IROQUOIS FALLS - If the Abitibi Eskimos finish third in the NOJHL standings they may want to send a thank-you note to Sudbury Nickel Barons goalie Andrew Lefebvre.
Lefebvre made 38 saves while shutting out the Espanola Rivermen 1-0 at the McCleland Arena Wednesday night to keep the Eskimos’ faint hopes of securing third place alive.
A loss by the Nickel Barons would have relegated the Eskimos to fourth place and a first-round showdown with the Elliot Lake Bobcats (Cochrane Crunch).
As it stands, however, in order for the Eskimos to realize their goal, the Nickel Barons will have to beat the Rivermen again in Espanola on Friday night and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners will have to beat the Rivermen Sunday afternoon, again in Espanola, and the Eskimos will have to defeat the North Bay Trappers at the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday night.
Those three outcomes would see the Eskimos finish one point ahead of the Rivermen in the standings.
There are other, as complicated, scenarios that would see the two teams finish tied for third place — an outcome that would also see the Eskimos gain the upper hand because of a better head-to-head record (4-3-0-1) in the eight games the two teams have played against each other.
That would be achieved if the Eskimos beat the Trappers and the Rivermen lose one of their two remaining games in regulation and either lose the other in overtime or it ends in a tie.
Two Rivermen regulation losses and the Eskimos losing to the Trappers in overtime, or tying North Bay would produce a similar outcome.
Any Espanola victory, regulation or overtime, however, would make the outcome of the Eskimos final game irrelevant.
And an Eskimos loss to the Trappers in regulation would make the outcome of the final two Espanola games irrelevant.
A third-place finish would see the Eskimos open the playoffs against the Nickel Barons instead of the Bobcats (Crunch).
Who wouldn’t be?
Eskimos coach and general Paul Gagne isn’t about to set his head spinning while contemplating all the possibilities, however.
He is only worried about one part of the equation: How his team plays against North Bay on Saturday night.
“It won’t influence how we play our game,” he said.
“We are going to play the game to win. We want to finish off the season properly. Every game is important.
“We have had a couple of good practices and we are going to get ready for Saturday.”
The Eskimos lengthy list of injured players grew by one this week when it was learned that defenceman Jamey Lauzon will miss the final regular season game because of a hand injury.
“He has a cast on his hand,” Gagne said.
“He says it happened in the first period of the last game. He went to see the doctor and he has a broken thumb and they put it in a cast for a week.”
It remains to be seen if he will be back in time for the start of the playoffs.
Lauzon joins an injury list that includes fellow blue liner Steven Pettite, as well as forwards Brady Clouther, Landon Hiebert and Shane Hiley.
The Eskimos have used Kez Madden, an affiliate player from the Kapuskasing Flyers, the past coupe of games and they have a couple of other Flyers in camp — defencemen Brady Clouthier (no relation to forward Brady Clouthier) and Joshua Dejulio.
Clouthier, 5-7 and 149 pounds, had three goals and eight assists with the Flyers this season, while Dejulio, 6-2 and187 pounds, had eight goals and 27 assists.
The Trappers — pending the outcome of their game Friday night against the Blind River Beavers — will arrive in Iroquois Falls Saturday night either sporting an eight-game losing streak, or having just one victory in their past eight games.
Still, the Eskimos have no intention of taking them lightly, especially given that one of the games on that streak was an 8-1 loss to the Eskimos during their last visit to the Jus Jordan Arena back on Feb. 18.
“Nobody likes to have a game like that, losing 8-1,” Gagne said.
“We are going to explore their young goalie (Evan Cormier). That was our tactic last game and we are just going to continue going at them in the offensive zone, working it down low, getting a lot of shots on net and creating traffic in front (of their goalie).
“If we are capable of doing that, it will get good hockey.”
Regardless of what may, or may not be on the line Saturday night, the Eskimos will just be looking to close out the regular season the way they started it — on a winning note.
“We just want to keep playing well,” Gagne said.
“Even though we lost the last couple of games I thought we played half decent.
“We just want to keep doing that because the playoffs are just around the corner.
“We have just got the one game left and we want to make sure we play this game to win, that’s for sure. We are going to do everything we can (to win).
“We need to be effective down low, get shots on net and drive to the net and we need to play good defence.
“If we can continue on doing that it will be a good equation for winning hockey games.”