IROQUOIS FALLS – The Elliot Lake Bobcats must be licking their lips in anticipation of feasting on the struggling Abitibi Eskimos.
The Bobcats will visit the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday and will be hoping to leave Iroquois Falls in sixth place in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League standings.
That could well happen if the Eskimos don’t get their act together and fast.
The Eskimos were shelled 17-1 by the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Wednesday night, four days after the collapsed in an 11-3 loss to the visiting North Bay Trappers.
And worse yet, they showed almost no heart, or pride in allowing the visitors to skate all over them.
“You know what, and I am not blaming one person tonight,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“It’s not the goalies. It’s not the defence. It’s everybody. The coaching staff, you name it, it’s everybody. It was just aweful.
“We had an assignment, the first goal, we had an assignment , man to man and one guy leaves his man … boom goal. There was no reason for it. And then it continues. Then we didn’t have the defence. Then we didn’t have the goalies. Then we didn’t have the forwards. Then we didn’t have the coaching. Then we didn’t have the fans. It just continues on.”
The Gold Miners jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Everett Thompson and Connor McNally, before the Eskimos got one back on a power-play goal by Peter Poulin-Roy.
That would be as close as the Eskimos would come, however, as the Gold Miners scored three-straight goals to take a 5-1 lead into the dressing room at the end of the first period.
Things went from bad to worse for the Eskimos in the second period of play, despite a goaltending change that saw Jackson Winkler come on in relief of starter Jeremy Laux at the start of the frame.
Kirkland Lake pumped in six more goals to increase their lead to 11-1 and send some of the handful of fans in attendance heading for the exits.
The Eskimos lack of cohesive play was clearly illustrated when the Gold Miners broke in on a two-on-one off the faceoff after they had just scored a goal, only to have Winkler make a solid save.
But instead of clearing the puck, the Eskimos raced out of their defensive zone without the puck and allowed the Gold Miners a three-on-one opportunity as the play continued.
Winkler again came up with a fine save to temporarily keep Kirkland Lake off the scoresheet, but the Gold Miners persisted and were eventually able to find the back of the net, again and again and again.
Six more third-period goals made the final 17-1.
“They (the fans) are not happy, I am not happy, the players are not happy,” Gagne said.
“That’s why they are in the dressing room right now and they are going to have a meeting among themselves.
“You know what, sometimes it’s good. They are going to open up and talk about things, have some constructive criticism and give it to each other. They are going to maybe build a little bit of backbone and get some character back.
“You get into a little funk like we are here and everything is negative. Everything is not good. The referee is not good. The passes are not good. The shots are not good. That’s what their meeting is about. We have got to get back into believing in ourselves and enjoying the game and working hard.”
Things certainly were not negative on the Gold Miners side of the ice surface.
“We kept them down to one goal,” said Gold Miners coach Marc Lafleur.
“We know they tend to score goals on the power play. They have a deadly power play and they scored on the first one in the first period, but after that we were able to shut them down.
“At the same time, they were struggling offensively. We played good, but at the same time they struggled a little.
Former Eskimo Dustin Jesseau enjoyed a big night against his former team, scoring three goals and adding four assists.
“We played our system,” Jesseau said.
“And we kept hammer, hammering and hammering. We played well together as a team. Nobody was selfish. Everybody kept their cool. It was a whole team effort.”
Tanner Lafrance, with four goals and an assist, and Thompson, with three goals and two assists, also enjoyed big nights for the visitors.
Steven Babin added two goals and two assists, while Kyle Bishop had two goals and an assist.
Alex Perrault and Jean-Michel Naud had the other Kirkland Lake goals.
“I liked the fact that we had balanced scoring and the fact that guys like Thompson and Perrault were able to get on the scoresheet,” Lafleur said. “They often don’t. We executed.”
Gold Miners goalie Chris Komma stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced to pick up the victory.
Winkler blocked 19 of the 31 shots he faced for the Eskimos, while Luax stopped eight of the 13 shots the Gold Miners fired his way.
With just three regular-season games remaining, Lafleur is pleased with the way the Gold Miners are playing.
“The biggest thing is we have guys who want to learn and listen,” he said.
“We changed the attitude around in the dressing room. You can’t win without good people, without good kids and when I say good kids I am not talking about strictly on ice stuff. I am talking about having good character and wanting to be better, to improve.”
ESKIMOS NOTES: The Eskimos were missing four players for Wednesday night’s game. Forwards Nick Fountain and Justin Holiday were serving suspensions, while forward Ryan Tront and defenceman Corey Dubbeldam are out with injuries … The Eskimos were one-for-four on the power play, while the Gold Miners were three-for-seven with the extra man … The Gold Miners also netted a short-handed goal … Attendance was only 182, one of the lowest figures in recent years for an Eskimos game … The three stars were Lafrance, Thompson and defenceman Daniel Morin, who had four asssits … The next game for the Eskimos will be on Saturday night when they host the Elliot Lake Bobcats at the Jus Jordan Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.