TIMMINS - Brenden Locke netted his second hat-trick in as many games to lead the Abitibi Eskimos to a 5-3 win over the Mattawa Blackhawks at the Archie Dillon Sportsplex Friday night.
Locke, who now has eight goals on the season, found the back of the net in each period and also accounted for the game-winner, playing on a line with Ryan Attwood and Blake Cudmore.
“We have developed a bit of chemistry in the past couple of games,” he said.
“We have just been building off that and getting scoring chances, putting the puck in the net.”
Even though he put three pucks behind him, Locke was impressed with the play of Blackhawks goalie Joe Sheppard.
“He was playing pretty good out there and stopping the puck a lot,” he said.
“He robbed us a few times.”
Hard work, speed and soft hands seems to be what has the line of Locke, Attwood and Cudmore playing at the top of their game.
“We were working it down low, cycling and moving the puck quick,” Locke said.
“That was pretty much the key to our success tonight.”
The visiting Blackhawks actually got on the scoreboard first, as Andy Williams beat Eskimos goalie Braddock Baalerud 8:48 into the opening frame.
The lead did not last long, however, as Locke netted the first of his three goals 56 seconds later to make it a 1-1 game heading into the first intermission.
Ryan Tront then scored his first goal of the season 1:19 into the second period to put the Eskimos in front 2-1.
Kyle Baril stepped out of the penalty box after serving a two-minute minor and took a pass before his second skate touched the ice, raced in all alone to beat Baalerud and knot things up at 2-2.
Again, the Eskimos responded right away, as Attwood beat Sheppard 31 seconds later to put the home side in front 3-2.
Locke’s second goal of the game extended the Eskimos lead to 4-2 heading into the second intermission.
And his power-play goal 16 seconds into the third period increased the Eskimos advantage to 5-2.
The Blackhawks were able to get one of those markers back on a Henry Yawit goal, but that is as close as they would come to getting back on even terms.
Eskimos assistant coach and general manager Dan Dube was happy with his team’s play Friday night, but was also impressed by the opposition.
“You know what, they put a lot of pressure on us tonight,” he said.
“Every time we would get a turnover they were right on us. They finish their checks and they get bodies in front of the net.
“I thought the second period we stayed a little bit on our heels, but we came back in the third. We wanted to have a better period in the third than we did in the second, because we weren’t happy with the second.
“We made some adjustments between periods and I thought the guys battled back in the third period.”
The Eskimos had plenty of chances to put the puck in the net Friday night, but Sheppard’s strong play and a couple of goal posts kept the score respectable.
“Lockey was rewarded with three goals, but I think he had seven or eight shots on net tonight that could have gone in, but their goalie made some key saves for them,” Dube said.
“We had a lot of good scoring opportunities, but he came up big. He is a big goaltender, so he covers a lot of net. We tried to get some traffic in front of him, but he did not give out too many rebounds.”
Dube was also impressed with the play of Baalerud in the Eskimos net.
“The three goals he gave up were not his fault,” he said.
“We had some turnovers and we made some mental mistakes. He made some big saves when he had to and we didn’t really give him much support on those three goals.”
The assistant coach and general manager also had kind words for veteran defenceman Kealey Cummings.
“I thought he played an excellent game in the defensive zone,” Dube said.
“We always say if you don’t notice a defenceman out there it means he has had a good game, he hasn’t made any mistakes.”
Naturally, Dube reserved a heaping helping of praise for one of the Eskimos hottest players and one of his linemates.
“What can you say about Lockey?” he said.
“It seems like lately all you have to do is give him the puck. He has that scoring touch.
“And the kids gave the hard hat (player of the game award) to Attwood. He just gets into the dirty areas and he makes things happen. He goes in the corners and he uses his speed.
Baalerud made 23 saves — including a couple of key stops with the game still on the line — to earn the victory.”
Assistant coach Addison Robidas was behind the bench for the Blackhawks Friday night in place of coach Aaron Corbiere, who was serving the second game of a four-game suspension.
“I thought we played really well,” he said.
“We were in it right until the end. We just had four little breakdowns and they took advantage of them.”
The Blackhawks, who fell to 0-9-0-0 after Friday’s loss, have been competitive in most of their games, but have just not been able to earn that first victory.
“We may be 0-9 right now, but that is not the kind of hockey team we are,” Robidas said.
“We are a team that is going to work hard until the very end and we are not going to quit, ever.”
Maybe when the Blackhawks finally earn their first win they will get them in bunches to make up for lost ground.
“That is what we are hoping for, we just want to open the flood gates and get the monkey off our back,” Robidas said.
Sheppard, who has seen more rubber than any other NOJHL goalie this season, made 38 saves while taking the loss.
Eskimos captain Kevin Walker and Blackhawks defenceman Eric Verville were ejected from the game early in the third period following a heavyweight fight in which both players landed a number of punches.
ESKIMOS NOTES — Forward Cameron Etherington served the second game of his two-game suspension Friday night and should be back in the lineup Saturday night when the Eskimos host the Powassan Voodoos at the Jus Jordan Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ….The Eskimos were again without the service of defenceman Jamey Lauzon, who is out with an upper-body injury … The Eskimos were 1-8 on the power play, while the Blackhawks were 0-8 with the man advantage.