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Eskimos hold off Rivermen

TIMMINS - Brennen Dubchak was all alone in front of the Abitibi Eskimos net with two seconds remaining.

All he had to do was get the puck past Eskimos goalie Brody Wagner and the visiting Espanola Rivermen would have staved off defeat and headed to overtime.

Instead, the Rivermen’s leading goal scorer buried the puck into Wagner’s pads as the time ticked off the clock.

That play preserved a hard-fought 4-3 victory for the Eskimos over Espanola at the McIntyre Arena.

“It’s one I won’t be able to get over for a while,” Dubchak said, following the game.

“I just shot on net, but if I had known there was that much time left I would have just got it over to my buddy, (Corbin) Bean, for a tap in.”

Otherwise, the Kenora native might have tried to place his shot in a different location.

“I really didn’t know how much time was on the clock, so I was just trying to get the shot on the net,” Dubchak said.

For the Eskimos, it was their second-straight solid effort against a Top 3 team in the NOJHL.

“We kept the momentum going from the Soo game (a 3-2 overtime victory),” said Eskimos assistant coach and general manager Dan Dube.

“We had a good week of practice, going over videos and we tried to correct the mistakes that we made against the Soo.

“I would say that we eliminated most of them tonight.”

The Eskimos jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Shane Hiley.

Espanola got that one back, however, on Alex Martin’s goal.

Brady Clouthier restored the Eskimos lead when he beat Rivermen goalie Marc Terriault.

Brenden Locke extended the Eskimos lead to 3-1, but Corbin Bean’s short-handed goal cut the Abitibi advantage to one goal.

Ben Miller put the Eskimos in front 4-2 heading into the final period.

Dubchak scored early in the third period to again make it a one-goal game, but that would be as close as the Rivermen would come to getting back on even terms.

The Rivermen are not an easy team to play, either at home, on the road, or in a neutral site game.

“They are a forechecking team, so they put a lot of pressure on us,” Dube said.

“We made sure that our defencemen were all aware of that and that our forwards were ready to get the puck quick from the defencemen.

“We told our defencemen to move it quick and I think that kind of helped us tonight.”

Another key for the Eskimos, as it was in the Soo game last Saturday, was getting on the scoreboard first.

“Any time you score that first goal in a hockey game it is going to give you momentum,” Dube said.

“And you always get that seventh player, the fans, involved in the game.

“It is important and that’s why we told the guys to get the puck on net.

“Good things happen from getting shots on net and while we didn’t get that many shots in the first period, we started to pick up more in the second and third.

“We just kept it going and kept it simple in the last minute and we got the victory.”

Dube was pleased with the way all of the Eskimos played Friday night, but he singled out defenceman Steven Pettite for extra praise.

Pettite is a stay-at-home blue liner who doesn’t normally get a lot of attention.

“He had a fantastic game back there,” Dube said.

“When you don’t see him out there he is doing his job well.

“That is one of the best qualities a defenceman can have.

“Steve is just so steady back there and him and Kevin Walker have this chemistry going right now and it is a momentum builder for us, when those two are on the ice.”

Pettite knows just how important Friday night’s victory was for the Eskimos.

“It was great,” he said.

“We needed these two points, since they are ahead of us in the standings.”

The victory allowed the Eskimos to pull within eight points of the third-place Rivermen and they have three games in hand.

“Right now the boys are playing great,” Pettite said.

“We have got to keep on winning and tomorrow we have to step up against the (Elliot Lake) Bobcats and I think we are going to do it.

“We have got to get a four-point weekend. That would be great.”

One of the keys to victory, according to Pettite was putting pressure on the Espanola defence.

“We had a great forecheck out there,” he said.

“We were in their zone a lot.”

He also gave credit to the strong play of Wagner.

“Our goalie made some big saves tonight and he really helped us,” Pettite said.

The Eskimos seemed to be a confident group from the first puck drop to the final buzzer.

“There was a lot of positive attitude, especially after that fourth goal,” Pettite said.

“That was a big one going into the third period. It was a big momentum swing for us.”

Wagner was once again sharp against the Rivermen.

“He doesn’t make flashy saves,” Dube said.

“He is always calm and he is always in the right spot, all the time.”

The Eskimos forwards were also strong Friday night, not just in the offensive zone, but in all three zones.

“Up front, our forwards played well,” Dube said.

“I think Sheehan Moore played a great game.

“He was good on the forecheck and Bryce Robert played good, too.

“Those are key players for us right now, because we don’t have that many players because of injury, we have lost some players, so those guys are key for our team and I think they played really well tonight.”

Both Moore and Robert are converted defencemen who do not have a great deal of experience playing on the forward lines.

The Eskimos will host the Elliot Lake Bobcats at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday at 7:30 p.m., while the Rivermen will visit Kirkland Lake.

The Gold Miners defeated the Bobcats 3-0 Friday night.