IROQUOIS FALLS - The Abitibi Eskimos will be looking to solve Evan Cormier Tuesday night at the Jus Jordan Arena when they play host to the North Bay Trappers.
The 16-year-old netminder has been one of the reasons the Trappers have played so well against the Eskimos this season.
Last Monday night Cormier made 46 saves to lead the Trappers to a 4-3 win over the Eskimos in North Bay and on the season he has stopped 97 of the 104 shots the Eskimos have fired his way — good for a .933 save percentage.
“They have had some luck against us,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“There have been some games we could have won and some games we should have won, especially the last one.
“We just had three little mistakes. I thought we had played better than them and I think if we play the same way we played against them the last game we should do OK.
“Their goalie (Cormier) made a big difference in the game, so we are going to have to explore that situation, meaning getting a lot of shots, getting some quality shots and minimize our mistakes.”
The Eskimos fire 48 shots at Cormier during their last meeting, but the rookie was up for the challenge.
At 6-2 and 183 pounds, Cormier, a Bowmanville native, is a big puck stopper who fills a lot of the net.
“He was nominated for one of the NOJHL Three Stars of the Week and a big part of that was that he played really well against us and the night before against Espanola,” Gagne said.
“Goaltending makes a difference and we have been in the same situation.
“We are just going to have to try and get quality shots at him, the rebounds are going to be there.
“He is fairly young and inexperienced, so hopefully we can get some shots on net and get some traffic in front of him.
“We don’t have to score all pretty goals. Garbage goals, from two or three feet in front of the net, those are all bonus goals.
On the season, the Trappers have played .500 hockey against the Eskimos (3-3-0-0) even though they sit in seventh place with a record of 15-27-0-5.
It should be noted, however, that the Eskimos have won both of their home games against the Trappers — 3-1 at the Jus Jordan Arena back on Oct. 19 and 4-3 at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins on Jan. 17.
The Eskimos are coming off a 4-2 win over the Sudbury Nickel Barons at the McIntyre Arena on Friday night and for the first time in a number of games they should have everybody on the roster available to face the Trappers, although they are still waiting for leading goal scorer Brady Clouthier to be cleared by the doctors after suffering concussion-like symptoms following a hit to the head.
The team got a little extra rest during the Family Day weekend, as the players were given Saturday, Sunday and Monday off following Friday’s victory.
“It provided some good recuperation time and hopefully everyone will be 100%,” Gagne said.
“We didn’t really have any major injuries, just little bruises here and there. They got a good rest and hopefully they will be ready to go for Tuesday.”
While the Eskimos were off on Saturday and Sunday, the Rivermen were able to pull within two points of them in the race for third place with a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime victory over the Elliot Lake Bobcats on home ice.
“We can’t really worry too much about what they are doing,” Gagne said.
“We just have to good out and try to get the two points from the game we are playing.
“Our objective is definitely to finish third, because it is there, it is reality, but we can’t really worry about anything else, just our game.
“We have the playoffs coming around the corner, so we have got to tweak our program here and get ready for the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners went into Sault Ste. Marie and beat the Thunderbirds 5-0 to halt the Soo’s winning streak at 25 games.
So the Thunderbirds will likely be in a nasty mood when they visit the Eskimos at the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday, Abitibi’s next game after Tuesday night’s meeting with the Trappers.
“Hopefully we will be able to continue their losing streak for them,” Gagne said.
“It’s not too often you hear about that, the Soo being on a losing streak.”
Prior to their 25-game winnning streak, the Thunderbirds dropped three straight games — to the Gold Miners, the Eskimos and the Trappers.
Gagne and the rest of the Eskimos will be hoping history repeats itself.