Eskis setting sights

The Eskis are working towards making it eight. Despite going 1-1 in February, the Abitibi Eskimos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League have won seven of their last 10 games, and they’re working towards making it eight when they square off against the Blind River Beavers on Saturday at the Jus Jordan Area. The Beavers sit alone in the basement of the Western Division with six wins through 44 games, while the Eskis occupy second place in the Eastern Division, 10 points out of top spot and four points up on the third place North Bay Trappers. “It doesn’t matter if they (the Beavers) have six, 16 or 26 games won, it really doesn’t matter,” said Paul Gagne, head coach and general manager of the Abitibi Eskimos. “We have seven games left, and you know what, we have to put ourselves into a playoffs frame of mind. We have to play some great hockey.” The Eskis have been playing some great hockey. Last week, Marc-Alain Begin recorded his 100th point in the season, which set a record for the Club. “It’s a nice thing to have 100 points,” said Begin. “Two years ago I had 98 and my buddy Felix Boutin had 99 points. To get a 100 is pretty cool to be honest.” With the Trappers within striking distance of the Eskis, Gagne has the guys hard at work. “North Bay Trappers are four points behind us with two games in hand,” said Gagne. “At practice on Thursday, we were talking about tweaking our program a little bit just to get us ready. When it comes to playoffs you can make adjustments, but when you make adjustments against another team, you have to still have your own program at 100%. We’re getting the guys mentally prepared with playoffs right around the corner.” Gagne added, “Basically that’s where we have to get that train of thought. We want to maintain our second place overall advantage, and if we can have that advantage it makes a big difference. We’re talking about it now, even with seven games left, to make sure we’re ready.” The Eskis could come away with home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs if they can maintain their hold on second place. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Sudbury Cubs would take on the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, while the Eskis would face the Trappers. “We’re going to be playing hockey to maintain that second place advantage,” said Gagne. “We’ve been playing some great hockey even though we had a loss the other night, but all in all we’ve been playing great hockey.” Corey Hamel, who centres a line with Begin and Richard Therrien was recently named player of the week by the NOJHL. “Hamel has benefited from playing with Begin and Therrien,” said Gagne. “He’s played some simple hockey, but he’s making things happen. He’s gotten a lot of garbage goals.” Winger Therrien is listed questionable for the game againstBlindRiver. “I don’t think he’ll be in the lineup,” said Gagne.