TIMMINS - Brendan Locke’s 30th goal of the season, scored with 38 seconds remaining in the first overtime period, lifted the Abitibi Eskimos to a 4-3 win over the Mattawa Blackhawks at the Archie Dillon Sportsplex Friday night.
“(Brennan) Roy was giving me some pointers on the bench, just telling me what to do and where to go on this tendy (Blackhawks goalie Joe Sheppard),” Locke said.
“He said he had a weak glove and luckily (Brady) Clouthier go it to me, an unreal pass, and I just slid it under his glove there.
“When he goes down, he leaves all the upstairs open. I just found a hole and got it in there.”
Locke also had an assist in Friday night’s game, giving him 60 points in his sophomore season with the Eskimos.
His line, with Roy and captain Kevin Walker, a pair of converted defencemen, has been one of the hottest on the team in recent weeks.
“He (Roy) has really been the backbone of our team the past few games,” Locke said.
“He has been motivating us to be better and we are just finding each other out there on the ice. He is a great player and the chemistry with him has been great, because he knows how to do everything out there.”
The Eskimos jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old on a pair of goals by Roy, his 21rst and 22nd on the season, the first on the power play, but the Blackhawks got one of those two goals back before the end of the first period when Nathan Avery beat Eskimos goalie Logan Ferrington to make it a 2-1 hockey game.
David Osbourne tied the game up at 2-2 for the Blackhawks late in the second period.
The Eskimos failed to find the scoresheet in the second period, but they continued to have solid opportunities.
“We were getting the chances, we just weren’t able to bury them,” Locke said.
“We kept our emotions in check and eventually we came out with the two points, that is what matters.”
Brady Clouthier put the home side back in front midway through the third period, when he scored his 36th goal of the season, but the Blackhawks got back on even terms 41 seconds later when Tanner Bowditch put a shot past Ferrington.
That is the way the score remained until Locke struck for his overtime winner.
Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne was pleased with his team’s effort again Friday night.
“The word is compete, compete, compete,” he said.
“You will see some individual mistakes and they do happen, that’s hockey, but the boys are really playing well. They are in sync. There is hardly any need for coaching on the bench, meaning going over the program. There are hardly any corrections to be made.
“They are just doing their jobs and it is nice.”
Even in the second period, when they were held off the scoresheet, the Eskimos continued to take the play to the Blackhawks.
“We had puck possession in the offensive zone, but we were outside the box,” Gagne said.
“We were playing on the outside, but that was them. It looked like we were dominating, but we weren’t. They were playing great defence. It was just a matter of getting in there and getting a goal here, a goal there.”
Gagne was impressed with the work of both Ferrington and Sheppard.
“Both goaltenders were great tonight,” he said.
“I am glad we got the two points, because we deserved it.
Gagne also had some kind words for the team at the other end of the rink.
“Wasn’t that a nice team to watch?” he asked.
“They have speed. They finish their checks. They move the puck well. They use the boards to chip the puck out.
“They have three or four kids who really do shine. They have some skills there and they compete.
“They are just a changed team, so compliments to the coaching staff. They have got that team going, with a few extra players they would do some damage, for sure.”
Blackhawks coach Taurean White was happy to see his team earn a point Friday night.
“We hadn’t played in a week and a half, almost two weeks, so I figured it was going to be a little touch and go at times,” he said.
“The first period we were a little bit slow, but once we got our feet underneath us in the second period we were able to establish what we wanted to get done.
“We had the one little breakdown in the overtime, and we had a couple of breakdowns on a couple of goals that we don’t normally make, but coming off a layout like we had I am very happy with the first game back.”
Even with Friday night’s overtime loss, the Blackhawks have a record of 7-4-0-2 since Dec. 1— a marked improvement over the start of the season.
“Our guys are really committing to puck possession,” White said.
“Competing is probably the one thing we are really known for and we are trying to enhance our hockey IQ. We are constantly watching video, so that the guys are maybe able to see hockey from a bit of a different perspective.
“A lot of the concepts we have asked the guys to embrace, they certainly have and it has allowed us to be a little bit successful right now.”
Ferrington made 33 saves to pick up the victory for the Eskimos, while Blackhawks goalie Joe Sheppard turned aside 39 shots and was tagged with the loss.
ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos were again without the services of forward Ryan Tront (upper-body injury), but forward Kyle Levis returned to the lineup … The Eskimos next game is on Tuesday night, when they will host the East Division-leading Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls … The Eskimos were 1-5 on the power play, while the Blackhawks were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 652.