TIMMINS - Brady Clouthier’s goal with 5:50 to play in the third period snapped a 3-3 tie and lifted the Abitibi Eskimos to victory over the visiting North Bay Trappers Friday night at the McIntyre Arena.
“Bryce Robert made a great play to get the puck on the net and I just tried to get my stick on it and luckily I did to put it over the shoulder of (North Bay goalie Evan) Cormier,” Clouthier said.
The Eskimos dominated play in the first period of play, but went to the dressing room trailing 2-0.
Howard Yawit put the visitors in front 1-0 when he beat Eskimos goalie Brody Wagner midway through the opening period.
Ryan Demyen increased the Trappers’ advantage with just under five minutes to play in the frame.
Defenceman Kealey Cummings beat Cormier 6:10 into the middle frame to bring the home fans to their feet, but Chance Thomas restored North Bay’s two-goal advantage just over two minutes later.
Defenceman Steven Pettite scored midway through the period to cut the Trappers’ lead to 3-2 and Ryan Tront tied it up with less than four minutes to play in the frame.
“I felt like the whole game we were taking it to them and it was only a matter of time before we started potting a couple of goals,” Clouthier said.
“Our line has been kind of snake bitten the last couple of games, but if we keep getting our chances they are going to start going in eventually.
“We could easily have had seven, or eight goals tonight if we could have put the puck in the net a bit more.”
While the outcome of Friday night’s game might have been a little closer than Eskimos fans were expecting, Clouthier realizes winning is the important factor regardless of how the W is achieved.
“We are on a nice little streak (four wins in five games) here with our team,” he said.
“Hopefully we can keep it going tomorrow and keep the points coming as we climb up the standings.
Trappers coach Zane Neily was not impressed with his team squandering a two-goal lead and even less impressed with the lack of discipline they displayed during the second half of the contest.
“It was the penalty trouble that we got into,” he said.
“If you take the penalty trouble out of the game it would have been a totally different game, but that is just (a lack of) discipline.
“That is something we are going to have to try to work on.”
Neily had no complaints about the play of his 16 year old goalie, however.
“Evan stands on his head and wins games day in and day out,” he said.
“He definitely gave us a chance to win this game.
“If he was not back there and standing on his head the way he was we would have been blown out and it would not have been as close as it was.”
The North Bay coach also saw a few other positives in the game, despite the frustrating way his team lost it.
“We go into the third period and we kill off a five-on-three, we kept it close and we didn’t quit,” Neily said.
“We kept going and we kept plugging away.”
Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne wasn’t getting frustrated despite all of the chances his team was squandering as the game progressed.
“I wouldn’t say I was getting frustrated, but sometimes it is going to bite you in the you know what if you miss those chances,” he said.
“We allowed those two goals in the first period and then we found ourselves behind the eight ball, but I like the way we played in the second period.
“We didn’t lose our composure at all. We just kept to our program and we just kept plugging away, plugging away.
“Then we capitalized on our chances.”
The Eskimos coach and GM had plenty of praise for Robert, who moved back to his natural defence position when Jamey Lauzon was ejected from the game for a hit to the head — a neat trick given that he wasn’t even on the ice at the time of the infraction.
“Bryce finally got a little bit more ice time tonight and he took a nice shot on net, an area where we have to improve, getting shots on the net,” Gagne said.
“Obviously he got it on net and there was a good deflection by Mr. Clouthier.
“He did his job tonight and did everything we asked of him. He even got the hard-hat award (given to the Eskimos hardest-working player.
“He came up big and he played well defensively. He moved the puck well and he looked great.”
Wagner, the NOJHL’s first star of the week, gave up three goals, but he came up with a number of big saves to keep the game within striking distance while the Eskimos were trailing.
“He just stands there and he just does his job,” Gagne said.
“Game in and game out he makes big saves and all his rebounds were up in the mesh, or in the corners.
“There was not much trouble in front, so there was no mistakes being committed by our defencemen. There were no rebounds, or anything.
“So obviously it was another big effort from Mr. Wagner.”
Gagne was not too concerned about the recent struggles of the Eskimos top line — Clouthier, Tront and Erik Robichaud.
“They weren’t capitalizing on their chances and we are used to seeing them capitalize on every chance,” he said.
“But what I liked tonight was the effort they put in. They worked really hard and they were really committed.
“They persevered, persevered and look what happened. They got the game winner (and the game-tying goal, as well).”
The Eskimos defencemen contributed in the offensive end of the rink, as well, Friday night with Cumming and Pettite netting goals and Robert coming up with likely the biggest assist of his career.
“There is no secret to the game of hockey,” Gagne said.
“Get it on net, get it on net and something is going to happen … either a rebound, a goal, or an assist.
“Anything can happen and the focus is on that. We have got to get more shots net. I don’t mean shooting from outside the perimeter, I mean good low wrist shots from the slot area.
“We have to get it on the net, because we have players driving to the net and something good is going to happen.”
ESKIMOS NOTES: The status of Lauzon for the Eskimos next game, Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena against the Blind River Beavers, is unclear as his infraction will be reviewed by the league office … Forward Landon Hiebert did not play Friday night and Gagne expects him to be rested Saturday, as well … Wagner made 34 saves for the Eskimos, while Cormier stopped 25 shots for the Trappers … The Eskimos went 1-10 on the power play, while the Trappers were 0-4 with the man advantage … The official attendance was 639, one of the largest crowds of the season for the Eskimos.