\ Finally, the second season is about to start.
The Abitibi Eskimos of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League will host the North Bay Trappers for the opening round of the playoffs. The Eskis and Trappers found themselves in a heated contest for second place at the end of the regular season, as the squad from North Bay threatened to snatch home-ice advantage from the Eskis. “It’s nice to have the home advantage,” said Paul Gagne, head coach and general manager of the Eskimos. “It was in their hands to finish second and that didn’t happen. For us, we’re really happy with second place. We’ve been there all season. Playoffs now is the new season, so here we go.” Now that everything is settled as far as the standings are concerned, the Eskis have focused all of their energy into preparing for the Trappers who finished two points back of second place. “We’ve been talking about the playoffs in the last week and half,” said Gagne. “We’ve been doing a recap of our program and what we’re all about. There’s tactical stuff we’re talking about, while focusing on the weaknesses of North Bay. That’s what it’s all about at this time of year.” In their last seven games versus the Trappers dating back to November, the Eskis hold a record of 4-3. In those seven games, the Eskis hold a home record of 2-1. “The guys have started with their different hairdos, different colours and some of them will have a beard,” said Gagne. “It’s a good feeling. It’s great to be in this frame of mind.” As a former professional hockey player, Gagne knows about stepping up when it’s crunch time. “I’m here to give the proper direction to the players, to keep momentum, while always dwelling on the positive and instilling confidence in the players,” said Gagne. “There is an elevation of play, an intensity and the commitment that comes in the playoffs. It’s do or die. All players know about playoffs, it brings a team closer together.” Eskis goalie J.P. Fecteau will get the start in net for Game 1, despite being harassed against the Trappers and Soo Thunderbirds as the regular season was winding down. He’s been our number one goalie,” said Gagne. “He brought us to second place. He’s got great character, he comes out to play and he looks forward to playing the next game no matter what. He always asks for video to analyze his game. He’s a true professional right now.” The best-of-seven series begins tonight at the Jus Jordan Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eskis playoff schedule: Trappers at Eskimos – Mar. 3 7:30 p.m. Eskimos at Trappers – Mar. 4 7 p.m. Trappers at Eskimos – Mar. 8 7:30 p.m. Eskimos at Trappers – Mar. 9 7 p.m. Trappers at Eskimos – Mar. 11 7:30 p.m. (if needed) Eskimos at Trappers – Mar. 14 7 p.m. (if needed) Trappers at Eskimos – Mar. 15 7:30 p.m. (if needed)