The scoresheet shows the Abitibi Eskimos dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the North Bay Trappers Wednesday night, but it was a moral victory for the home side.
With five regulars out of the lineup because of injury and suspension, it would have been easy for the Eskimos to fold their tents.
That was especially true late in the second period, trailing the visiting Trappers 2-1, when Eskimos forward Nick Beaudoin was assessed a match penalty for pulling the hair of North Bay defenceman Andrew Martin during a fight.
The Eskimos came up big, however, and killed off that five-minute penalty — spread over the end of the second period and the start of the third period.
And after killing off another minor penalty later in the period, the Eskimos were finally able to get the equalizer when captain Richard Therrien scored with just 1:23 remaining to play — sending the game to overtime.
“I finally got a luck bounce and it hit off my skate and I just stayed with it, got the rebound and put it in,” Therrien said.
With the clock ticking down, it looked like the Eskimos might need to pull goalie J.P. Fecteau to create a two-man advantage.
“We were looking at the power play there at the end and I gave them 30 seconds, or the goalie was going to come out and make it a six on four, but they came through,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“The captain showed a lot of grit, to keep the puck and put it in the net.”
The line of Therrien, Jacob Kord and Corey Hamel had plenty of chances earlier in the game, but Hamel’s first-period power-play goal was the only other puck they were able to get byNorth Baygoaltender Gianluca Palmieri.
“It’s very frustrating, but we can’t let that beat us,” Therrien said.
“We have to be patient and it will come. If things are not going your way, you just have to be patient.”
North Baycaptain Brad Gehl had gotten the Trappers back on even terms midway through the second period and Martin put the visitors ahead 2-1 less than a minute later.
North Bay held onto that lead until late in the third period, having to kill off a five-minute penalty of their own after Ronnie George was assessed a major for boarding.
It was defenceman Brad Sellers who was in the penalty box, however, when Therrien netting the tying goal.
North Bay struck quickly in the overtime period, as Gehl swept wide around the Eskimos defenders, before cutting sharply to the front of the net and putting the puck behind Fecteau.
“We got cheated there on the last goal,” Gagne said.
“The guy walked around our defenceman … he was listening to Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Blue Bayou’ … it’s unfortunate, but all and all it was a good, entertaining game.”
Therrien stressed the importance of battling back to get a point against the Trappers, who now trail the Eskimos by just four points, with two games in hand.
“It shows character, even from the affiliate players,” he said.
“The guys who came up from Hearst (Elans Miles Nolan, Ryan Aubertin and Brendan Bujold) and Ryan Kerr (Timmins Majors) played awesome. They all helped out a lot and we showed a lot of character, coming back.”
The captain gave a lot of the credit for the Eskimos being able to escape the game with a point to Fecteau’s strong play in net.
“He held us in there,” Therrien said.
“That five-minute penalty was crucial and we killed it off … our PK and Fecteau.
“I am extremely proud of our guys.”
Gagne agreed with his captain’s assessment of the goaltending.
“There were minimal mistakes and both goalies had shots, but they had good shots, but shots from the exterior,” he said.
“Every once and a while, inside there was a big save by both goalies.”
Fecteau stopped 40 of the 43 shots he faced, while Palmieri made 38 saves on the night.
Wednesday night was the Eskimos’ annual Teddy Bear Toss in support of VICARS and the captain’s duties were expanded to include retrieving stuffed animals tossed on the ice after the home side had scored its first goal.
“I just decided to help out, it wasn’t that hard,” Therrien said.
“I was extremely happy to see the amount of stuffed animals that were tossed. They just kept flying.”
Overall, Gagne was pleased with the way the Eskimos played Wednesday.
“It was a pretty tight game,” he said. “It almost felt like playoff hockey.
“I was impressed. I am looking at the board here and there were one, two, three, four rookies and they didn’t look out of place.
“The young Kerr, we just gave him some information tonight about our program and he did extremely well.
“He had some good chances. We asked him to jump into the play and he did a couple of times.
The affiliate players played a regular shift and also held their own while killing penalties.
“In the second period I felt like we had a lot of momentum going and they (Aubertain, Bujold and Nolan) were forechecking,” Gagne said.
“We had four good lines in a row, before the incident with Beaudoin.
“Those kids were protecting the puck. They were coming out of the corners and cycling.
“It all comes from good coaching in Hearst, too. There is a lot of potential there.”
Fans who had anticipated a matchup of the Aubertain brothers were a little disappointed, as North Baychose not to dress Ryan’s older brother Jonathan.