IROQUOIS FALLS – The Abitibi Eskimos will embark on a three-game road trip this weekend looking to build upon their recent home-ice success.
Having taken three of a possible four points from two of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League’s top teams, the Eskimos will head to Elliot Lake Friday, Blind River Saturday and Sault Ste. Marie Sunday.
“We are starting to gel together and some of our younger players are starting to play good,” said Eskimos captain Richard Therrien.
“We are starting to build some chemistry and we all know where we are on the ice.
“We have brought in a couple of big bodies, such as (Brandon) Windsor and Peter Poulin-Roy and they are helping our team.”
Windsor, picked up in a trade with Lindsay, has a couple of games under his belt and was a physical presence out on the ice Saturday night against North Bay.
And Poulin-Roy had the Eskimos only goal while playing in his first NOJHL contest.
He was acquired from Trenton of the OJHL.
Therrien realizes the importance of getting points, especially on the road.
“In this league, on any given night, anyone can win,” he said.
“So you have to fight for those two points, because the first-place team gets a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
“That’s a pretty good prize and we want that.”
Players like Windsor and Poulin Roy should help the Eskimos claw their way back up the standings.
Two other newcomers, centre Taylor Porrier and goaltender Etienne Roy, also made their NOJHL debut against the Trappers.
Porrier played a regular shift, while Roy played briefly while starting goalie Marc Audet was addressing an equipment issue.
Eskimos fans also got their first look at Shane Borden in an Abitibi lineup Saturday night. Borden who was acquired from the Gold Miners was injured in the Eskimos first exhibition game in Kirkland Lake.
“Words can’t explain how awesome it was (to finally get into a game Saturday night), Borden said.
“The atmosphere. The fans. The first shift … getting the jitters out, was awesome.”
Frustration had been building in the Timmins native as he anticipated finally being able to get back on the ice.
“Staying in shape was hard, but I did it,” Borden said.
“It wasn’t too bad.”
Like Windsor, Borden is a big forward who can be effective on the forecheck.
“I can hit, fight, maybe put a couple of pucks in the net,” he said.
“Just whatever the team needs me to do.
“I just try to play my game, dump and chase, crash some bodies.”
When the Eskimos return to home ice following this weekend’s three-game road trip they will take on the Gold Miners Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Jus Jordan Arena. Being a former Gold Miner, that encounter will be extra special for Borden.
“I hope the team does well and that we get the W,” he said.
“It’s a huge rivalry.”
With so many new players in the lineup, it will take a little while to get all the Eskimos on the same page.
“I am looking forward to it, when we are all really gelling well together,” said Eskimos coach and GM Paul Gagne.
“They are like sponges. They want to learn. They want to play the system. They really want to get some ice time and they work hard in practice.
“It’s a great bunch of players that we have right now.”
A full week of practices leading up to this weekend’s games will go a long way toward that happening, as will the team bonding that will occur during the trip.