IROQUOIS FALLS – The Abitibi Eskimos bounced back from Friday’s loss to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners to defeat the Sudbury Nickel Barons 8-5 on Saturday at the Jus Jordan Arena.
The win snaps Abitibi’s three-game losing streak, which coincidentally was started by the Barons on Oct. 24 when Sudbury defeated the visiting Eskimos 7-2.
Eskimos forward Brandon Windsor picked up two goals, defenceman Kevin Walker recorded four assists and forward Philip Sweeney was credited with the game-winner to lift the Eskimos over the Barons.
Sebastien Leroux registered two goals for the visiting Barons, while Darcy Haines recorded two assists to give him 31 points in 15 games this season.
The Eskimos found themselves down 2-0 2:30 into the first period as Leroux scored twice with Martin Joliceaur and and Haines picking up assists on the play.
However, Eskimos forward Peter Poulin-Roy hooked up with Corey Dubbledam and Walker to cut the Barons’ lead in half less two minutes later.
The offensive first continued with Brett Dusick notching a goal for the Barons at 6:39.
“It was an excellent game, but the only thing is we spotted three goals in the first period,” said Eskimos head coach and general manager Paul Gagne. “They were not good goals. Etienne was a little nervous after giving up those rebounds.”
Poulin-Roy recorded his second goal of the game and third in two nights at 12:35, followed by captain Richard Therrien’s powerplay marker at 15:14 to draw the teams even.
But Andrew Comtois goal with 39 seconds left in the period gave the Barons the edge heading into the first intermission.
“We had a slow start where they scored two early goals,” said Eskimos netminder Etienne Roy. “We scored and that brought our confidence up.”
The Eskimos have had trouble in the second period this season, but Saturday’s game was different.
Abitibi outscored the Barons in the second 2-1 with goals from Philip Sweeney and a powerplay marker from Windsor.
Marco Lizotte recorded the only goal for the Barons in the middle frame.
Through two periods, the Eskimos sprinkled Barons netminder Alexander Laino with 28 shots.
“We showed a lot of character to get back in there,” said Windsor. “Etienne made some saves to keep us tied. Paul (Gagne) says, don’t let one goal get you down. The game is 60 minutes.”
Roy appeared to get stronger and more confident as the game went on.
“The kid wasn’t himself in the first period, then he made a couple saves in the first and the second and he started to get a feel for it,” said Gagne. “Then in the third period he made some extraordinary saves that kept us in there.”
The third period belonged to the Eskimos despite being outshot 16-8.
Sweeney beat Laino at the midway point of the third, then Therrien at 16:06 and role-player Windsor put the nail in the coffin at 17:18 with Simon Desrosiers and Ryan Kerr picking up assists on the play.
“We didn’t feel the pressure to score, we just went out there and capitalized on our chances,” said Gagne. “
Roy added, “All the defence played well. My defence was telling me we could beat this team.”
Roy turned aside 34 of 39 shots for the Eskimos in the win.
“It’s proof we have a lot character,” said Gagne. “Our gameplan was to play like Friday because we played well, but couldn’t get the goals. Saturday we made things happen and we scored goals.”
Roy said, “I know we can score a lot of goals and if I play well every night we can be a really good team.”
The Eskimos currently sit one point back of the fifth-place Blind River Beavers and five points up on the last-place Elliot Lake Bobcats in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Abitibi’s next game is Saturday versus the Bobcats at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Eskimos notes: Richard Therrien’s two goals moves him into first place of the goal-scoring leaders race in the NOJHL. Goalie Marc Audet has left the team and there is talk that he’ll be suiting up for Kirkland Lake. The Eskimos lead all teams in the NOJHL in attendance, drawing 2,825 spectators in five home games, which is an average of 565 a game. Forward Zach Innes returned from a four-game suspension and recorded one assist and zero penalties in Saturday’s win.