MATTAWA - Kyle Levis netted a pair of goals to lead the Abitibi Eskimos to a 6-2 win over the Blackhawks at the Mike Rodden Arena Saturday night.
The victory gave the Eskimos a sweep of their two-game NOJHL road swing that also include a stop in Powassan Friday night and an 8-7 win over the Voodoos.
“I guess you could say it is a little bit of redemption,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We had a little sour taste in our mouth from our last trip here three weeks ago.”
That trip saw the Eskimos drop a 4-1 decision in Powassan on Oct. 24 and then suffer a 5-4 setback in Mattawa on Oct. 25.
“Last night, in Powassan, I thought we played great hockey, even though we had a little let down in the third period,” Gagne said.
“The intensity level of our players was great and our forecheck was there. Our compete level was there.
“Tonight, we played more conservative. We had little letdowns here and there and our forecheck was not as good as it was on Friday, but we did play much better in the second period.
“I guess you can say we got our old mojo back.”
The two sides exchanged first period goals, with Ryan Tront scoring for the Eskimos and Alex Dajia replying for the Blackhawks.
Even though they were out shot 15-11 in the second period, the Eskimos netted the only two goals of the frame.
Levis’ first goal of the night, a short-handed marker, put the visitors in front 2-1 and then Cameron Etherington scored late in the period to send the Eskimos to the dressing room enjoying a 3-1 advantage.
“Tonight, it was like young Levis belonged in junior hockey,” Gagne said.
“He worked and he made things happen with the puck. He wasn’t tentative at all. He was just going for it out there and he got compensated for it with a couple of nice goals.
“The boys gave him the Hard Hat Award (given to the Eskimos’ top player every game) tonight.
Former Fort Frances Laker Tristan Salesse’s first goal as an Eskimo increased the visitors’ lead to 4-1 and then Levis scored his second goal of the game to increase the advantage to 5-1.
“Tristan showed leadership on the ice,” Gagne said.
“He works hard. He forechecks. He protects the puck. He backchecks. He really puts his body in there and sacrifices himself.
“It was nice to see him score his first goal as an Eskimo.
“He is a big addition to our club and we are really happy with him.”
The Blackhawks cut into that lead when former Cochrane Crunch forward Marco Luciani beat Eskimos goalie Chet Tooker to make it a 5-2 hockey game.
Blake Cudmore’s power-play goal with just 33 seconds remaining on the clock closed out the scoring and make the final 6-2.
Tooker stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Eskimos, while Joe Sheppard, of the Blackhawks, turned aside 27 of the 33 shots he faced and took the loss.
The Eskimos played both weekend games without the services of their top two scorers, Brady Clouthier and Brenden Locke, (and defender Ryan Kerr) who are at the Central Canada Cup Challenge in Toronto with Team NOJHL.
Neither the Blackhawks, nor the Voodoos had any players selected to join Team NOJHL.
The Eskimos were not quite as tight defensively against the Voodoos Friday night as they were against the Blackhawks Saturday night.
“There were two goals in there that should not have counted,” Gagne said.
“Meaning that they went off of skates and were just bad bounces … unlucky bounces … but I was happy with our compete level.
“You them the proper way to play defensively, but sometimes there are letdowns. It happens, unfortunately, but tonight I didn’t think we gave them (the Blackhawks) too many chances.
“We eliminated our mistakes and it was a good game to get two points.”
Friday, against the Voodoos, the Eskimos got four-point nights from four players en route to their 8-7 win.
Tront and Ryan Attwood each scored a pair of goals and added a pair of assists, while defenceman Kealey Cummings scored once and added three assists and Salesse chipped in with four helpers as the visitors won for the third time in four games.
“That line, with Tront and Attwood, showed a lot of leadership and I think they got three of the four power-play goals,” Gagne said.
“They kept it simple. They are good kids and they work hard. (with Clouthier and Locke away) it was time for them to step up and they definitely did.”
Cummings, paired with high-scoring blue-liner Brennan Roy, put up some impressive stats himself during the two-game road trip.
“They were just dominating,” Gagne said.
“Any time they had the puck they would move it well. The reason Kealey got points is that he was taking shots. He was putting more shots on net and the more shots you have the better your chances of scoring some goals. When you get the puck on net, things happen.”
Blake Cudmore also had a pair of goals for the Eskimos, while Roy scored once.
Steve Harland had a pair of goals for the Voodoos, while Nathaniel McLeod, Michael Silveri, Tyler Gervais-Rolfe, Nolan Smith and Josh Ibbitson each added a goal.
The Voodoos jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the game, but the Eskimos battled back to deadlock the score at 2-2.
Powassan jumped ahead 3-2 before the end of the first period, however.
The Eskimos again fought back to tie the score at 3-3, only to see the Voodoos take a 5-3 lead.
The Eskimos battled back to tie the score at 5-5 after two periods of play.
Three-straight goals to start the third period saw the Eskimos jump in front 8-5, but the Voodoos got two of those goals back to cut the visitors’ lead to 8-7.
The Voodoos had an excellent change to get back on even terms as the final seconds of the third period ticked down, as the Eskimos were two men short, but they could not get the equalizer.
Tooker, who came on in relief of starting goalie Braddock Baalerud to start the second period, made 30 saves to earn the victory for the Eskimos.
Baalerud turned aside 13 of the 16 shots he faced during the first period.
Jack Ondrovic, who started in goal for the Voodoos, made 21 saves and was tagged with the loss, before giving way to Matt Young 1:07 into the third period.
Young turned aside nine of the 11 shots he face in the final 18:53 of the third period.
ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos have released forward Shawn Nobes, who had been acquired from the Cole Harbour Colts, of the NSJHL. In addition defenceman Jamey Lauzon has left the team and has asked to be traded … The Eskimos will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Cochrane for the first game of a home-and-home series with the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. The two teams will then meet at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night. Game time for both contests is 7:30 p.m.