KIRKLAND LAKE - The Gold Miners held on for a 5-4 win over the Abitibi Eskimos and a split of their home-and-home series Saturday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was a lot happier with the outcome of Saturday night’s contest than he was 24 hours earlier with the 8-5 setback Kirkland Lake suffered in the first game of the series, but still not totally pleased with his squad’s effort.
“We competed more, but we still have a ways to go, if we want to be serious contenders for this league,” he said.
“We played smarter tonight and we changed a couple of things but at the end of the day we were willing to compete.
“Like I said last night, if you don’t compete, everything is going to click for the opposing team. It is that simple.
“Sometimes when we play other teams, if they are not competing it seems like everything is working for us.”
Gold Miners forward Tristen Hazlett beat Eskimos goalie Chet Tooker for the first period’s only goal, sending the home side the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.
Tristan Salesse got the Eskimos back on even terms 6:01 into the second period, when he beat Timmins native Devon Debastos, who got the start in net for Kirkland Lake.
Kyle Levis scored a power-play goal less than eight minutes later to give the Eskimos their only lead of the game and making the score 2-1.
Shortly after than play, the 16-year-old rookie took a costly penalty that earned him a seat in the sin bin and Paul Gagne’s dog house.
It took Connor Thie just 15 seconds to capitalize on the play and tie the score a 2-2 for the Gold Miners.
That is how the second period ended.
Hearst native Ryan Aubertin scored 6:58 into the final period to give the Gold Miners a 3-2 lead.
Jake Holland beat Debastos to tie the score at 3-3 for the Eskimos.
Goals by Tyler Romain and Luc Soares less than two minutes apart put the Gold Miners back in front, 5-3 and appeared to seal the deal for the home side.
Ryan Attwood’s goal with just 47 seconds remaining on the clock closed the score to 5-4 and provided a little extra suspense, however.
With Tooker on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, the Eskimos came close to forcing overtime, but the Gold Miners were able to weather the storm.
“I thought our fourth line (Jeremy Dumont, Romain and Joel Fortin) was our best line tonight,” Lafleur said.
“They kept their game simple. They got the puck deep and they protected the puck. Eventually they got scoring chances out of it, or drew penalties.
“Our three other lines have to learn from their play tonight.”
Lafleur was again pleased with the play of one of the newest members of the Gold Miners.
“(Defenceman) Jamey Lauzon, again, was stellar,” he said.
“He is a pillar out there. He keeps his game simple.”
The Gold Miners acquired Lauzon from the Eskimos in exchange for defenceman Nick Hautanen, a Timmins native, and forward Cosimo Amore.
“It was a good atmosphere, the crowd was pretty good, but it was definitely different playing in this end of the ice,” Hautanen said.
The blue-liner has adapted quickly to life as a member of the Abitibi Eskimos.
“There is a great atmosphere in the room,” he said.
“We have a good program here and as long as we stick to it we should be successful.
“There are some nooks and crannies that are changed around (between the system the Eskimos play and the one taught by the Gold Miners), but the game of hockey is the game of hockey.”
Gagne was not as happy with the Eskimos play Saturday night as he had been with their effort Friday, but still thought they could have come out of Kirkland Lake with a second win if they have got a bounce here or there.
“We didn’t play well in the first period,” he said.
“We didn’t compete. They took the puck away from us. In the defensive zone we couldn’t get it out. We had the puck under control and we couldn’t get it out.
“In the neutral zone our priority was to go D to D and just play with the puck instead of following our objective, which was to just dump it in and go and forecheck them.
“Then we would get on the forecheck and we would have two guys who were forechecking and one who was a passenger. You can’t do that.
“Then, in the second period, I felt we put a little bit more effort into it. The compete level was there. We used our sticks a little bit better. We fought for the puck.
“I was happy with the way we played the second period, we improved, and then the third period, we had two assignments that weren’t completed and we gave up two goals.”
The Eskimos were missing three key players Saturday night.
Forward Ryan Tront, who also missed Friday night’s game, is still out with an upper body injury and defenceman Kevin Walker, who suffered an upper body injury during Friday night’s game was unable to play Saturday.
In addition, the Eskimos leading scorer, Brady Clouthier, was not available because of school commitments at Northern College.
The loss of those three players did not have as big an impact, however, as the “passengers” who were dressed for the Eskimos.
“We are a good team, also, and the word is team,” Gagne said.
“When we play as a team and make things happen and work hard good things happen.
“Tonight we had individuals who were causing us grief. They had off nights. It happens. It is unfortunate, but I know for a fact and we addressed it after the game, it won’t happen again. They don’t feel good about it.”
Debastos made 20 saves top pick up the victory for the Gold Miners, while Tooker turned aside 38 of the 43 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
ESKIMOS NOTE — The Eskimos went 1-4 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 347 … Saturday’s other NOJHL games saw Elliot Lake dump Mattawa 8-1 and the Soo skate past Blind River 10-1.