IROQUOIS FALLS — Abitibi Eskimos finally discovered the formula for not trailing 5-2 in the third period — score six goals in the first two periods.
The Eskimos scored early and often to stun the Soo Thunderbirds 10-4 at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
That decisive victory followed three straight Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League games in which the Eskimos found themselves down 5-2 in the third period.
Amazingly, despite digging such deep holes, the Eskimos still took three of a possible six points during those contests.
It took Preston Lacasse just 27 seconds to get the Eskimos offence off and running on Saturday.
“The puck was jumping around in front of the net and I got my stick on it and just fired it low blocker side,” Lacasse said.
“I don’t think the goalie had a chance, to be honest. And that quick start helped us out, big time.”
That goal would prove to be just the tip of the iceberg for the Iroquois Falls native and his line mates — NOJHL leading scorer Marc-Alain Begin and captain Richard Therrien.
Lacasse scored three goals and set up four others, Therrien had two goals and four assists and Begin had a goal and four assists.
“About four games ago, (Eskimos coach and general manager) Paul (Gagne) put me on the first line and me and Begin and Therrien are just starting to get our chemistry,” Lacasse said.
“But tonight, everything was just going in. What can I say? The puck was just going in tonight.
“Therrien, he is a digger. He goes into the corners and he’ll come out with the puck.
“And Begin, he is one of the best passers in the league … probably the best passer. He is outstanding.”
The unit’s performance Saturday night had the fans and coaching staff smiling.
“They have been playing really well together,” Gagne said.
“Lacasse had seven points tonight and it was good to see him score some goals, because he had been dry there in that area.
“Begin and Therrien, what can I say about the first line? They scored a lot of goals, but it wasn’t just them. The other lines did their jobs.
“Defensively, we shut down the No. 1 line on the other side and I thought we did well.”
The Eskimos enjoyed a 3-1 advantage after the first period of play, with Lacasse, Nicolas Fournier and Begin finding the back of the net, while Micky Sartoretto replied for the Thunderbirds.
They increased their advantage to 6-3 in the second period, with Lacasse scoring twice and Daniel Villeneuve once.
Sartoretto, with his second of the game, and Brett Campbell replied for the Soo.
Therrien scored twice and Kealey Cummings and Guillaume Rheault once, as the Eskimos hit double figures in the third period.
Darcy Casola had the lone goal for the Thunderbirds.
With the Thunderbirds coming off a 7-6 loss inKirkland Lake on Friday night, a game in which they surrendered five third-period goals, the Eskimos were not quite sure what to expect.
“We weren’t sure if they were still bleeding from last night’s game, or if they were going to come out licking their chops,” Gagne said.
“So, took the route that they were still bleeding, so why don’t we just continue on with pressure, pressure, pressure and try to frustrate them.
“And that’s what we did, we just kept going after them and we didn’t stop for 60 minutes.”
Every player contributed to the Eskimos’ victory.
“You know what, it’s not one or two guys who won this game tonight, it was everybody” Gagne said.
“Our goaltender (J.P. Fecteau) was outstanding, he kept us in there and made some big saves, and all four lines contributed towards our program.”
Fecteau stopped 50 of the 54 shots the Thunderbirds fired his way.
Among those stops, was a big save on a penalty shot attempt by Soo sniper Matt Amadio.
John Kleinhans played the first two periods for the Soo, stopping 17 of the 23 shots he faced.
Thomas Condon stopped nine of the 13 shots he faced in the third period.
The play of defenceman Daniel Villeneuve was typical of the team-first approach of the Eskimos on Saturday.
Not only did he score a goal and add an assist, he also sacrificed his body to block a couple of shots.
“He’s a stay-at-home defenceman and you don’t see him, which is a good sign during the games,” Gagne said.
“If you don’t see him, it means he has played well.
“But he jumps in the play when it’s called for.
“He read the play and scored a nice goal and blocked shots.
“It just shows, they care. They have a passion for hockey and they will do anything to win and that’s what it’s all about, is winning.”
From start to finish, there was little wrong with the way the Eskimos played Saturday.
“It was not one of those lackadaisical efforts that we had,” Gagne said.
“Right from the first goal, we got some momentum. We were jumping on the puck, we were backchecking, we were forechecking … we were fighting for it.
“We got a couple of goals and we weren’t sitting back. We kept going and played it in deep in the offensive zone and it was successful. We got some turnovers and we got goals from within two feet of the front of the net … three or four of them.
“It was nice to be playing that way, it was nice.”
The Eskimos, who were once again without forwards Jeffrey Gagne, Chris Gartner and Jacob Kord, did not suffer any more significant injuries.
“We paid the price,” Gagne said.
“There might be a few little bruises here and there, but there are no injuries.”
• NOTES — The three stars of the game were: 1. Lacasse; 2. Therrien; 3. Fecteau … Heading into the weekend, the Thunderbirds had just two losses on the season. Now they have four … Next up for the Eskimos is a home-and-home series with the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils. The two teams meet in Englehart on Friday, starting at 7 p.m., and then face off at the Jus Jordan Arena inIroquois Falls on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. … The Blue Devils traded their leading scorer, Ryan Brain, to North Bay in exchange for the Trappers’ captain, Jon Dionne, and future considerations.