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Eskis hand Eagles first loss vs. East

Abitibi cushions its division lead with 5-3 win over Soo

The Abitibi Eskimos increased their lead on the North Bay Trappers by two points Saturday night, with a 5-3 win over the Soo Eagles.

The Eskis are currently in first place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Eastern Division with 20 points and theTrappers are second with 16.

The Eagles are in second in the Western Division, with 22 points.

Eskis coach Paul Gagne is confident the team’s win comes down to one simple thing.

“Special teams made the difference tonight,” said Gagne. “We scored two powerplay goals and only let up two, but the guys showed they could compete with one of the best teams in the league.”

Action at the Igloo started on a scary note for Eskis fans. Five minutes into the game, the team’s leading scorer Marc-Alain Begin got knocked down at the side of his opponent’s net and slid into the boards awkwardly. The trainers walked off the ice with Begin clinging to their shoulders for support.

To the relief of many fans, the Eskis’ sniper returned to the ice shortly afterwards.

And he had an immediate impact.

Begin scored his 16th goal of the year a few minutes later, corralling a loose puck into the back of the Eagles net.

He would later add two assists to help cushion his lead on the league’s scoring race, with 44 points.

The home team skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.

Eskis captain Richard Therrien scored two powerplay markers from nearly identical spots on the ice after the Eagles got themselves on the board early in the second frame.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Therrien, about his position right beside the Eagles back stop for his two powerplay goals. “It’s a hot spot. The rebounds always seem to go there.”

Therrien scored his hat trick goal early in the third period to give his team a 4-1 lead with 15 minutes left on the clock.

“I think every player on our team played an outstanding game,” continued the captain. “We’ve eliminated a lot of the mistakes we were making earlier in the year. We just kept skating hard and playing the program that we set before the game.

“They played yesterday, so we knew if we kept the pressure on their defence, we could get some turn overs and make it happen.

“Most of guys are working really hard this season. Our young guys are stepping up.

“Winning at home is always special,” said Therrien, of the team’s seventh-straight win at the Igloo this year. “I love producing for our fans at home. It’s amazing.”

The Eagles scored another one, before calling their goalie to the bench for an extra attacker on the ice.

Eskis Preston Lacasse capitalized from this and buried his team’s fifth and final goal of the game with 53 seconds remaining.

The Eskis will be looking to continue their undefeated record at home this year when they face off against the Soo Thunderbirds Saturday night at the Igloo.

The Thunderbirds lead the league in the standings, with only one loss and 28 points.