TIMMINS - The intensity ramped up during Day 3 of the Abitibi Eskimos four-day tryout camp at the Whitney Arena Thursday night, with two players almost coming to blows late in the second half of the scrimmage.
Team Black defenceman Zach Joron caught Team White blue-liner Ryan Kerr with a hip check that sent the later crashing into the boards.
Kerr, taking exception to what he felt was a low hit dangerously close to the knee, chased Joron to the side of the Team Black net and swatted at him a number of times with his stick and pushed and shoved him in hopes of getting Joron to drop his gloves.
Joron declined the invitation to dance, however, and cooler heads prevailed as the action progressed up the ice and both players went to their respective benches.
Kerr is an Eskimos veteran, expected to be one or at least four returnees on the blue-line this season, while Joron (29, 3-5-8, 104), who was making his first appearance at the tryout camp, last played for the Kirkland Lake Legion 87s in the Great North Midget League during the 2012-13 season.
“The intensity certainly picked up,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We almost witnessed a little fisticuffs there tonight. It is good to see that intensity, definitely.”
While Gagne was pleased with the intensity and the compete level, he was not as impressed with the possibility of losing a veteran defenceman to a knee injury.
“You just don’t want to see that happen, on a low check like that, especially in training camp,” he said.
“We talked about it … play fair, play the game. We just want to see skills, skating ability, shooting, stick handling, goal scoring, back checking. You don’t want to see any stupid stuff, for sure.”
Another new face on the ice Thursday night for the Eskimos was forward Ryan Attwood (55, 9-10-19, 45) who played for the Espanola Rivermen, then of the NOJHL, last season.
Attwood, 6-2 and 185 pounds, made a positive first impression with his speed and hands.
“The only thing I can remember about him is that every time they played us he must have had his best games,” Gagne said.
“He was tenacious, he showed a lot of speed, he just made things miserable for us every time he was on the ice.
“Like I said, he has plenty of speed and he has a great shot. The way he played against us, we just hated when he was out on the ice.”
The Eskimos had hoped to have Attwood on the ice for the start of the tryout camp on Tuesday, but he was unable to make it until Thursday because of work commitments.
“We are glad that he was able to make it tonight,” Gagne said.
“He wants to be here and we are hoping to sign him.”
Two other players who made a positive impression on Gagne Thursday night were Iroquois Falls native Dillan Bruce and Hearst native Raphael Lecours, both of whom are just 16 years old.
“They mostly played together tonight,” Gagne said.
“There was a little bit of chemistry there. What I mean by that is that in the defensive zone they were both conscious of their defensive play, watching their man, in good position and then as soon as there was a little turnover they would accelerate and within three seconds they would get a shot on net.
“They were using their speed. They were really working well together.”
Bruce (28, 16-10-26, 28), who is 5-11 and 190 pounds, played for the Timmins Majors in 2013-114, while Lecours (16, 6-5-11, 26), who is 6-3 and 185 pounds, spent the season with the Kapuskasing Flyers.
Forward Taylor Bowman, from North Vancouver, and defenceman Matt Wilson, from Ottawa, continued to have strong camps, as well.
“Wilson is a beautiful player to see back there,” Gagne said.
“He is just so calm with the puck and he does the right things with the puck.
“Tonight, I thought Bowman excelled a little bit more than last night. He scored a couple of goals, in tight, down low. It may be just a matter of confidence.
“He showed a little bit more confidence tonight. It is looking good for these two hopeful additions to our club.”
One player who has secured a spot on the Eskimos 2014-15 roster is Iroquois Falls native Josh DeJulio.
“We talked to him last night and we have made a commitment to him and he has made a commitment to us,” Gagne said.
“He scored a nice goal on a backhand shot in the offensive zone tonight.
“His play, though, is mostly defence first and he takes care of his own end. He moves the puck well
DeJulio (30, 8-37-35, 40), who is 6-2 and 187 pounds, played for the Flyers in 2013-14 and had a cup of coffee with the Eskimos at the end of the season.
“It is a bit of a relief, for sure,” DeJulio said.
“I just went out there and played my game, showed them what my game is all about. I think I did pretty well.”
Given that the Eskimos have at least four and maybe five veteran defencemen returning, earning a spot on the blue-line was no easy accomplishment.
“The play has been getting quicker out there and you have to start making quicker decisions,” DeJulio said.
“Guys are starting to get used to the pace and the rust is coming off. The intensity was a lot higher today.”
Goalie Alex Chandler, whom the Eskimos signed before the start of the tryout camp, had perhaps his best session on Thursday.
“I was impressed with the way he challenged the shooters,” Gagne said.
“A couple of times he was outside of that blue circle. I was impressed with the way he played, definitely.”
While there were a pair of new faces in camp Thursday night, there were also a pair of players who were not on the ice.
Goaltender Jordan Carlson, a Thunder Bay native, left camp to return home, while former Eskimo Aaron Kerr departed for Acadie-Bathurst and the start of the Titan camp on Monday.
The Eskimos tryout camp concludes at the Whitney Arena Friday night.