The Abitibi Eskimos head into an important home-and-home series with the North Bay Trappers this week with continuing concerns about a short bench.
North Bay trails the Eskimos by five points in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League’s Eastern Division standings, with two games in hand heading into Wednesday night’s encounter at the Jus Jordan Arena inIroquoisFalls.
The two teams will then face off at theMemorial Gardensi nNorth Baybefore their Christmas breaks begin.
“We are going to be short again,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“The young (Ryan) Mercier is going to have a two-game suspension for being the instigator and fighting in the last 10 minutes of the game.
“So we are going to have to get some affiliate players. We are in a bit of a down turn right now.
“We need to play some great hockey and we are going to be short staffed again, but hopefully we can get some APs to get us that energy we need.”
The status of former Kirkland Lake forward Jason Forward for the home-and-home series withNorth Bay is up in the air.
“He sort of twisted his ankle the last game,” Gagne said.
“He was playing with Jordan Delaurier and Mercier and he has been playing half decent. He got a nice assist (on Delaurier’s goal in Blind River) and he definitely made a difference.
“He is a good skater, a strong skater and he can make things happen.”
The Eskimos are hoping to be able to add a couple of more forwards to their lineup before rosters are frozen in the new year, but none are likely to be in place by the home-and-home series with North Bay.
Gagne has been impressed with the play of the affiliate players the team has used in the past couple of games.
“Young (Ryan) Aubertin, from what we have seen so far, is a real good talent,” he said.
“He is a great skater, he has good size and he is a fitness fanatic — a very skilled player.”
He is the younger brother of North Bayf orward Jonathan Aubertin, who is the Trappers fourth leading scorer with 14 goals and 12 assists in 24 games.
The Eskimos returned home from a three-game road trip with two of a possible six points — an improvement on their first trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Blind River and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., that saw them lose all three games.
Abitibi closed out the trip Sunday night in Sault Ste. Marie,Mich., with an 8-3 loss to the Eagles.
The Eskimos actually enjoyed a 3-2 lead after the first period of play, but ran out of gas.
“We were a little short on manpower this weekend,” Gagne said.
“We went there with six defencemen and nine forwards — 10 forwards, but one was injured, he was concussed.
“We were short staffed and we played three games in three nights, but not only that, we have played a lot of games in the last little while.
“Considering what we had with the injuries and the lack of players, you know what, we played well enough to win.
“It’s not the effort that’s killing us, it’s the lackadaisical plays that cost us goals.”
Guillaume Rheault, Nicolas Fournier and Corey Hamel scored first-period goals as the Eskimos took a 3-2 lead into the dressing room.
Brock Raffaele and Josh Borgen replied for the Eagles.
“When you are short on bodies there is a little bit of fatigue involved,” Gagne said.
“And you make little mistakes.”
Shane Totten got the Soo back on even terms just over one minute into the second period and the home side went to the second intermission up 5-3, as Brian Depp (short handed) and A.J. Kapcheck (power play) also scored.
Depp added two more goals in the third period to complete his hat trick, while Totten netted his second goal of the game.
Soo goalie Luis Puig stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced to pick up the win, while Abitibi’s J.P. Fecteau stopped 44 of the 52 shots fired his way.