IROQUOIS FALLS — Abitibi Eskimos completed a sweep of their home-and-home exhibition series with the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Their 3-0 victory over their new Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League rivals, followed a 5-4 win in Kirkland Lake Friday night.
Goaltenders J.P. Fecteau and Martin Bilodeau combined for the shutout Saturday, but solid play by the five-man unit in front of them ensured neither keeper had too many tough stops to make.
“We are committed defensively,” said Paul Gagne, coach and general manager of the Eskimos, following Saturday’s victory.
“Our forwards are coming back and helping out.”
Fecteau was pleased with the way his teammates played in front of him Saturday.
“They played pretty good, we played like a team today,” he said.
Fecteau is eager for the regular season to start and is looking forward to teaming with Bilodeau.
“It’s pretty good right now,” he said.
“I am confident for the start of the season.
“He’s a pretty good kid.
”He’s strong and big and I think he is going to be a good goalie in this league.”
While he and Bilodeau have matched each other stop for stop and goals allowed for goals allowed, Fecteau says their styles of getting those results are not similar.
“We are different kinds of goalies,” Fecteau said.
“But together I think we can be good goalies, so I think it is going to be very good for us.”
The Blue Devils were forced to play with a short bench Saturday, as they only dressed 14 skaters and two goaltenders, which Gagne admits was a factor in the lack of offence from the visitors.
“But give credit to our players,” he said.
“We shut them down quite a bit. We put pressure on them. We put pressure on the puck carrier at all times and when you do that they don’t get too many opportunities.”
Regardless of the reasons, the coach was much happier with his team’s effort and performance on Saturday.
“We played 100% better than yesterday,” Gagne said.
“The guys were more relaxed. Yesterday was the kind of game where the nerves were there … a little bit of jitters.
“But tonight we were in total control. It was good hockey.
“The comprehension from the players is there. They are focusing on their assignments and we only had four or five assignments to do on the ice.”
Veteran centre Richard Therrien supplied all the offence the Eskimos would need when he scored a first-period goal to put the home side up 1-0 and bring the fans to their feet.
Gagne sees a lot of potential in the young roster the Eskimos are looking to ice for the 2011-12 season.
“They are gelling really well, and it’s nice to see,” he said.
“We have some bright young players here.”
Given that the Eskimos’ forward units have only been playing together for two games, the managed to create quite a few scoring opportunities.
“I think out better chances, we missed the net,” Gagne said.
“But in all fairness, if you are not getting the chances, then you’ve got problems.
“We are getting our chances and it’s early in the season, so they will start picking the corners and hopefully score more goals, but we are happy with the way we are playing.”
The only thing that marred Saturday’s contest from an Eskimos point of view were a couple of injuries late in the contest, but the coach does not feel they are serious.
“They are minor tweaks right now,” Gagne said.
“A little sprained knee. We are going to see the doctor in a few minutes.
“And one player hurt his back, but hopefully it’s not too serious.”
Attendance was an impressive 692 and the 50/50 winner left the building with $467.00 in their jeans.
Next up for the black-and-gold is their regular season opener in Copper Cliff on Wednesday September 7th versus the Sudbury Cubs.
The Eskimos home opener is the following Saturday versus Kirkland Lake.