IROQUOIS FALLS - Brennan Roy scored three goals and set up two others to lead the Abitibi Eskimos to a convincing 8-2 win over the Cochrane Crunch at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
The victory — the third-straight for the Eskimos — pulled the home side within three points of the second-place Crunch in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
Eskimos assistant coach and general manager Dan Dube was all smiles following Saturday night’s victory.
“The guys are starting to gel here and they are starting to buy into what we are teaching them,” he said.
“They are understanding their roles.
“It is always good to get a victory and have a good performance on home ice, in front of our fans. There were a lot of people here tonight.”
The Eskimos jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the first period when captain Kevin Walker stuffed a shot behind Crunch starting goalie Brett Young.
That is the way the score remained until late in the opening frame when Dustin Cordeiro beat Eskimos goalie Logan Ferrington with an unassisted effort to tie things up at 1-1.
“The second part of the first period, I thought we were playing a little bit as individuals,” Dube said.
“We were starting to make little mental mistakes. The guys were well aware of what was coming at them. They (Cochrane) put a lot of pressure on us at the end of the first period.
“We adjusted in the second and we capitalized on our opportunities. Our big guys were our big guys tonight and our third line was full of energy and it was giving their teammates energy.
“They were drawing penalties against them. It was a good team effort.”
The assistant coach was impressed with the performance of Roy, a defenceman who was filling in up front due to a number of injuries.
“He has got that offensive touch,” Dube said.
“He has scored a lot of goals on the point (on the power play) and we have a little bit of an injury but right now.
“Roy has filled in perfectly with (Brenden) Locke. You can see that there is a connection there with Locke and he just has that touch around the net.
“He got rewarded tonight and he is just starting to get comfortable. It is only his third game playing forward.
“Guys who have offensive talent usually find a way to succeed when they play forward.”
Like the Nickel Barons Friday night, the key for the Eskimos to shut down Cochrane’s high-flying offence was that they were all on the same page defensively.
“We wanted to make sure we got five guys deep in our zone and make sure that we came out as a unit,” Dube said.
“If we couldn’t get anything going with a pass in our defensive zone, we just wanted to get it out.
“That was another key to our success, also.”
Cordeiro’s second goal of the game put the Crunch in front 2-1 7:44 into the second period.
It took defenceman Kealey Cummings just 18 seconds to get the Eskimos back on even terms, however, as he scored the first of seven-straight goals for the home side.
A key turning point occurred 21 seconds later when Cordeiro and Eskimos defenceman Joshua DeJulio dropped the gloves and started throwing punches.
Both players received five-minute fighting majors and game misconducts and Cordeiro received a two-minute minor penalty for instigating.
The normally talkative Ryan Leonard, coach, general manager and owner of the Crunch, had little to say following Saturday night’s loss.
“I am not going to comment too much,” he said.
“Our team played undisciplined at times, but we were forced to play undisciplined.
“It was a good hockey game right up until that fight started where we got the instigator and from there on in the show was given and that was the end of the night.
“I am not going to comment no more tonight.”
Roy converted the odd man advantage, netting what would eventually prove to be the game-winning goal.
A power-play goal by Brady Clouthier and even-strength goals from Roy, Brenden Locke and Clouthier sent the Eskimos to the second intermission enjoying a 7-2 lead.
Roy’s third goal of the game closed out the scoring and made the final 8-2 in favour of the Eskimos.
“It felt pretty good playing forward tonight,” he said.
“I spent a bit of time playing forward in school hockey, but nothing serious like this.
“It makes it a lot easier when you are playing with guys like Brenden Locke and Kevin Walker.
“The first goal I got tonight, we were on the power play and somebody missed the net and the rebound bounced out to me and I just shot it on net, hoping for the best. The second one, Lockey attempted a wrap around and I was just there for a tap in. The third one, Lockey fed me in the slot and it was just a one-timer.”
The victory, from Roy’s perspective, was a little sweeter given that it came against the Crunch.
“This rivalry has been building since last year,” he said.
“It has been going on all year. We play these guys more than anyone else in the league, so it gets emotional out there and you just want to play your heart out every game against these guys.”
Early in the year, the Eskimos struggled against the Crunch both on home ice and at the Tim Horton Event Centre but they have now won two in a row against their Highway 11 rivals.
“We are playing with a lot more confidence now against these guys,” Roy said.
“We have got a couple of wins and we just have to keep this streak rolling and work hard in practice.”
Dube was also pleased with a few of the role players on the Eskimos roster who came up big Saturday night, including Dalton Bruce.
“That third line created momentum for the rest of the lines,” he said.
“They were drawing penalties. They were in the other team’s face. They were going to the net. They were finishing their checks and when I say that guys are starting to buy into their roles, that is an example of what I am talking about.
“Guys like Bruce were playing in-your-face hockey tonight.”
Ferrington made 39 saves to pick up the victory for the Eskimos, while Young stopped 30 of the 38 shots the Eskimos fired his way and was tagged with the loss before giving way to Ben Auger, who stopped all eight shots he faced.
NOJHL NOTES — The Eskimos were without the services of forwards Ryan Tront (upper-body injury), Ryan Attwood (upper-body injury), Kyle Levis (upper-body injury) and Cosimo Amore (two-game suspension … Forward Josh Racek (lower-body injury) missed his second-straight game for the Crunch … The Eskimos went 2-11 on the power play, while the Crunch went 0-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 484 … The Eskimos will return to action Wednesday night when they travel to Sudbury for a game with the Nickel Barons … The Crunch will kicked off a three-game road trip Thursday night in Sault Ste. Marie against the Thunderbirds.