Two days before Halloween, the Abitibi Eskimos served up a ghoulish first period resulting in their first loss in more than a month.
The Soo Thunderbirds had a 5-3 victory dropped into their treat bag while visiting the Jus Jordan Arena in IroquoisFallsin a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League matchup.
Despite the loss, the Eskis are still sit atop the Eastern Division with 22 points, four points ahead of North Baywhile the Thunderbirds are in first place in the Western Division with 30 points and only a single loss through 16 games played.
The Eskis had compiled a 7-0 record throughout October, outscoring their opponents 50-26 prior to their meeting against the NOJHL’s top team.
“I was pretty disappointed in our play in the first period,” saidPaul Gagne, the Eskis head coach. “We let in a couple quick goals that should have been stopped. But, after that I was a lot more impressed with how we played in the second and in the third as well.
“We still made too many little mistakes. We played against a good hockey team and we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game tonight. All in all, a good game, but too many little mistakes. We gave away the first two goals and then we lost by two, so it shows that we can definitely compete with these guys.”
The Thunderbirds hit twine first Saturday night when Matt Amadio made it 1-0 before the ice had even dried from the opening flood. Amadio scored 1:21 into the opening period.
Soo continued its early dominance, scoring two more goals in the first 11 minutes, to give themselves an early 3-0 lead.
Marc-Alain Begin gave his team some life with two-and-a-half minutes left in the first with both teams down a man, when he rifled a shot past Thunderbirds goalie John Kleinhans and into the top of the net. Richard Therrien and Karl Spenard assisted on the goal.
The Thunderbirds scored the eventual game winner at 8:27 of the second with the man advantage.
Begin scored his second of the game seven minutes later with his team on the power play, with assists from Therrien and Justin Kord.
Begin’s three-point night leapfrogged him overSudbury’s Jordan Carroll to once again grab hold of the top spot in the league’s scoring race. Begin now has 48 points through 16 games, while Carroll has 46 through 16 games played.
Therrien also continues to creep up in the scoring race. He currently sits in sixth with 31 points.
The division leaders each scored once in the penalty filled final frame. Both teams’ goals came on the powerplay.
Abitibi came out firing to start the third. The home team kept the puck in their opponent’s zone for five minutes straight and peppered Kleinhans with shot after shot, but couldn’t get one past him.
The Thunderbirds showed why they’ve won 15 games straight, answering the Eskis attack with a goal of their own 13:09 into the third period, giving them a 5-2 cushion.
Therrien scored his team’s third goal a little over a minute later, with assists from Preston Lacasse and Begin.
With only a second left on the clock, the tension between these two powerhouses finally boiled over.
Eskis Preston Lacasse dropped the gloves with James Delaye. Both players earned themselves misconducts for the tilt.
Therrien said despite the loss, he is proud of his team for fighting back.
“We started off really shaky, but I think we showed a lot of maturity tonight by bouncing back from the two-goal deficit early on,” said the Eskis captain.
“We started playing the program that we’ve worked on and we generated momentum from it. We can compete with any team. We just made a few mistakes early in the game and couldn’t come back from it.”
The Eskis face off next on Wednesday night against the Sudbury Cubs at 7:30 p.m. at McClelland Arena.
Their next home game is Saturday when they host the North Bay Trappers inIroquoisFalls.