IROQUOIS FALLS - The Abitibi Eskimos have made a number of changes in preparation for Wednesday’s NOJHL exhibition game against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Following the completion of the team’s first two exhibition games against the Gold Miners, the Eskimos released four players, although one of them is back in camp for an extended look.
Released were goaltender T.J. Sherwood (30:40, 5.91, .769) and forwards Nicholas Hway (2, 0-0-0, 0), Shelby Thom (2, 0-0-0, 2) and Raphael Lecours (2, 0-0-0, 0).
The release of Lecours, who played for the Kapuskasing Flyers, of the Great North Midget League last season, is perhaps the most surprising of the cuts.
“I don’t think he was ready, mentally and physically,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“For a big boy, he is 16 years old, you could tell confidence wise, he wasn’t up there.
“He looked really good the first four days at the Whitney. He was skating, he was hitting, he was back checking, forechecking, he was making this happen and then when the exhibition games started, you could tell he was just not confident enough and not ready.
“That happens at 16 years old, that happens.”
So the coach opted to make his first round of cuts early, instead of waiting until the end of the exhibition season.
“I thought it wasn’t right to keep them along, just to have bodies,” Gagne said.
“This way, they have a chance to go and play for another team, with their midget team or whatever the situation is.
“So, right now we are a little short of manpower.”
That is especially true up front, where the Eskimos only have seven forwards in camp — including 17-year-old newcomer Harrison Jacobs (14, 0-3-3, 10, Akwesasne Wolves, EOJHL) and Hway, who was brought back after being cut and will get a longer look in the next two exhibition games.
Hway had a goal and an assist in the Timmins Majors 6-3 exhibition victory over the Kapuskasing Flyers at the Whitney Arena on Sunday, but was then cut by the GNML squad.
“He is going to help us out in practice and these next couple of exhibition games and then we will go from there,” Gagne said.
Jacobs, who was born in Hogansburg, N.Y., had dual American/Canadian citizenship, but he went “totally Canadian” last year, according to Gagne.
“If he was 17 years old (and not a Canadian), we wouldn’t be able to sign him … if he makes the team,” he said.
“You cannot sign a 17 year old who is an American, or from Quebec.”
The eliteprospects.com hockey data base lists Jacobs at 5-7 and 141 pounds, but his resume lists him as 5-10.
“He must have grown a few inches,” Gagne said.
Jacobs should be in the Eskimos lineup Wednesday night.
“We will give him a couple of exhibition games, he will be all right,” Gagne said.
Centre Brenden Locke (2, 1-3-4, 2), the Eskimos second leading scorer in training camp, will not be available for either Wednesday’s home game, or Thursday’s exhibition game against the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake, as he will be in training camp with the Barrie Colts, of the Ontario Hockey League.
To make matters worse, the Eskimos leading scorer from the 2013-14 campaign, Brady Clouthier (1, 1-1-2, 0) has still not fully recovered after being checked from behind into the boards late in the third period of the exhibition season opener in Kirkland Lake Friday night.
“He is still not 100%,” Gagne said.
“He hasn’t even been on the ice.”
Other fowards currently in camp with the Eskimos include Ryan Attwood (2, 3-2-5, 2), Kezmin Madden (2, 0-0-0, 0), Kyle Levis (2, 0-0-0, 0), and Ryan Tront (2, 0-0-0, 6).
With the Eskimos current surplus on the blue-line and shortage up front, captain Kevin Walker (2, 0-2-2, 4) and Kealey Cummings (2, 0-0-0, 0) will continue their experimental shift to forward.
Defenceman Jamey Lauzon (2, 1-0-1, 2) will play Wednesday night, but will miss Thursday’s final exhibition game, as he will be heading off to attend training camp with the London Knights, of the OHL.
Other blue-liners currently in camp include Ryan Kerr (2, 1-1-2, 4), Matthew Wilson, (2, 0-1-1, 2), Michael Rancourt (2, 0-0-0, 0), Brennan Roy (2, 0-0-0, 4) and Joshua Delulio (2, 0-0-0, 0).
With three goaltenders remaining in camp, the Eskimos will likely divide up the next two exhibition games among Alex Chandler (31:01, 5.81, .842), Braddock Baalerud (29:20, 4.11, .889) and Chet Tooker (28.59, 6.29, .850).
“We will try to work it out,” Gagne said.
“They all deserve a better opportunity, so hopefully we will try to even it up. We are not going to go with three goalies all year, that’s for sure.
“There are a couple of them who have really earned that position and one is going to play himself out of that position. That is what is going to happen.”
With additional practices under their belt, the Eskimos will begin to absorb more of Gagne’s program.
“We started yesterday, implementing a little bit more in practice and then tonight, again,” he said.
“You have to work on different things, that you want to implement towards your program.
“That’s why we have exhibition games, to do that.”
Eskimos fans shouldn’t panic at this point about the team’s shortage of forwards.
“We are short of players right now, but we have a couple of things on the table,” Gagne said.
Game time for Wednesday’s game at the Jus Jordan Arena and Thursday’s game at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex is 7:30 p.m.