IROQUOIS FALLS – A strong second period gave the Eskimos their third win of the season, pulling the club out of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League crawlspace with a 6-2 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners on Saturday night.
The team has struggled during second periods throughout the season.
The Abitibi Eskimos have only managed to score seven goals during that frame as compared to 17 goals against through 11 games.
But Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena was a different story as the Eskimos managed to score twice in the middle frame, while Kirkland Lake was left off the scoresheet although both clubs traded 20 shots a piece on net.
“Maybe it’s because the way we played in the first,” said Eskimos head coach and general manager Paul Gagne. “We didn’t play that great. We had a few mistakes and it cost us. They kept their heads up and next thing you know, it’s the second period, they worked hard, did their job and they got compensated with a couple of goals.”
Abitibi captain Richard Therrien recorded two markers in the second period to extend the Eskimos’ lead to 4-2 before leaving the game following a misconduct penalty at 15:07.
His first came at 9:55 of the second with an assist going to new Eskimo Dustin Jesseau.
His second came less than three minutes later while Abitibi was enjoying a powerplay.
Defenceman Ryan Kerr and new pick-up, Timmins native Ryan Wildman assisted on the play.
However, things didn’t start the way they wanted to in the first period as the Gold Miners jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the midway point with goals from Jordan Briand and Matt Schwehr.
Aaron Kerr got the Eskimos on the board with his first of two goals on the evening, when he managed to penetrate Chris Kommas’ armour with a near-side bad-angle shot that made its way past the Kirkland Lake netminder at 16:31 of the first.
Eskimos defenceman Kevin Walker was definitely paying attention because he scored in nearly identical fashion to Kerr about three-and-half minutes later.
Eskimos goalie Etienne Roy got his first home start of the season, turning aside 36 shots to earn the win.
“He made some big saves in tight a couple of times,” said Gagne. “He took care of the rebounds, he handles the puck really well, moving the puck well to the wingers and the defence. He wasn’t nervous because it was his first home game. He was focused. It’s nice to have two good goalies.”
The Eskimos were fairly disciplined throughout the game despite losing their captain in the second period.
Abitibi found themselves down a man six times in the contest, but prevented Kirkland Lake from scoring on the powerplay by keeping the Gold Miners’ attack to the outside.
Early in the third period, the Eskimos were down two men as forward Zach Innes was sent off at 2:56 of the third and Cody Parker was sent off just over a minute later putting Abitibi on the five-on-three.
The Eskimos collapsed down in the defensive zone preventing the Gold Miners from any quality chances, instead forcing the visiting club to take long-distance shots.
“It’s about responsibility and the kids that are out there should be out there penalty-killing,” said Gagne. “That’s their role and they do it effectively. That was a big difference in the game because it’s about momentum.”
Abitibi built on its momentum in the third period with Kerr picking up his second goal of the game and fifth of the season, six behind Therrien for the team lead.
The way the play developed was a demonstration of hustle by defenceman Simon Desrosiers who leads the Eskimos blueliners with seven assists through 11 games.
Desrosiers skated from one side of the ice to the other to keep the puck in the offensive zone, stretching out with his stick to stop the disc.
He threw it on net from the blue-line, where Kerr picked up the loose puck, putting it past Komma for a powerplay goal.
“He’s (Desrosiers) coming around,” said Eskimos assistant coach Marc Cashmore. “He’s got good vision and a good shot when he uses it. He’s our anchor on the powerplay.”
Jesseau picked up his second point of the game on the play and his third point in two games.
“The guys are great, the structure Paul has put in place is really good and everybody is just clicking together,” said Jesseau. “It makes everything 100%, so I feel great and the season is going to just keep getting better from here on out. I just came here to play hockey and not think about anything else. I want to help out the team.”
Gagne said, “He’s a player that brings a new dimension offensively. He creates opportunities, he’s nifty and smart with the puck and it’s his second game. He’ll improve, he’s going to buy into the program and the structure, then he can go ahead and do his own thing. It makes a difference. We needed that and that’s what we got.”
New acquisition Philip Sweeney sealed the deal for the Eskimos when he broke in on Komma with nine seconds left in regulation and picked up shorthanded goal to put the game out of reach.
The Eskimos (3-7-0-1) will have to wait a week before playing again when they host the Blind River Beavers (3-7-1-1).
Notes: The Eskimos will be without the services of Zach Innes (3-8-11) for four games as the Abitibi forward was suspended for spearing in the game versus the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners on Saturday.