ELLIOT LAKE - The Abitibi Eskimos wrapped up a three-game road trip with a wild 7-6 double overtime victory over the Elliot Lake Bobcats Sunday night.
Zach Innes’ second goal of the game proved to be the game winner, as the Eskimos increased their lead over the Bobcats to five points in the NOJHL standings.
Innes drove to the net, took a pass from Ryan Tront and buried a shot behind Bobcats goalie Alex Bitsaskas.
Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne was pleased with the two points and the four-point road trip, but not so much with his team’s play during the final five minutes of regulation on Sunday.
“I don’t ever want to see us do that again,” he said.
“We didn’t play all that well. We should have been supporting that two goal lead with five minutes to play.
“I was not pleased with the way we played in those five minutes obviously.
“We don’t want to find ourselves in that position again and if we do it will be because we made the same little mental mistakes.”
Those five minutes aside, however, Gagne was pleased with the way the Eskimos played Sunday night.
Goals by Aviv Milner and Brett Wagner 48 seconds apart allowed the Bobcats to erase a 5-3 Eskimos’ lead in the closing minutes of the final period.
The Eskimos retook the lead on Brenden Locke’s second goal of the game, but Jason Berube’s goal with 1:27 to play in regulation got the Bobcats back on even terms and sent the game to overtime.
Locke finished the Eskimos three-game road trip with four goals, giving him 16 in his rookie season.
“He is playing with (Landon) Hiebert and they are really playing well together,” Gagne said.
“There is a certain chemistry. They talk hockey plays and they really feed off of each other and it is nice to see a 16 year old and a 20 year old doing well together. Hiebs is really taking care of him.”
Locke is certainly appreciative of the experience Hiebert brings to the line.
“Getting points is always a positive, but my wingers really help me out,” he said.
“This game we really worked hard and got some points.
“On the first goal, the D were working the puck down low in our zone and then they chipped it over to Hiebert and then I called for the puck and he put in right on my stick and I walked into the slot and I fired it low blocker side and it went in.
“The second goal was on the power play. It was a good play from Hiebert on the boards to Innes and then Innes found me in front of the net and I went low blocker again.
“Their goalie was pretty shaky tonight. We saw that after a couple of shots he let in some weak goals.
“We didn’t get too many shots on him, but when we did we capitalized.”
Locke was pleased to see Innes finally find the back of the net with a couple of goals Sunday night.
“He was snake bitten before,” he said.
“Things weren’t working for him, but he kept positive and kept on working and he got third goal and then he got the game-winning goal.”
Locke realizes the importance of the four points the Eskimos were able to earn on the road trip.
“That’s huge for us, because we are battling for the third spot right now and we are a couple of points ahead of these guys,” he said.
“So this win made it that much harder for them to catch up to us.”
Amazingly, given that the two teams combined for 13 goals, neither team was able to find the back of the net during the first period of play.
It didn’t take them long to get the ball rolling in the second period, however, as Bryan McFarlane put the home side in front at the 1:46 mark of the middle frame.
The Eskimos then got goals from Locke and Brennan Roy, on the power play, to take a 2-1 lead.
Jared Walker tied the score at 2-2 16 seconds after Roy’s goal, but Innes put the Eskimos back in front 1:07 later.
Max Glashauser’s power-play goal with 30 seconds to play in the second period sent the two teams to the dressing room tied 3-3 after 40 minutes of play.
Tront and Erik Robichaud scored goals to put the Eskimos in front 5-3 heading into the fateful final five minutes of play.
Eskimos goaltender Brody Wagner stopped 60 of the 66 shots the Bobcats fired his way to earn the victory, while Bitsaskas, of the Bobcats, made 36 saves while suffering the loss.
“Mr. Wagner was incredible in net tonight,” Gagne said.
“He faced 66 shots, but they shoot from everywhere … from the neutral zone, from just over the blue line.
“Yes, he had to make those saves and if there is a rebound there are two shots on net and a little bit of jamming at him and that’s three shots automatically.
“It is no indication of a dominance of the game by the Bobcats. They didn’t dominate, not a chance in the world.
“It was an up and down game in the third period. It was wide open and there were a lot of mistakes on both sides.
“The defensive game was not at its best, but we persevered and we got our two points.
“We are not happy with our performance, but we are happy with the outcome.”
Both teams went 2-5 five on the power play.
With the victory, the Eskimos are now five points ahead of the Bobcats in the standings, but Elliot Lake has two games in hand.
And they are just two points behind the third-place Rivermen, but Espanola also has two games in hand.
The Eskimos will return to action on Friday night when they host the North Bay Trappers at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins and then on Saturday night when they host the Blind River Beavers at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Game time for both games is 7:30 p.m.