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GALLERY: Eskimos edge Gold Miners

IROQUOIS FALLS - Brennan Roy’s power-play goal with 5:43 to play in the third period lifted the Abitibi Eskimos to a 2-1 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena Tuesday night.

“That was a huge goal,” Roy said.

“It was like playoff hockey out there tonight and I was just happy to put one in.”

Roy was knocked on his butt after stuffing the puck past Gold Miners goalie Josh Erickson, but he was more interested in celebrating when he got to his feet than exacting revenge upon the Kirkland Lake defender who hit him.

“It makes it a lot easier playing with a guy like Brenden Locke,” Roy said.

“He is always skating and moving his feet. He is probably the best player I have ever played with on a line.

“He is just always creating plays and we talk a lot on the bench. It is just fun playing hockey with him.”

Roy and Locke were rookies on last year’s Eskimos team, played midget hockey together with the Kapuskasing Flyers before that and grew up playing minor hockey together, although Roy spent most of that time patrolling the blue-line while Locke was centering forward lines.

“He is a character guy and he works as hard off the ice as he does on the ice,” Roy said.

“Even though he is young, he is one of our best leaders on the ice.

“Right now we are rolling and it is just an honour to be on a line with him.”

The converted defenceman, who now has 23 goals on the season, sees big things ahead for the Eskimos.

“The little things are working and right now everyone is confident,” Roy said.

“We are coming in the room with smiles. We are practising harder. The morale is up in the room. Everyone just wants to be here and keep on winning.

“We are loving the roll we are on and we just want to keep going.”

The Eskimos opened the scoring late in the first period Tuesday night when defenceman Joe Olson’s wrist shot from the point caught Erickson going the wrong way and went into the net.

That goal, the first in an Eskimos’ uniform for the Maple Ridge, B.C., native, stood up through the first two periods of play and into the final frame.

The Gold Miners were finally able to get on the scoresheet at 6:37 mark when Hearst native Ryan Auberton crashed the Eskimos’ net and put a shot past goalie Logan Ferrington, to ruin his bid for a shutout.

“We had a pretty good game plan of how to cut down their scoring opportunities,” Ferrington said.

“I like to communicate with my defencemen so I can see the puck.

“We worked together very well in the defensive zone, so that I could see the puck well tonight.”

Ferrington fared much better against the Gold Miners Tuesday night than he did the first time he faced them during a 9-4 loss in Kirkland Lake back on Jan. 6.

The Gold Miners’ best player, centre Steven Babin, put three goals past Ferrington and added an assist in that contest.

Babin remains out of the Gold Miners lineup, however, and Kirkland Lake coach and general manager Marc Lafleur would not speculate after Tuesday night’s game home much longer the Val d’Or, Que., native will be out of action.

“We don’t know yet,” he said, when asked for a timeline for his return.

“It remains to be determined.”

Lafleur was a little surprised at how few goals were scored Tuesday night.

“We are two teams that play, if we can, wide open, but at the same time it was a conservative game out there,” he said.

“I told my players after this game you have to give credit first to Abitibi. They played great, defensive-minded hockey.

“They were in the house often all five guys in D zone coverage and their goalie was outstanding and so was ours, but at the end of the day we need to have offence from guys who provided it before the Babin injury.

“Now all of a sudden you don’t see them anymore and it is the time for them to step up.

“I am a little disappointed. I think I know what we have to work on offensively and it will be addressed starting tomorrow (Wednesday).”

One area where the Gold Miners appeared to be lacking was a desire to drive to the net and pay the price Tuesday night.

“There was a lot of perimeter play tonight from us,” Lafleur said.

“The one rush where we did bring it to the net we scored.

“Guys have to be willing to pay the price and get in those trenches if they want opportunities. At the end of the day, that is what it is.

“If we are struggling offensively, we have to keep it simple and simply outwork our opponent. Right now, we are not doing it as a forward unit.”

After coming back to tie the game in the third period, Lafleur was disappointed his team could not at least force overtime and salvage a point.

“I believe this is the first game in 16 that we have not had a point in a game,” he said.

“It is disappointing and it is disappointing in the way we are doing it right now. There is just a lack of offence from guys.”

Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne was happy to see his team continue its strong play, especially with the playoffs drawing near.

“We talked about biting, scratching and doing everything we could to get the puck in, puck out, fight for the puck, protect the puck,” he said.

“It was quite simple in the third period. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. We didn’t try to do D to D to winger to D and back and forth. We just moved the puck forward and the plexiglass has a lot of marks on it because that is all we did (dump the puck off the glass).

“It was a good team effort. For example, in the third period our third line was in the defensive zone for a minute-and-a-half but we were just in good position. It was awesome. Get the puck out. Get the puck out. Eventually we did and that is what it is all about, winning hockey.”

Gagne was impressed by the play of Ferrington in the Eskimos’ net.

“Logan kept them at bay,” he said.

“He was making big saves and he could see the puck, too.

“His rebound control was incredible. He was in total control of his rebounds. They had a couple of big chances, but he came through.

“He kept us in there and when he keeps us in there, we score one, we score two and it’s game over.”

Even without Babin in the lineup, the Gold Miners have plenty of offensive weapons.

“Weapons? I think they have got five players with 40 or more points,” Gagne said.

“And they have speed, they are not easy to play against, that’s for sure, but we have been playing really well the last 10 games, or so.

“If we can continue to execute and play this well, then we are going to win some games like we did tonight.”

Ferrington made 29 saves to earn the win for the Eskimos, while Erickson stopped 30 shots and was tagged with the loss for the Gold Miners.

ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos and the Gold Miners will play the second half of their home-and-home series at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake Saturday night … The Eskimos’ next home game will be on Sunday afternoon when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the Jus Jordan Arena … The Eskimos were again without the services of forward Ryan Tront , who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury … former Eskimos defenceman Jamey Lauzon drew a chuckle from the crowd when he entered the home side of the penalty box after being assessed a minor penalty for holding during the first period … The Eskimos were 1-4 on the power play, while the Gold Miners went 0-7 with the man advantage.