By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
IROQUOIS FALLS – The Eskis have plenty of reason to celebrate following a 4-2 win in the second half of their home-and-home series with Timmins at the Jus Jordan Arena Monday night.
According to coach and general manager Paul Gagne they did their partying prior to the contest and he isn’t impressed, to say the least.
“I think our boys were a little tired tonight,” he said.
“When you go out two nights before a game until three or four in the morning, of course you are going to be tired. I am not very pleased and we are going to address the situation.
“That’s the kind of commitment we are getting from these players, so we have issues right now and I am not happy.”
Tired, or not, the Rock did not lose Monday night’s game due to a lack of offensive opportunities.
“We should have had about eight goals,” Gagne said.
“He (Eskies goalie Matthew Camilleri) made some incredible saves. Obviously, it made a big difference. He was outstanding and by far the best player on the ice.
“We could have scored at least another seven goals, but when you are a little tired, when you are partying, when you are not making a commitment, you are not as sharp as you should be, right. And we weren’t sharp. We were exhausted. I am not saying everybody, but a good majority of the players were exhausted tonight and it showed.
“It’s unfortunate. It really is. We have got guys who are committed and some guys who are taking things lightly. If we continue to play the way we did tonight, we might just have eight (six regular season and two playoff) games left in our season.
“We were hoping we had made a statement (9-2 victory in the first half of the home-and-home series) Saturday night and then tonight … the compete level was there, but it is not easy when you are exhausted before the game.”
The Rock fired 18 shots at Camilleri during the first period but went into the intermission trailing 1-0 thanks to Eskis captain David Osborne’s 32nd goal of the season and first of three on the night.
Osborne’s second of the night and 33rd of the season 6:51 into the second period increased the home side’s advantage to 2-0.
The Rock finally got on the board less than two minutes later, when Zachary Kercz scored his 23rd goal of the season, on the power play.
Dillan Bruce beat Rock goalie Logan Ferrington for his eighth goal of the season late in the second period, to restore the Eskis advantage to two goals heading into the second intermission.
That goal would prove to be important, as Landen Matechuk netted his seventh goal of the season, also on the power play, to pull the Rock to within one goal early in the third period.
That’s the way the scored remaining — thanks in large part to the stellar play of Camilleri — until late in the period when the Rock pulled Ferrington in favour of an extra attacker.
Osborne completed his hat-trick by depositing his 34th goal of the season into the empty net with one minute remaining on the clock to make the final score 4-2.
Camilleri dedicated Monday night’s victory to his mom, Wanda Camilleri, who has battled heart disease.
“My mom has been somebody who has been with me for my whole career,” he said.
“She has struggled through her battles with heart problems and it has been something that has inspired me. And tonight, with it being Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation Night, I wanted to kind of do something for her, as well as anybody else who suffers from heart problems or stroke problems. Our coach, Corey Bricknell, has a brother who is recovering from a stroke he suffered four years ago.
“My mom is doing very well and things have been a lot better for her. She went through a couple of surgeries and things are looking up. She has to watch out as much as she likes to be active. When she comes to my games, she really has to watch her emotions. When she is in the crowd, she is making saves just like I am.”
Camillerie and his teammates were able to feed off the energy of the crowd Monday night.
“Emotions were higher tonight and I was able to channel them and my teammates were also able to channel them so that we could get a big win. It means a lot,” he said.
“We have won two out of the last three games against the Rock and in the end, we are going to be playing them in the playoffs.
“We have got to beat them two out of three times and we have shown we can do it and that’s what we are planning to do, come playoffs.”
The Eskis put in a lot of work in the film room to get ready for Monday night’s game.
“We went over a lot of video with our coaches,” Camilleri said.
“We were in the dressing room last night watching video preparing for today. We know the style of play they like to employ. They like to cycle the puck in the corners and if that doesn’t work, they like to move it up top. We did a good job of containing them.
“Our D really stepped up and limited the angles of the shots and made it a little bit easier for me tonight. For the most part, I was seeing the puck really well.”
Eskis assistant coach Jamy Bernier was a lot happier with his squad’s effort during the second half of the home-and-home series than he had been with the first half.
“Our game plan, going in, was to try and limit their time and space,” he said.
“They have some really fast skaters and really good puck movers. If you take away their time and space, the rest just kind of takes care of itself.
“I thought we were very successful doing that tonight.”
While the Rock were able to work their cycle effectively, they were not able to generate as many good, quality scoring chances.
“I thought we had a lot more poise tonight in our own zone than we have had lately,” Bernier said.
“We got a couple of defencemen back in the lineup tonight and that was key for us. We were a lot more experienced on the backend than we were on Saturday night. We played calm. We did our jobs and we really didn’t try to do anything more than we were asked to do.
“We had our forwards pitching in in the defensive zone, as well, and that was huge. We rolled from there.”
Blake Holowaty, who normally plays forward for the Eskis, continued to patrol the blue-line Monday night and again didn’t look out of position.
“When we made the trade, we knew that Blake was capable of playing both positions,” Bernier said.
“Right now, we have (Kyle) Sutherland out for a couple of more games and Blake has been doing the job down the stretch for us. He has been practising hard and it is paying off for him. He is a very experienced hockey player, a western boy who likes to play the body.”
Like everybody in the rink, Bernier was impressed with the play of Camilleri Monday night.
“Matthew has been coming around big time for us lately,” he said.
“He has played huge for us the last couple of games. He really showed what he is capable of doing tonight. He really challenges well and he makes the first stops, no if, ands or buts about it.”
The assistant coach was also impressed with the play of the Eskis’ captain, as well.
“Osborne has a knack for finding the back of the net and he is a player who thrives on big moments,” Bernier said.
“He somehow finds the twine when we need him to. Tonight, having him complete the hat-trick was just the cherry on top of the cake for all of us.
“Our secondary scoring was also huge tonight. We had a big goal (the game-winner) from Dillan Bruce late in the second period and that kind of gave us a lift going into the third period.”
“Our fourth line and our third line are just tremendous in shut-down roles right now. They are playing outstanding hockey for what we have asked them to do. They are coming up huge for us at a key time in the season.”
Given the rivalry that has developed over the 10 games the Rock and the Eskis have played in the regular season, it is a safe bet the intensity for a best-of-three first-round playoff series will be off the scale.
“The Jus Jordan was just rocking tonight,” Bernier said.
“The boys came to play and we pretty well instilled that this game was a preview of the playoffs.”
Camilleri made 49 saves to earn the victory for the Eskis, while Ferrington stopped 34 of the 37 shots fired his was and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The Eskis wore replicas of the original red Iroquois Falls Eskimos jerseys that made their debut during the 1957 season … The three stars were Osborne, Camilleri and Eskis forward Jacob Erwin, who had two assists … The Rock went 2-6 on the power play, while the Eskis were 0-8 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Jus Jordan Arena was 400 … Monday’s other NOJHL action saw the Voodoos edge the Espanola Express 3-2 in Powassan and the Soo Thunderbirds get past the Soo Eagles 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will travel to Powassan for a game with the Voodoos Friday night and then to French River to take on the Rapids Saturday night … The Eskis will play the same two teams on the opposite nights.