IROQUOIS FALLS – Brett Ouderkirk scored three goals and added three assists as the Eskimos defeated the Timmins Rock 8-6 at the Jus Jordan Arena Wednesday night.
The 18-year-old Monkland, Ont., native was relieved to see his squad earn its first win of the season.
“It is a lot of weight off our shoulders, that’s for sure,” Ouderkirk said.
“We were out there buzzing every shift trying to get that first win and it feels good.”
The outcome of the game remained in doubt until Ouderkirk scored the third of his three goals into the empty net, as the Rock began applying heavy pressure with about three minutes to go in the third period.
“It was a little nerve wracking at times, but we knew what we had to do,” he said.
“We knew that we just had to drop down the house (crease area) and play some D. We knew we could do it.”
What was the secret to the Eskimos battling back every time the Rock took a two-goal lead in the hockey game?
“Every time we got down, we just said to ourselves ‘one more shot.’ Keep buzzing around the net. We knew that every shift we had to go out there and win it and things just worked out.”
Ouderkirk, who had one goal in the Eskimos first two games, stepped up his game when his team needed him the most.
“On the first goal, I saw the seal on the back door and I just had a feeling my linemate was going to toss it to me and thankfully he did,” he said.
“The second one, I used the D as bait and came off the wall and saw an opening low glove.”
Ouderkirk admitted getting the team’s first win against the team that left Iroquois Falls and moved to Timmins to become the Rock felt a little extra special.
“Of course it feels good,” he said.
Eskimos coach and assistant general manager Corey Bricknell was all smiles after Wednesday night’s victory.
“For the community, this means a lot,” he said.
“It also means a lot for me that we finally got a win. We have been working hard. Our coaching staff has been working hard. Our players have been working hard.
“The scores of our first two games didn’t really reflect what our team is, so it is nice to see we finally got some bounces and stuff like that.”
After four times spotting the Rock two-goal leads, the Eskimos were finally able to get over the hump late in the contest.
“A couple of times when we scored and made it a one-goal game, we lost our focus,” Bricknell said.
“We got a little bit too high. We do have a young dressing room. They might be old in age but we have a lot of first-year junior players. We are learning as we go and this is a feather in our cap.”
Bricknell was pleased to see his team finally put the puck in the net on a consistent basis Wednesday night.
“During our morning skates, we have been working on skills and stuff like that,” he said.
“We have been trying to fill the net as much as we can, but we were snake bit for the first couple of games. It was nice to see we came out of it tonight.”
They may not have shown up on the scoresheet, but the coach was pleased with the play of his fourth line Wednesday night.
“Sam Vigneux, Joey Biers and Brandon St. Denis, they played short minutes but they were a huge part of our team,” Bricknell said.
“They didn’t make any mistakes and they worked hard. We can’t ask any more of them than that.”
The Rock blew four two-goal leads in the contest, allowing the Eskimos to come from behind and post their first victory of the season.
Jacob Erwin brought the crowd of 602 to its feet when he put the home side in front 1-0 at the 4:47 mark of the first period.
The Rock were able to get back on even terms less than six minutes later, however, as Zachary Kercz scored the first of his three goals on the night for the Rock.
Timmins added two more goals before the end of the opening from to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Bain Cunningham and Kercz scored goals less than three minutes apart for the Rock.
The back-and-forth contest saw the Eskimos cut the Rock lead to 3-2 just 1:19 into the second period, as defenceman Stuart Harley beat Timmins goalie Logan Ferrington.
Timmins restored its two-goal advantage less than four minutes later, as Tyler Planetta beat Josh Horner, spelling an end to the Eskimos goalie’s night.
“I just thought that Josh was fighting the puck again and I wanted to get him out to see if we could change the momentum,” Bricknell said.
“It’s 50-50. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight it worked and I am lucky it did.”
Dan Davies came on in relief of Horner and the switch seemed to provide the home side with a little momentum.
David Osbourne scored the first of his two power-play goals to cut the Rock lead to 4-3.
Again, Timmins pulled in front by a pair of goals, as Devin Panzeca scored a shorthanded goal less than a minute-and-a-half after Osbourne’s marker.
The goals kept coming fast and furious, as Kezmin Madden scored a power-play goal to cut the Rock lead to 5-4.
That’s the way the second period ended, but the two squads resumed their offensive outbursts early in the third period.
First Kercz beat Davies at the 3:04 mark to complete his hat-trick and put the visitors in front 6-4.
Then Osbourne netted his second of the night, also on the power play, 41 seconds later to again cut the Rock advantage to one goal.
Ouderkirk netted his first goal of the night, on the power play, less than three minutes later to tie things up at 6-6 and send the fans into a frenzy.
The noisy level was raised a few more levels when Ouderkirk’s second-consecutive power-play goal put the Eskimos in front 7-6 with just over eight minutes remaining on the clock.
The Rock buzzed around the Eskimos net looking for the equalizer and pulled Ferrinton with just over a minute to play, but the home side sealed the deal when Ouderkirk deposited his third goal of the night into the empty net with 43.2 seconds remaining in the game.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was not happy with many aspects of his team’s game Wednesday night.
“Performance wise, I would give us a two out of 10 tonight,” he said.
“We played so sluggish. I am not happy with the way we played. The players are not happy with the way we played.
“We played so well the last two games and we prepared well for tonight. We even started off well after that first goal but I think we thought we were a little too good after we would get a couple of goal lead. Then, all of a sudden, we weren’t even sticking to our program.
“We didn’t play well, whatsoever. We had some passengers. We had some other guys who put in incredible efforts, but when goals are scored there are mistakes that being made.”
Gagne was impressed with the team on the other side of the ice surface, however.
“You know what, good for them,” he said.
“They took a beating the last two games and tonight they showed a lot of character. They came back. They were down three or four times by two goals, so kudos to them. They did a great job.”
Asked if there were any positives he could take from Wednesday night’s loss, Gagne did not hesitate.
“Not really,” he said.
“The only positive is that we are going to go home and work hard at practice tomorrow (Thursday) to get ready for the weekend.”
Davies turned aside 21 of the 23 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Eskimos, while Horner stopped 25 of the 29 shots fired his way by the Eskimos.
Ferrington made 36 saves and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — Defenceman Braxton Davis made his debut in a Rock uniform Wednesday night wearing the No. 5 jersey previously worn by fellow blue-liner Justin Mendoza, who has switched to No. 10 … The Rock went 2-3 on the power play and scored a shorthanded goal, while the Eskimos were 5-7 with the man advantage … Wednesday’s other NOJHL games saw the Rayside-Balfour Canadians edge the French River Rapids 5-4 and the Soo Thunderbirds defeat the Blind River Beavers 6-1.