IROQUOIS FALLS - Brenden Locke’s four-point night helped the Abitibi Eskimos out gun the Espanola Rivermen 9-6 at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
The win allowed the Eskimos to reclaim third place in the NOJHL standings, one point up on the Rivermen who have a game in hand.
Locke, a 16-year-old rookie, scored twice and now has 25 goals. He also picked up a pair of assists in the game.
“My first goal was a good play in front of net by (Erik) Robichaud,” Locke said.
“He just fed it to me and I faked out the goalie a little bit and then just slid it in the net.
“On the second one, (Marc) Dube made a nice play on the boards and (Ryan) Tront was driving to the net, so he drew the D and it opened up a little area in the net and I just put it there.”
It appeared that Locke would have an opportunity to complete his hat-trick late in the third period when the Rivermen pulled their goalie, but he opted to pass instead of shoot as he and his linemates broke in on the empty net.
Robichaud wound up completing the play after getting a pass from Ryan Wildman, who had received the feed from Locke.
“We had to play defence first on that one and we got fortunate to get a lucky bounce,” Locke said.
“Their D missed it and I gave it to Wildman and he gave it to Robichaud and he put it in the net.”
It was Robichaud’s second goal of the night for the Eskimos.
Tront, Zach Innes, Shane Hiley, Brennan Roy and Ryan Wildman each added a goal for the home side.
“Off the rush, the transition game we were playing worked well,” Locke said.
“When we were working it down low, that is when we had most of our success, keeping it down low, cycling it and getting pucks in front of the net.”
Locke realizes just how important Saturday’s victory was for the Eskimos.
“This was a huge game for us because we really want third place,” he said.
“We came in and played hard and we prevailed.”
Locke would not have predicted before the season started that he would be able to hit the 25 goal plateau as a rookie.
“I have just been fortunate to be playing with good guys who have been able to set me up and made plays so that I could put the puck in the net,” he said.
Eskimos assistant coach Dan Dube was pleased to see his team emerge with the victory, but was not so happy about their play in the defensive zone, or their lack of discipline.
“They were costly mistakes and we hate to do that in big games,” he said.
“We had a terrible second period and we were not happy about it. We addressed it (between periods) and the boys found a way to win in the third period.
“They have got those three guys (Brennen Dubchak , Corbin Bean and Brandon Janke) and if you make a mistake with them they are going to find a way to put the puck behind our goaltender.”
Despite the high score, Saturday’s game had the feel of playoff hockey.
“We have been playing playoff hockey for the last 10 games,” Dube said.
“We really knew what was at stake here and we really want third place. The guys were prepared and they were talking hockey. They knew how important this game was.”
While the assistant coach was not happy with the Eskimos D zone play, he couldn’t have been any happier about how things went in the offensive zone.
“I thought Innes had a great game,” he said.
“He back checked well and he put a lot of pressure on them. He is a 20 year old that we count on and he came out big.
“And what can you say about the young Locke, he is well disciplined and he takes care of his own end first and he gets rewarded for it in the offensive zone.
“I thought those two guys played really well for us tonight.”
Defenceman Nathan Campbell had a pair of goals for the Rivermen, while Dubchak, Brad Edwards, Bean and Matthew Busby each scored once for the visitors.
The Eskimos jumped out to a 4-1 first-period lead and never surrendered the lead.
The Rivermen were able to battle back in the second period to cut the Eskimos lead to 6-4.
After the Eskimos extended their advantage to 7-4 early in the third period, the Rivermen netted a pair of goals to make it a one-goal game.
That would be as close as they would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Eskimos added a pair of late goals to make the final 9-6.
Edwards, captain of the Rivermen, was a little disappointed his team was not able to carry over any momentum from their big overtime victory of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Friday night.
“Sometimes you just don’t get the bounces,” he said.
“Tonight we came out a little big flat and had a few mental breakdowns.
“We didn’t get the bounces that we should have early on and like I said we had a few breakdowns that led to goals that we would have liked to have been able to have prevented.”
Edwards admitted that his team spent too much time in the penalty box Saturday night.
“Discipline is a big part of the game,” he said.
“And the team that makes the fewest mistakes on the ice, generally, has a better chance of winning.”
Like the Eskimos, the Rivermen are keen to finish in third place.
“Us finishing third would just give us that much more of an edge,” Edwards said.
Brody Wagner, back from a foot injury, made 45 saves while picking up the victory for the Eskimos. Wagner was relieved briefly by NOJHL Gongshow Gear Player of the Month Sylvain Miron due to an equipment issue.
Rivermen goalies William King and Marc Terriault combined to make 24 saves for the Rivermen.
ESKIMOS NOTES: The Eskimos went 3-11 on the power play, while the Rivermen were 3-7 with the man advantage … The Eskimos were without the services of forwards Brady Clouthier and Landon Hiebert and defenceman Stephen Pettite … Affiliate player Kezmin Madden made his Eskimos debut Saturday night. Madden is a graduate of the Kapuskasing Flyers program … The next home game for the Eskimos will be Monday night at the Jus Jordan Arena when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners. Game time is 7:30 p.m.