IROQUOIS FALLS - To say that the Abitibi Eskimos were shorthanded for their exhibition game against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners might to be the understatement of the century.
The Eskimos faced the defending NOJHL champions with only 12 skaters and a pair of goalies in the lineup at the Jus Jordan Arena Wednesday night.
Given those circumstances, Eskimos assistant coach and general manager Dan Dube was not too disappointed with the 6-2 loss.
“I don’t think the score dictated the game at all,” he said.
“I thought we played a lot better … I think that was one of our better exhibition games program wise, because introduced a few new things.
“We made a couple of mistakes out there, but that is normal at the start of the year. It is August and we have some new faces.
“I thought we played a good first period and we played a better third period.”
After holding the visitors to a 1-1 score through the first 20 minutes of play — thanks in part to some stellar netminding by Braddock Baalerud — the Eskimos were unable to stay with the Gold Miners in the middle frame and found themselves trailing 5-2 heading into the final period.
Jamey Lauzon scored for the Eskimos in the first period, with Ryan Swain replying for Kirkland Lake.
Lauzon, who will leave Thursday morning to travel to London for the OHL team’s training camp,continued the strong play he was demonstrated throughout training camp and the exhibition season.
“I thought he played pretty good up front,” Dube said.
“He got a lot of momentum going. He was in their face, finished his checks, scored that nice goal and got a couple of more opportunities.
“When he got the forecheckinig going it created momentum and scoring opportunities for the other guys on this line.
“I thought he had a really good game, given he was playing forward.”
Forward Harrison Jacobs, who played Junior ‘B’ in Akwesansne last year, made his first appearance with the Eskimos and did not look out of place.
“He has only been here for one day,” Dube said.
“He played a pretty solid game. He played really well in the defensive zone. He knew where his man was and he took pride in his defensive game.”
The assistant coach was also impressed with the play of 16-year-old forward Kyle Levis.
“You can just see he has got that offensive skill,” Dube said.
“He has got really nice hands and once he gets going he is going to be a really nice player for us.”
Goals by Chris Pearson and Tyler Romain — the Timmins native’s first of two on the night — gave the Gold Mines a 3-1 advantage.
“It felt pretty good to get a couple of goals,” Romain said.
“Camp has been going good. It feels good to get the legs going again.”
Putting the puck in the net is one of the things about Romain’s game that the Gold Miners like.
“I think I can put some goals up for them this season,” he said.
“When I get my chances, I can bury them. I am hoping to help the team with that and also with setting up my teammates.”
The adjustment to a new level of hockey in a new community has been made a little easier for Romain given that two of his teammates — defenceman Nick Hautanen and goalie Devon Desbastos — also come from Timmins.
“It is nice to play with those guys again,” he said, referring to his former teammates with the Timmins Majors, of the Great North Midget League.
“It is nice to have them here.”
After dropping the exhibition season opener to the Eskimos in Kirkland Lake, the Gold Miners have reeled off two straight wins at the Jus Jordan Arena.
“We are executing our systems well,” Romain said.
“That has been reflected in the games, because we have been doing pretty good.”
Baalerud played the first period and the first half of the second period, before giving way to Alex Chandler, with the score 3-1 in favour of the Gold Miners.
Captain Kevin Walker scored a power-play goal to pull the Eskimos to within one goal, but Chandler surrendered goals to Tristen Hazlett and Romain just over a minute apart to send the visitors to the dressing room up 5-2.
Baalerud came back into the game and played the entire third period, again coming up with a number of nice saves to help keep the score respectable.
Kenny Fitzgerald started in goal for the Gold Miners and earned the win, while Debastos played the second half of the contest.
A Zach Pease short-handed goal , gift-wrapped by a sloppy Eskimos give away in the defensive zone, allowed Kirkland Lake to close out the scoring and make the final 6-2.
Gold Miners assistant coach Tom Sinclair feels the team is absorbing what head coach Marc Lafleur is trying to team them.
“We are getting it down a little bit and getting better organized on the ice,” he said.
“We are creating chances and we are getting some of them in the net.
“We still have work to do, but it is a good start.”
The Gold Miners offence has received a boost from the strong play of a number of newcomers, including Luc Soares, Ryan Swain and Tyler Romain.
“We have speed and we have a bit of a scoring touch in some guys,” Sinclair said.
“That’s what we have been looking for and they are off to a good start. As things get better, hopefully, we will keep improving, too.”
ESKIMOS NOTES — Forward Brady Clouthier did not play Wednesday night as he continues to suffer from symptoms associated with being checked from behind into the boards during the first exhibition game in Kirkland Lake … The Eskimos and the Gold Miners will both close out their exhibition seasons Thursday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake. Game time is 7:30 p.m.