IROQUOIS FALLS – Peter Poulin-Roy didn’t see the net before he shot the puck.
It started with a high-risk play by defenceman Ryan Kerr in the Eskimos end that turned into a nasty top-shelf snipe by Poulin-Roy with 17 seconds left in the contest to give Abitibi the much-needed 5-4 victory.
The Abitibi Eskimos and Blind River Beavers entered Saturday’s contest at the Jus Jordan Arena tied for fifth place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League with 13 points.
“We’ve played good in so many games without getting the results we wanted so it’s feels good to get the win,” said Eskimos head coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
Blind River was playing its second game in two days.
The Beavers were 100% on the powerplay against the Eskimos, but when it mattered the most, the defence didn’t step up.
“When the guy is coming down by himself, our guys should be stepping up and making body contact and that last goal indicated they weren’t,” said Beavers head coach Doug McEwan. “They didn’t take that to heart, didn’t step up, they let him take the shot and it went in.”
The Eskimos were playing with heavy hearts after the recent passing of long-time trainer Bruce Renwick.
Maybe it was luck, but maybe it was more than that.
Gagne said, “A lot of times luck has to be on your side. We were at the funeral for Bruce and during the mass father Leo Rancourt is talking to the family about Bruce. He looked up at the ceiling and he said I hope things go well for the Eskimos. He looked at us and I thought something good is going to happen out of this. The first thing one of the trainers said to me tonight was this win was for Brucey. And it was. He was here.”
Abitibi came out of the gate hard and fast looking to dictate the tempo of the game and impose their will on the visiting Beavers.
“Our theme tonight was to put pressure on them, so they couldn’t make nice passes,” said Gagne.
Eskimos centreman Ryan Wildman opened the scoring with a powerplay goal just over the midway point of the first with helpers going to Kerr and captain Richard Therrien.
However, the Beavers responded less than two minutes later on a goal from Samuel Wilbur.
But Poulin-Roy put the Eskimos back out in front at the close of the first.
The Beavers were chasing for the rest of the game and nearly stole it from the home club.
Therrien extended the Eskimos lead early in the second period, scoring his league leading 21st goal of the season.
The Beavers started to build some momentum in the second and produced several odd-man rushes on Eskimos goalie Jackson Winkler who picked up his first win in his second game with Abitibi.
Winkler stood tall despite giving up a goal to Cray Roberge at 16:08 of the second.
“It wasn’t our best as far as positional play goes,” said Gagne. “Guys weren’t taking their man, which I’m not pleased with. Compliments to our goalie. What a difference. He made some key saves, he battled and the goals they did score we didn’t support him too well.”
The third period saw a combined four goals scored between the clubs, but in the end, it was Poulin-Roy’s top-of-the-circle shot that gave the Eskimos the win.
Jacob Boisvenue and Fraser Dylan Atkinson scored for the Beavers, while Aaron Kerr registered a powerplay goal nine minutes before Poulin-Roy’s game winner.
“If they heeded what I tell them a lot of times instead of not paying attention to details then it could have been a different result tonight,” said McEwan. “Overall I think there are a couple of guys who are giving 100% and there are a few guys who aren’t buying into what we’re doing here with the Beavers. We’re getting to the end of November here with the trade/cut deadline coming up so we’ll see what the future holds for the Beavers.”
With the win, the Eskimos have sole possession of fifth place after 20 games into the season, two points ahead of the Beavers with two games in hand.
“I think we’re fighting all the time and that’s a big part of it,” said Poulin-Roy. “But I think we need to be committed for all 60 minutes of the game.”
The Eskimos will host the Sudbury Nickel Barons on Dec. 1 in Cochrane.