KIRKLAND LAKE - The Eskimos learned the hard way Tuesday night what happens when you make mistake — numerous mistakes — against one of the top teams in the NOJHL.
After holding the East Division-leading Gold Miners to a 1-1 draw through the first 20 minutes of play the Eskimos began to self-destruct in the second period and by the time the final buzzer had sounded they had coughed up a 9-4 loss.
“We had too many passengers tonight,” said Eskimos assistant coach and general manager Dan Dube.
“We had too many guys playing like individuals, doing what they wanted to do. We definitely didn’t play like a team.
“Our turnovers and not giving the black team the puck affected us tonight.
“We are not happy with the game, at all.”
Steven Babin beat Eskimos goalie Logan Ferrington — voted one of the NOJHL’s Three Stars of the Week less than 24 hours earlier — to give the Gold Miners a 1-0 lead, but the Eskimos got back on even terms when Kyle Levis potted his seventh goal of the season before the end of the opening frame.
Goals by Babin, Ryan Swain and Bryan Lubin before the second period was six minutes old gave the Gold Miners a 4-1 lead.
The Eskimos battled back to make it a 4-2 lead when former Gold Miner Patrick Picard put a shot behind Kirkland Lake goalie Devon Debastos at the midway point of the frame.
Then Brady Clouthier put a power-play goal behind Debastos, as the Eskimos cut the Kirkland Lake advantage to 4-3 two-and-a-half minutes later.
Lubin’s second goal of the game, late in the period, made it a 5-3 hockey game, however, before the two squads retired to their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission.
“We competed to get back in the game, we were down 4-1 and we competed to get it back to 4-3 and then I don’t know what it was,” Dube said.
“Guys think they can do it all on their own and the next thing you know we make another mistake and we are behind the 8-ball again.”
Babin completed his hat-trick 51 seconds into the final period to up the home side’s lead to 6-3.
Even-strength goals from Ethan Strong and Connor Thie and a power-play marker from Swain increased the advantage to 9-3, before Clouthier netted his second goal of the game — an unassisted marker — for the Eskimos to close out the scoring.
“They (the Gold Miners) are a good hockey club, but we made them look even better,” Dube said.
“We made it easy for them tonight, but I hope the guys are ready tomorrow for practice.”
What do the Eskimos have to do to ensure better results as they continue a swing of five-straight road games?
“They guys didn’t see each other during the Christmas break, so the road trip will give us a chance to get in a little bit of team bonding,” Dube said.
“We will have a chance to talk hockey for a full weekend and play three games. It is always good to have these three-game road trips so the guys can get back to having fun and playing hockey and never mind all the other stuff because they are away for the weekend.”
The Eskimos’ first three-game road trip of the season saw them pick up five of a possible six points.
With the trade deadline looming and the Eskimos currently sitting with three goaltenders (Ferrington, Chet Tooker and Ryan Ferguson) it is safe to say the team may make a move prior to the Jan. 10 freeze.
“There might be something happening by Friday,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“If we can get a good forward or a good defenceman, either or, that is what we are looking at, right now.”
Even though his team scored a 9-3 victory, Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was not totally happy with the effort.
“I wasn’t happy with the first period,” he said.
“I knew it from the warm up and even how they were in the room. We were sluggish. We were not focused and it showed in the first.
“We were too fancy with the puck. We had the puck in the slot a couple of times and tried to go for the extra pass.
“Those mistakes, although I don’t like them, I can live with. What I can’t live with is a lack of focus and a lack of effort.
“Look at the goal against. That was a lack of effort.
“We have to give it to them (the Eskimos), as well. I thought they came out hard.
“As the game went on we started gaining some momentum and things just started getting better and better for us.”
Lafleur was particularly impressed with the play of one of the newest members of the Gold Miners.
“Bryan Lubin, this was his second game, so he still doesn’t understand all our plays and what not, but you can tell he has got great instincts, both offensively and defensively,” he said.
“He is a smart player. That is why we got him, to shore up our offence, and it looks like he will be doing that. Hopefully, he will keep on playing the way he has been.”
Lafleur was also impressed with the play of one of the affiliate players in the Gold Mienrs lineup Tuesday night.
“Marshall Nikitin played a good game tonight,” he said.
“He was able to keep up with the pace and he had some confidence.”
The Gold Miners top line — Babin (four points), Swain (six points) and Thie (three points) — also drew some praise.
“The big line had a good night, as well,” Lafleur said.
“From top to bottom, I was extremely happy from the second period on.”
Debastos stopped 22 of the 26 shots the Eskimos fired his way to pick up the victory.
Ferrington turned aside 33 of the 42 shots he faced while being tagged with the loss.
ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos were 1-5 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 2-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 292 … Forwards Ryan Attwood (upper-body injury) and Ryan Tront (suspension) did not play for the Eskimos but both are expected to be available for the Eskimos next game … The Eskimos will travel to Elliot Lake for a game against the Wildcats Friday night, then to Blind River to play the Beavers Saturday night and to Sault Ste. Marie for a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Thunderbirds.