TIMMINS – The Eskimos will look to limit the Beavers’ chances on Saturday at the Jus Jordan Arena when the two clubs faceoff for the fourth time this season.
Abitibi holds a record of 2-1 in three meetings with Blind River so far in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League, including a 9-8 win on Oct. 20 in Iroquois Falls.
Mistakes in the defensive zone has proved costly for the Eskimos, as Abitibi has given up 93 goals in 19 games, which is third-worst in the league.
“We know our goals against has not been too great throughout the season,” said Eskimos head coach and general manager Paul Gagne. “That’s one thing we have to tighten up.”
The top line of captain Richard Therrien, centreman Ryan Wildman and dynamic winger Peter Poulin-Roy will be counted on to pace the Eskimos’ offence.
The three of them have combined for 32 of the Eskimos’ 66 goals this season, while Therrien leads all NOJHL scorers with 20 goals in 18 games played.
“Puck possession and fore-checking is key,” said Gagne. “If we can sustain that and get at them, the chances of scoring are higher. That’s the name of the game. We’re going to be aggressive and bring the pressure.”
The Beavers boast several 20-year-old players who provide a veteran presence on the ice for Blind River.
“It makes a difference,” said Gagne. “When you’re 20, you make less mistakes, which gives the tame a better chance of winning. They have a bit more experience than us, but I like our No. 1 line, the way they’re playing.”
The Eskimos second line could look different Saturday night if the latest move by the club takes effect in time.
Forward Adriano Mungioli has left the team for an opportunity to play in the U.S. where he will be closer to his family.
Replacing him, following approval from the NOJHL and Manitoba Junior Hockey League, will be Ryan Tront,19, who recorded two goals in 15 games with the Winkler Flyers.
The Thunder Bay native, shoots left and could centre the second line with speedy goal scorer Aaron Kerr and big Zack Innes.
“He’s (Tront) a smooth skater and very skilled,” said Gagne. “We’re hoping the transaction goes through in time for Saturday.”
Gagne will be relying on newest Eskimo Jackson Winkler to play a strong game in net for Abitibi.
Winkler’s first game in a Abitibi uniform came against the powerhouse Soo Thunderbirds last week in Iroquois Falls. He turned aside 35 of 39 shots in the contest, but was pegged with the loss as Thunderbirds goalie Steven Dombrowski backstopped the visitors to a 4-0 win.
Winkler is expected to get the start for the Eskimos Saturday night.
“I like him,” said Gagne. “He’s big, strong and he competes. He does the little things that generate momentum for the players. He made some big key saves for us last week.”
The Eskimos will be playing with heavy hearts on Saturday as long-time trainer Bruce Renwick passed away earlier this week.
Puckdrop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.