SUDBURY - The Abitibi Eskimos surrendered four-straight third period goals en route to an 8-5 loss to eh Nickel Barons at the McClelland Arena Wednesday night.
After falling behind 4-1 during the first 20 minutes of play the Eskimos stormed back to tie the score 4-4 in the second period and jumped in front 5-4 2:25 into the final frame.
“We had a tough first period,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“They came at us, came at us, came at us and we made some mistakes and it cost us some goals.
“We came back in the second period and made it 4-4 and that got us back in the game. Then we went up 5-4 early in the third period. Everybody was playing well.”
And that is how the score remained until the 9:31 mark of the period when Sudbury’s Dylan Callaghan raced in on a breakaway to beat Eskimos goalie Logan Ferrington with a short-handed goal, his second of the night, to tie things up at 5-5.
Christopher Rossi’s even-strength goal put the Nickel Barons in front 6-5 and they would not surrender the lead the rest of the game.
Eric Champaign provided the home side with a little breathing room just over two minutes later when he scored to make it a 7-5 game.
Rossi’s second goal of the period, the Nickel Barons’ second short-handed goal, closed out the scoring and made the final 8-5.
“It is unfortunate, because we played so well and we competed, but those things happen,” Gagne said.
“We can’t blame our goalie. He stood on his head and he played really well. He faced 52 shots, I believe, something like that.
“He made some great saves.”
Giving up a pair of short-handed goals to the Nickel Barons during their four-goal third-period run did not help the Eskimos’ cause.
“On the one power play the puck hit their forward and he went in on a breakaway,” Gagne said.
“And the other one (short-handed goal) was a wrist shot from the top of the circle and it turned out to be the tying goal.”
The Nickel Barons jumped on the Eskimos early Wednesday night, outshooting the visitors 20-10 in the first period and building a 4-1 advantage.
August Jarecki got the ball rolling when he beat Ferrington at the 6:29 mark of the opening frame and then defenceman Kyle Fransen scored a power-play goal less than two minutes later to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
It took less than a minute to get that one back, however, as captain Kevin Walker beat Nickel Barons goalie Kevin Labelle to cut the Sudbury lead to 2-1.
The Nickel Barons got goals from Matt Neault and Callaghan in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the first period to increase their lead to 4-1 heading into the first intermission.
Even though the shots on goal were 18-18 in the middle frame, the second period was all Eskimos, as they got goals from Walker, Tristan Salesse and Brenden Locke to battle back and tie the score at 4-4.
“We really didn’t say anything different between the first and second period,” Gagne said.
“It was basically just the same game plan, go at ’em, go at ’em and forecheck, work on puck possession … no turnovers and get lots of shots.
“That is what we did in the second period. There was no secret. We buried our opportunities and we tied the game, so we had momentum.
“We had even better momentum when we went up 5-4 … we were playing great hockey.”
Salesse’s second goal of the game, 2:25 into the third period, gave the Eskimos their lone lead of the contest.
The momentum swung quickly back in favour of the Nickel Barons, of course, when Callaghan’s short-handed effort go Sudbury back on even terms.
“It is almost like we were thinking ‘what the hell just happened,’” Gagne said.
“It was a wrist shot and it went off the post and in. All of a sudden they have the tying goal and we are thinking ‘oh, man.’
“It was hard, but you know what, we had our chances even after that. We had two power plays, one five-on-three and one five-on-four and we didn’t capitalize on either power play.
“If we would have capitalized on those chances, it would have been game over.”
Were the Eskimos perhaps a little gun shy after giving up a short-handed goal and perhaps too cautious with the man advantage?
“Not really, because we had our opportunities,” Gagne said.
“We just didn’t execute, that’s all.
“Our power play was moving the puck well.”
Gagne, who had not had an opportunity to see the Nickel Barons play in person since early in the season, was impressed with the team that beat his Eskimos Wednesday night.
“They are a different hockey club from when we played them the last time (a 5-3 loss in Sudbury on Sept. 24), that is for sure,” he said.
“They improved their defence with a couple of big strong defencemen. That is where they have improved the most.
“We are looking forward to our next game against them (March 6) in Timmins.”
Labelle stopped 33 of the 38 shots the Eskimos fired his way to earn the victory, while Ferrington blocked 44 of the 52 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Eskimos had been riding a three-game winning streak and had recorded four victories in their past five games.
“We had a nice little streak there, where we had things going,” Gagne said.
“This game kind of brought us back down to earth and now we are going to have to get ready for our next game on Friday.”
ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos were without the services of forwards Ryan Tront (upper-body injury), Kyle Levis (upper-body injury) and Cosimo Amore (second game of a two-game suspension) … The Eskimos went 1-6 on the power play and surrendered two short-handed goals, while the Nickel Barons were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 179.