Rivermen top Eskimos in OT

ESPANOLA - Corbin Bean’s second goal of the game, 1:12 into the first overtime period, lifted the Espanola Rivermen to a 6-5 win over the Abitibi Eskimos Sunday afternoon.

The overtime loss allowed the Eskimos to extend a streak in which the team has been able to secure at least one point to four games.

`You hate to lose a game, but I don’t think we lost anything here except one point,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.

“I thought we played excellent. I take my hat off to the players after playing last night and getting on the road early morning, having breakfast, a nap and then playing hockey.”

The Eskimos defeated the Blind River Beavers on home ice Saturday night before getting up to head off on the bus at 6 a.m. in preparation for the 2 p.m. start in Espanola.

Eskimos defenceman Kealey Cummings was one of those players who made the long bus ride to take on the Rivermen.

“We worked really hard, coming off a late night game and then having to play an afternoon game like that, but we worked really hard together,” he said.

“We worked together as a team and there is nothing more you can ask really. There were just a couple of bad bounces.”

The two NOJHL squads traded goals back and forth after the Eskimos skated into the first intermission holding a 1-0 lead, thanks to Ryan Wildman’s power-play goal.

The Rivermen were able to get back on even terms just 55 seconds into the second period when Brandon Janke scored a power-play goal of his own.

Janke followed that up with an even strength goal six minutes later to put the home side in front 2-1.

Shane Hiley’s second goal in two games with the Eskimos tied the score about five minutes after Janke’s second goal.

Robert Smythe then put Espanola back in front 3-2, but the Eskimos once again fought back to tie it 3-3 before the end of the second period on Brady Clouthier’s power-play goal.

The two teams exchanged goals 1:50 apart early in the third period, with Brennan Dubchak putting the Rivermen up 4-3 and Ryan Tront scoring to tie it 4-4.

Bean’s first goal of the game restored Espanola’s one-goal lead at the midway point of the period, but Kevin Walker’s goal a minute-and-a-half later again knotted the score.

And the Eskimos had an excellent opportunity to get the game-winning goal as they ended the third period and started the overtime frame on the power play.

It was not to be, however, as the Rivermen were able to kill of the penalty to Joe Echelmeier.

“We just kept coming at them,” Gagne said.

“And even at the end, we had a four-on-three in OT and missed an open net on the power play.

“Those things happen. Then they turn around and it was four-on-four and they had a two-on-one and scored the goal.”

The Eskimos did enjoy some success on the power play earlier in the game, with both Wildman and Clouthier finding the back of the net with the man advantage.

“We have been mixing it up on the power play and having different personnel on the ice makes a difference,” Gagne said.

It shouldn’t be overlooked, as well, that the Eskimos were playing a pretty good hockey team on Sunday.

With the victory, Espanola now holds down third place in the standings and sports a record of 6-2-0-0.

“This was their second game in their building here and they came out flying,” Gagne said.

“We persevered and we kept going at them and any time we fell behind them we just found a way to score a goal and tie the game, tie the game, but unfortunately we couldn’t tie it after OT.

“But, you know what, I am proud of the way the boys played, really proud.”

Cummings also felt the Rivermen came to the rink ready to play Sunday.

“They came out hard and they were taking the body at all costs,” he said.

“When the puck would go in the corner they wouldn’t really care about the puck. They would take the body first, make the hit and knock us down, then try and take the puck away.

“With our faster guys, we used our speed to get the puck and make the plays first, before they could hit us, or we would make the play and then take the hit.

“They did a lot of dump and forecheck and take the body.”

Following Sunday’s overtime loss, the Eskimos are now fifth in the eight-team league, sporting a record of 3-2-0-2.

The Eskimos dropped a 3-1 decision to the Rivermen at the Jus Jordan Arena earlier this season, so they were pleased to get at least one point in Espanola.

“Since then we have been working harder on the ice and since that game we have been gelling pretty good,” Cummings said.

“Everything seems to be clicking right now.”

Simon-Pier Chamberland got the start in net for the Eskimos and stopped 26 of the 32 shots he faced while being tagged with the loss.

“He played a great game,” Gagne said.

“It was his first game and now we know we have two great goaltenders, so that’s a confidence builder for us.”

It was the first game started — or played in — by an Eskimos goaltender not named Sylvain Miron this season.

Griffin Strain blocked 28 of 33 shots fired his way by the Eskimos to pick up the victory.

The trip to Espanola was the first road game for the Eskimos since they opened the regular season against the Nickel Barons in Sudbury on Sept. 4.

“Since then, we have been gelling a lot more together,” Cummings said.

Sunday’s other NOJHL game saw the Soo Thunderbirds skate to a 6-1 win over the visiting North Bay Trappers.

The next game for the Eskimos will be on Friday night when they take on the Nickel Barons at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins, their first of five games scheduled in the City with the Heart of Gold during the 2013-14 campaign.