IROQUOIS FALLS – The last time the Beavers invaded the Jus Jordan Arena they skated off with an 8-3 victory.
The Abitibi Eskimos gained revenge for that loss, however, when they doubled the Beavers 6-3 at Blind River Community Centre on Oct. 6.
Since that home-ice loss, Blind River has beaten the first-place Soo Thunderbirds and tied the second-place North Bay Trappers.
That modest string of success has left Blind River one point ahead of Abitibi in the Northern Ontario Jr. ‘A’ Hockey League standings, although the Eskimos do have a game in hand.
So, what will happen when the two teams face off at the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday?
That’s anybody’s guess, although Eskimos coach and GM Paul Gagne is confident that his squad will earn two points.
“It (the 8-3 loss) seems like a long time ago,” he said.
“We didn’t really play that well and we have got different personnel on the team now.
“We have added players and, basically, it’s a new team.”
Gone from the squad that took to the ice on that Saturday night in mid-September are goaltender Darren Cave, defenceman Jordan Ste-Marie and forwards Jesse Paul, Jarred Nowry, Eric Martineau and Jason Forward.
In their place, the Eskimos have added goaltender Etienne Roy, defenceman Corey Dubbeldam and forwards Peter Poulin-Roy, Taylor Porrier (injured), Ryan Wildman, Dustin Jesseau, Philip Sweeney and Francis Deforges.
“We have also implemented a lot of things in our program,” Gagne said.
“And the players are playing a lot more with instinct now, especially the way we played last game at home against Kirkland Lake.”
That game, a 6-2 victory over the Gold Miners highlighted the improved offence the changes to the roster have created.
“We are finally getting those bounces coming our way,” said Eskimos captain Richard Therrien, whose 11 goals are tops on the team.
“Everybody’s chipping in. We are shooting the puck and it’s going in. Everything is going our way right now and I don’t see it stopping soon.”
That could be bad news for Blind River goalies Brandon Currie and Aaron Cormier.
While many of the new Eskimos forwards have shown offensive flair in their brief time with the team, rookie Aaron Kerr is second on the team with five goals.
“He’s a speedy winger, with a great shot,” Therrien said.
“He’s got great moves and he can really put the puck in the net.”
Zach Innes, who was with the Eskimos at the start of the 2011-12 campaign, has also been a big contributor on offence.
He has three goals and 11 points in 11 games.
Innes will not be in the lineup for some time, however.
“He got a four-game suspension for spearing, which we do not accept, we are not happy about that,” Gagne said.
“We were winning 6-2 and in the last five minutes of the game he gets a spearing penalty.
“We are not happy about it and he’ not happy about it. He feels bad. It’s a learning curve. He’s going to be learning not to be doing those things.”
Defenceman Simon Desrosiers has yet to find the back of the net, but he is third on the Eskimos with seven points.
“It’s kind of easy for me to bring some offence,” he said.
“Playing with these guys, it is real easy to provide some offence.”
A strong skater and quick to move the puck, Desrosiers sees himself as a puck-rushing defenceman.
“I like to put the pucks on net and I like to break out to play on offence,” he said.
“I like to win and when we play good offence, it’s a good way to win.”
Heading into the weekend, the Eskimos are relatively healthy.
Defenceman Kealey Cummings will likely be a game-time decision, because of a leg injury, and Taylor Poirier remains out with a hand injury, but otherwise it’s just a case of a few bumps and bruises, according to Gagne.