ELLIOT LAKE - The Abitibi Eskimos concluded a successful road trip with a 6-3 win over the Bobcats Sunday night.
The Eskimos were able to earn four of a possible six points during the trip, with only one bad period in Sault Ste. Marie preventing that point total from being even higher.
“The third period, when they scored at the 10 second mark, it was a four-on-four and their player made a cross-ice pass and it hit one of our skates and went in the net,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“It was just an unlucky goal to make it 3-2 and on the fourth goal we were still into it and there was just one bad cross-ice pass in the neutral zone and the puck went past our defenceman and their guy went in and scored.”
The Eskimos eventually lost that game 5-2, but rebounded to beat the Beavers 4-2 in Blind River on Saturday night and then the Bobcats Sunday night.
“It was nice to get that victory (over the Beavers) and we played well, but not as well as on Sunday,” Gagne said.
“Sunday was pretty good hockey. We had some quality shots and I thought we played really good hockey. There was good goaltending.
“Our players played three games in three days and our third game was the most intense, so our conditioning is incredible.
“I thought we would be a little fatigued, but it was the opposite. It was like we were playing the first game where you are full of energy.”
Sunday’s victory allowed the Eskimos to leapfrog the Bobcats in the standings and claim fourth place.
“We said before the game this basically is a playoff game,” Gagne said.
“We were looking at fourth place here, so we wanted to make the best of it.”
The Eskimos jumped out to a 2-1 lead against the Bobcats on Sunday, with Landon Hiebert and Brenden Locke each scoring the first of their two goals.
“Landon is not just a good hockey player,” Gagne said.
“Off the ice he has great character and he has been accepted by the players. He is really professional. He works hard off the ice. He is really focused and his assignments are done.”
Hiebert has been playing with Ryan Wildman, who has returned to the lineup following an injury, and Zach Innes.
“We had three 20 year olds playing together and they dominated,” Gagne said.
“They were cool, they were calm and they made things happen.
“And our third line, Locke, (Andrew) Green and Ben Miller, was a new combination for Sunday and they scored three goals and played extremely well. They had a lot of ice time, a lot of power-play time and did some penalty killing. They played really well.”
Andrew Palushaj replied for the Bobcats.
In the second period, the Eskimos doubled their lead to 4-2.
Green and Ryan Tront scored for the visitors, with Aaron Carmichael finding the back of the net for Elliot Lake.
Locke and Hiebert both netted their second goals of the game in the third period for the Eskimos, while Bryan McFarlane scored for the Bobcats.
Brody Wagner, who was in the net for Friday night’s loss, made 52 saves to pick up the victory for the Eskimos.
“Wags played pretty well on Friday and Sylvain (Miron) played really well on Saturday,” Gagne said.
“We had planned that Wags was going to play on Friday and Sunday and on Sunday he just stood his ground.
“He stopped the puck when he had to, took care of the rebounds.
“There were none of those goals where you shake your head and say ‘oh no.’ There were no bad goals throughout the whole weekend.
“It’s nice to have a good tandem of goaltenders who you can put in at any time.”
Former Eskimo Etienne Roy also faced 50 shots and made 44 saves while suffering the loss.
The Eskimos, who got home from the road trip at 3 a.m. Monday, will not have much time to practice and get ready for their next game.
They host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena on Wednesday and then meet the Blind River Beavers at the McIntyre Arena on Friday.
Both games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Heading into those two games the Eskimos do not have any serious injuries, or suspensions to worry about.
“It’s kind of nice, because after three games like this there always seem to be some bumps and bruises,” Gagne said.
“But there were no major injuries … a couple of bruises, but that’s normal.”
The Gold Miners are second in the NOJHL standings, 10 points behind the league-leading Soo Thunderbirds, although they have six games in hand and have only suffered three regulation losses all season.
“We know what we are getting here,” Gagne said.
“We are getting a good disciplined hockey team. If you look at the last 10 to 15 games you will see they keep it tight for two periods and then the next thing you know the other team makes a mistake or two and goals are scored.”
The Eskimos are on a pretty good run themselves, having won seven of their past 10 games.
“The way we have been playing we have eliminated our mistakes,” Gagne said.
“So we will have to do the same thing against Kirkland Lake, eliminate our mistakes and if they make mistakes capitalize on them.
“Whoever capitalizes will win the game.”
The Eskimos have lost both games against the Gold Miners this season — 2-1 in double overtime on home ice Sept. 15 and 6-3 in Kirkland Lake on Oct. 6.