden Locke) was close and I was just trying to get it on the goalies pads, or something, but it ended up going in.”

The second-year defenceman enjoyed getting a victory over the Gold Miners in their own rink.

“It was a pretty fun game, back and forth,” he said.

Neither team was overly sharp in the back-and-fourth contest, but the Eskimos top line of Brady Clouthier, Brenden Locke and Ryan Attwood certainly looked to be in mid-season form, however.

Attwood scored a pair of goals, while Clouthier and Locke each tallied once.

“That line, Clouthier, Attwood and Locke, they were just deadly,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.

“Whenever they had the puck they made something happen and in the first period their forechecking was excellent. They were cycling and making things happen in the offensive zone and then they got compensated by a goal here and there.

“They made a couple of nice tick-tack-toes, beautiful passes by Locke. Attwood had quick hands on those goals.”

Gagne was also impressed with the play of veteran defenceman Ryan Kerr.

“He stood out also and made a difference back there,” he said.

“He made a couple of nice rushes here and there.”

Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was not too happy following the contest.

“Not my type of game,” he said.

“I guess it is to be expected early on that you would have a lot of breakdowns, but it is our job as coaches to make sure that we minimize their chances tomorrow night.

“I thought we lost a lot of one-on-ones in the corners tonight. You have to give it to Abitibi, they protected the puck well. They came out and they hustled. They got that extra chance near the end and they capitalized.”

Lafleur conceded the Gold Miners have a lot of work to do in their own end of the rink.

“There is a lot of work and I don’t just mean in the D zone, but just winning one-on-one battles in general,” he said.

The two teams exchanged first period goals, with Charles-Ettienne Bruneau-Crete putting the home side in front and Attwood tying it up for the visitors.

Timmins native Tyler Romain put the Gold Miners in front 2-1 6:05 into the second period but goals by defenceman Ryan Kerr and Attwood gave the Eskimos a 3-2 advantage.

Tristen Hazlett got Kirkland Lake back on even terms, tying it up at 3-3.

Clouthier then put the Eskimos back in front 4-3, but Ethan Strong deadlocked the score at 4-4 before the end of an eventful second period.

Hearst native Joel Fortin put the Gold Miners in front 5-4 less than two minutes into the final period, but Locke tied it up at 5-5 before Lauzon netted his game-winning goal.

Both coaches admitted their teams still have a lot of work to do before the puck drops on the start of the regular season.

“Winning is good for the morale, obviously, but we have got a lot of work to do,” Gagne said.

“You could see that the younger guys were a little tentative. They were not as aggressive because they were playing against older guys and you could see it. It was their first exhibition game and they probably had less ice time for it, too.

The Eskimos used veteran defencemen Kevin Walker and Kealey Cummings up front and Gagne was impressed with their play.

“It was nice and they know what they are doing,” he said.

With the converted blue-liners at forward killing penalties, the Eskimos actually had four defencemen on the ice in the odd-man situations.

Braddock Baalerud got the start in goal for the Eskimos and looked sharp while stopping 18 of the 20 shots the Gold Miners fired his way.

“You know what, I thought he played really well in the first half,” Gagne said.

“He stood on his head and made some big saves. Young T.J. (Sherwood), some rebounds got away from him on the first four shots, I believe, he was a little bit nervous, but he did OK.”

Sherwood blocked 15 of the 18 shots he face in the second half and picked up the victory.

Gold Miners starting netminder Kenny Fitzgerald stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced, while Timmins native Devon Debastos stopped eight of the 12 shots he faced to take the loss.

ESKIMOS NOTES — Clouthier was taken heavily into the boards late in the game and did not return. Zach Pease of the Gold Miners received a minor penalty on the play for checking from behind and a game misconduct … The Eskimos and the Gold Miners will face off again Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls. Game time is 7:30 p.m.