SUDBURY - A second-period meltdown proved costly for the Abitibi Eskimos Wednesday night.
In the span of eight-and-a-half minutes the Eskimos gave up four goals to the Sudbury Nickel Barons en route to a 6-3 loss at the McClelland Arena.
“It was awful,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We had no assignments and no commitment whatsoever.
“It was just awful hockey.”
The Eskimos actually led the game 1-0 in the first period, as defensive forward Jacob Kenney scored the first of his two goals on the night to put the visitors ahead midway through the frame.
The Wolves were able to tie it up at 1-1 late the period, however, perhaps providing a clue of what was to come when play resumed after the first intermission.
Bradley Bell’s power-play goal beat Eskimos goalie Brody Wagner with less than two minutes to play in the period.
“We played well in the first period,” Gagne said.
“It was a good period. We just had the one little assignment missed and it cost us a goal.
“We were sitting pretty, but then going into the second period we didn’t help Brody at all, whatsoever.
“They were scoring from in front of the net. We weren’t taking our man. We were missing assignments and we never helped Brody out at all.”
All four of the Nickel Barons’ second-period goals were scored at even strength, so special teams didn’t really factor into the meltdown.
Josh Moore, Patrick Lepage, Jimmy Roy and August Jarecki scored the goals that put the Nickel Barons up 5-1.
The Eskimos actually out shot the Nickel Barons 12-11 in the period.
“I can’t say the shots (Sudbury scored on) were quality shots,” Gagne said.
“The puck was in the front of the net, sitting there, and all they had to do was take one whack, two whacks and then score.
“It was a case of somebody not doing their assignments, not taking their man.
“We never supported our goalie, whatsoever.”
The Eskimos actually got a couple of second-period goals to cut the Sudbury lead to 5-3 before the intermission.
Kenney netted his second goal of the game and sixth of the season and a minute-and-a-half later rookie centre Brenden Locke scored his 20th goal of the season.
“Jacob played extremely well,” Gagne said.
“On the first goal, the faceoff was taken by (Brady) Clouthier and the puck went to the point and he had a nice deflection.
“The second goal, he was in front of the net, with a player all over him and he got a pass from (Zach) Innes behind the net and he stood his ground and buried it.
“It’s nice to see, because that is the kind of goals we need to score once in a while.
“We have to spend more time in front of the net and play in traffic. Tonight we (other than Kenney) did not want to do that.”
That would prove to be as close as the Eskimos would come to getting back on even terms, however, as Khadyn Butterfly netted the only goal of the third period to make the final score 6-3 in favour of the home side.
There was no secret to what the Nickel Barons were doing better than the Eskimos on Wednesday night.
“They out worked us and they made fewer mistakes than we did,” Gagne said.
“We were just making mistakes that I would call September mistakes. We shouldn’t be making them at this time of the year.
“We are going to have to regroup and go from there.”
The Eskimos will spend much of their practice Thursday night trying to eliminate the “September mistakes” that plagued them for too much of a February game.
“We are not happy with our game right now, so we are going to work on it and try to put on a good show at home on Friday,” Gagne said.
Sudbury goalie Andrew Lefebvre turned aside 28 Eskimos shots to pick up the victory, while Wagner made 27 saves while suffering the loss.
The Eskimos welcomed back defenceman Steven Pettite to the lineup during Wednesday’s game.
Pettite, one of the Eskimos more steady, stay-at-home blue liners, has missed a number of games with a lower body injury.
“He played some pretty good hockey, considering it was his first game in a week, or so,” Gagne said.
Fellow blue liner Jamey Lauzon remains out of the lineup, however, as he continues to exhibit concussion-like symptoms.
Right winger Andrew Green was a healthy scratch for Wednesday night’s game.
The loss was costly for the Eskimos given that they were not able to increase their lead over the Espanola Rivermen for third place in the NOJHL standings.
Worse yet, the Rivermen now have three games in hand on the Eskimos who have just seven games remaining to play in the regular season.
With Wednesday’s victory, the Nickel Barons have now won four of their past six games.
The two teams will meet again at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins on Friday night.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The game will be the fifth and final home game for the Eskimos at the McIntyre Arena this season.
They have won three of the first four, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Nickel Barons, a 5-3 setback on Oct. 4.