IROQUOIS FALLS — Abitibi Eskimos ended their two-game losing streak and sent their fans home happy Saturday night.
A 4-1 victory over the visiting North Bay Trappers at the Jus Jordan Arena was just what the doctor ordered.
Unlike the previous two games, the first shot Eskimos’ goalie J.P. Fecteau faced didn’t find its way to the back of the net.
“He held his own,” said Eskimos’ coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“The rebounds were there and he handles the puck really well and tonight he made a difference. He was our third defenceman on the ice every time he had the puck.”
“He was a little bit better protected tonight, too, because we gave him a lot of shots from outside the perimeter.
“We didn’t give them too many chances … clear cut chances from the slot area and from the front of the net.”
Fecteau stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced.
Captain Richard Therrien put the Eskimos up 1-0 6:37 into the first period.
And Nicolas Fournier added a power-play goal five-and-a-half minutes later to increase the lead to 2-0.
“They key to beating a team like the North Bay Trappers is coming out of the gates hard,” Therrien said.
”They are really tight defensively. They can score, but they known for having a good defence.
“So we have to storm out of the gates hard and get the early lead and just keep on going.
The captain felt it was important for the Eskimos to get off to a good start on Saturday.
“The past two games, the first period really defined how the games went.
“We lost the past two games in the first period, so getting those first two early goals really helped us generate momentum.
“We had taken a couple of games off, where nothing was working.
“We weren’t playing the system, so before today’s game we said: ‘Guys let’s get back on that track we were on when we won nine straight.’”
Brennan Wright finally got North Bay on the board when he deflected a point shot from Djordje Leposavic for a power-play goal at the 15:35 mark.
The Trappers had a two-man advantage at the time, with Kevin Walker and Fournier in the penalty box.
Marc-Alain Begin scored the lone goal of the second period, a power-play marker, to give the Eskimos a 3-1 advantage through two periods of play.
That lead held up until Therrien was able to ice the victory with an empty-net goal with three seconds to play.
Over all, Gagne was a lot happier with the “effort” of all his players on Saturday night.
“The last couple of outings were all individual play and you could see the effort wasn’t there,” Gagne said.
“I don’t know what it was, but it happens. Tonight it was a better effort the whole game.
“It helped to score the first goal. As soon as we scored the first goal you could see the shoulders going wide and a little confidence being built. And we got momentum and we kept going with the momentum all night.
“I thought our penalty killing was great tonight. We did really well there.
“Momentum wise, we kept it up for 60 minutes and that’s what we had been doing prior to the last couple of games.”
Clearly the Eskimos bought into Gagne’s program a lot more consistently.
“They were conscientious in practice on Thursday,” he said.
“When you lose a couple of games and when the coaching staff says a few things, they listen a little bit more and tonight was no exception. They stuck to the game plan.”
Gagne was especially pleased with Therrien’s play on Saturday night.
“He plays like a man out there, doesn’t he?” he said.
“Big and strong. He’s responsible. He’s our captain. That says it all. He does everything for you. He’s committed. He’s great in the dressing room.
“He’s playing with the first line and he’s playing well.”
• NOTES: The three stars were Eskimos defenceman Justin Kord, Therrien and North Bay goaltender Gianluca Palmieri … With forwards Jacob Kord, Chris Gartner and Jeffrey Gagnesidelined with injuries, the Eskimos have picked up 19-year-old Rouyn-Noranda native Corey Hamel, who had been playing junior hockey in Thunder Bay. “He just had one practice with us, so far,” Gagne said. “He is going to be a nice addition on the third line. He might even be a shut-down centreman.”