IROQUOIS FALLS - The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners edged the Abitibi Eskimos 3-2 at the Jus Jordan Arena Tuesday night, gaining a little revenge for a one goal loss to their NOJHL East Division rivals four days earlier.
“We competed more, that’s No. 1,” said Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur, when asked to describe the difference between Tuesday night’s victory and the 2-1 loss to the Eskimos at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
“At the end of the day their goalie (Braddock Baalerud) made a lot of saves again tonight.
“(Steven) Babin must have had about six or seven quality chances off the left side and he stopped all of them.
“Our compete level was there tonight, but on their side their goalie was still hot again.”
Neither team could find the back of the net during the first period of play, as both Baalerud and Gold Miners goalie Kenny Fitzgerald were on their game.
Jeremy Dumont finally got one past Baalerud early in the second period, however, to put the visitors in front 1-0.
Christian Bortoluzzi then increased the Gold Miners advantage to 2-0 at the 13:51 mark.
It looked like that was the way the period would end, but Kezmin Madden finally got the Eskimos on the board with just under two minutes to play.
“We had a much better second period than our last game against them,” Lafleur said.
“Maybe they were a little flat and we took advantage of it. They came back in the third period. I still thought we controlled part of that third period, up until they got that goal, but after that they started coming at us pretty hard.”
Luc Soares restored the Gold Miners’ two-goal advantage 2:16 into the final period and the score remained 3-1 until late in the frame.
Ryan Attwood scored his second goal of the season at the 16:25 mark to provide a little hope to the home-town fans.
The Eskimos kept the pressure on the Gold Miners in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the period and pulled Baalerud in favour of an extra attacker in the final minute, but they were unable to net the equalizer.
Lafleur was happy to have his team secure the two points Tuesday night.
“Right now they (the Eskimos) are probably the hottest team in the league, at this point,” he said.
“They beat us Friday night and beat Cochrane Saturday night, so they were taking advantage of their home stand, so it is good to come in and get the win.
“It is going to be close all year between these three teams.”
Lafleur was pleased with the play of all-star defenceman Jeremy Picard-Fiset once again Tuesday night.
“He was really strong again tonight,” he said.
“Tyler Romain had a better game tonight, as well. I think it has to do with him being more aware of where he should be on the ice position wise. We had a good talk about it last weekend.
“And I think Dumont played a very good game, as well, a solid game.
“At the end of the day, it is a team effort. The scoring did come from lines where we normally don’t expect it.”
Eskimos assistant coach Dan Dube was not happy with his team’s performance in the second period and felt it cost them the game Tuesday night.
“The second period, we took our foot of the gas a little bit and we made a few more turnovers,” he said.
“We played great hockey in the first and the third periods. That first period was probably one of our better periods of the season, so to back with a second period like that … they got a little wake up call in the second intermission and they came out flying in the third.
“I thought the difference was the second period and our turnovers.”
Clearly the Gold Miners made some changes between the first and second periods.
“We didn’t adapt,” Dube said.
“They got their forecheck going pretty quick on us. They were coming out at full force, so we did a little change in the third and our third period was much better.
Dropping a one-goal decision to the defending NOJHL champions — even on home ice — is not the end of the world for the Eskimos.
“I hate losing, but it is always a positive sign that it was a close game like that,” Dube said.
The outcome of Tuesday night’s game might have been a little different if the Eskimos were able to bury a couple of chances they had at wide-open nets.
“That’s just hockey,” Dube said.
“That’s just the way it goes some times. Sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t. Maybe the guys were gripping their sticks a little tighter, especially during the last eight minutes of the game.”
Dalton Bruce made his debut with the Eskimos Tuesday night after finally getting cleared to play by doctors following off-season surgery and he did not look out of place.
“It was good, he got his feet wet out there,” Dube said.
“It was his first Junior ‘A’ game, so I thought he did pretty good in front of his home town, his friends and family.
“I thought he played really good and he is just going to get better as we move along here.”
Dube was impressed with the strong play of defenceman Brennan Roy, who had a solid game.
“He had a pretty good game back there on D,” he said.
“He was very vocal with his partner and him and (Jamey) Lauzon seemed to develop a little bit of chemistry.”
Madden, who started the game on a line with Bruce and captain Kevin Walker, agreed with his assistant coach that the squad was not its sharpest during the second period.
“It was just turnovers in the second period,” he said.
“We didn’t play our hearts out like we did in the first and third periods.
“We didn’t have enough intensity and we didn’t play the system. It was basically a one-period loss.”
Madden realizes that it is important to play 60 minutes of hockey every night, especially against a team like the Gold Miners.
“When you are playing any team, you can’t let up,” he said.
Madden, in his first season with the Eskimos, scored his second goal of the season Tuesday night.
“I just drove the net and there was a lucky bounce at the blue-line and Brennan Roy passed it right on my stick and all I had to do was tip it in,” he said.
“It was an easy play.”
ESKIMOS NOTES — Fitzgerald made 23 saves to earn the victory for the Gold Miners, while Baalerud stopped 32 shots for the Eskimos … Both teams went 0-3 on the power play … Official attendance was 403 … The Eskimos will travel to Sudbury on Wednesday for a game against the Nickel Barons … The next home game for the Eskimos will be on Saturday night when the Blind River Beavers pay their first visit to the Jus Jordan Arena.