IROQUOIS FALLS - Brody Wagner made 35 saves as the Abitibi Eskimos blanked the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-0 at the Jus Jordan Arena Tuesday night.
“It feels good, especially coming back here after the break,” he said.
“The team did a great job of getting out early and itֹ’s always easier when you don’t have the pressure and you are up 4-0.”
“It’s always great playing in these kind of games, where the whole team is clicking, defensive zone, neutral zone, offensive zone, it was all great.
“These are the kinds of games you want to be in as a goalie.”
It was the 20 year old’s first shutout in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League and he had a few tense moments near the end of the game as his teammates killed off a penalty.
“I really wasn’t trying to think about the shutout too much,” Wagner said.
“I have learned that kind of ruins it, so I was just basically doing the kinds of things I had done the whole game.
“The team did a great job on the penalty kill, getting it out a couple of times. They saved me when it was in the crease.
“It was just a matter of staying focused on the game and what we had to do.”
As you might expect, Wagner was seeing the puck very well Tuesday night.
“It is key in any game,” he said.
“You want to be seeing the puck well and I felt pretty good out there tonight. It was hitting me a lot and I was in the right position.
Eskimos assistant coach Dan Dube was certainly impressed by what he saw from his netminder.
“Brody was awesome back there,” he said.
“He was stone cold.
“When you get up 4-0 you can get into … I don’t want to say bad habits … but you try to get a little more confident and keep the puck on your stick a little longer, so we were just trying to get the puck out at the end and get the shutout for our goaltender.
“Our captain (Kevin Walker) was on the bench saying ‘let’s do it for Wags, let’s do it for Wags,’ so I think everyone was well aware for the last couple of minutes that we were doing it for our goaltender and we pulled it off in the end.”
Overall, Tuesday’s victory over the Gold Miners might be the best game the Eskimos have played all season.
“There were no passengers out there tonight,” Dube said.
“Everyone came out to play and we were hard on the forecheck, we were aggressive, we stuck with the game plan. Everyone came out to play tonight and it was nice to get the W.”
The Eskimos took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period when Erik Robichuad scored the first of his two goals on the night.
It appeared the period would end that way, but the Eskimos struck for two more goals late in the frame.
Robichaud netted the first of those when he charged to the net a put a shot past Gold Miners starting goalie Jeremy Pominville, despite having a pair of Kirkland Lake defenders all over him on the play.
“That whole line (Robichaud, Brady Clouthier and Ryan Tront), as soon as they got clicking, they just know where they are on the ice,” Dube said.
“Roby brings that extra speed and the way he plays with the puck and finds other people to the line. He has a great shot and he sees the ice well.
“Tront and Clouthier really complement him and make the line a complete unit.”
David Becker, who was acquired in a trade with the Elliot Lake Bobcats earlier in the week, then made it 3-0 when he scored a power-play goal just seven seconds into Dylan Rosen’s holding penalty.
The Gold Miners lifted Pominville in favour of Kenny Fitzgerald to start the second period and it seemed to calm the Gold Miners down, although they were not able to seize the momentum away from the Eskimos.
Tront beat Fitgerald with a short-handed goal midway through the second period to extend the Eskimos lead to 4-0.
The Eskimos second unit of Brenden Locke, Landon Hiebert and Andrew Green did not generate any goals Tuesday night, but they gave the Gold Miners fits every time they were on the ice.
“They are so program oriented,” Dube said.
“Everything we ask them to do, they do. They played well tonight. They are really quick. As soon as they get on the transition game they are zero to 20 miles per hour in no time.
“It is really nice to see. They weren’t rewarded for their efforts tonight, but they really played hard and contributed to the two points just like the rest of the gang.”
Green, all 5-8 of him, had a couple run ins with Gold Miners 6-5 defenceman Dylan Rosen and did not back down one inch.
“He is not scared of nothing,” Dube said.
“His size does not determine the player he is. He knows how to protect the puck down low and he uses his speed well.”
Gold Miners assistant coach Tom Sinclair was disappointed with Kirkland Lake’s effort Tuesday night.
“We didn’t skate, right from the start,” he said.
“If you would have seen the game Friday night in Kirkland Lake against the Soo, it was done in way under two hours. It was fast.
“We are supposed to be a good skating team, but we didn’t skate tonight. That was the bottom line.
“And when we did get chances we didn’t bury them, either.
“The Abitibi goaltender stopped the puck, no doubt, he got the shutout, but with the chances we had we should have been making better attempts. We missed the net too often. That’s not goaltending, that’s just bad shooting.”
While the Gold Miners changed goaltenders after the first period, it was not necessarily a reflection of how Pominville had played to that point in the game.
“It was just for momentum,” Sinclair said.
“We tried to change the dynamics of what was going on, that’s all.”
Pominville stopped five of the eight shots he faced during the first period and he was tagged with the loss. Fitzgerald made 20 saves during the two periods he played.
ESKIMOS NOTES: The Eskimos were 1-6 on the power play, while the Gold Miners went 0-4 with the man advantage … The official attendance was 247 … The Eskimos are on the road this weekend for three games, Friday night in Blind River, Satruday afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie and Sunday night in Elliot Lake … The Eskimos next home game will be on Friday, Jan. 17, when they host the North Bay Trappers at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins.