IROQUOIS FALLS - The fat lady has sung.
The Abitibi Eskimos were eliminated from the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League playoffs following a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Soo Thunderbirds on Sunday at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
Five goals in the third period sealed the Eskimos’ fate.
“We played another awesome game again,” said Eskimos’ assistant coach Dan Dube. “All the way from the goalie to the forwards. It was awesome. It came down to a couple of mistakes. We all know mistakes happen.”
Adam Ritchie, Daniel Pymaki, Anthony Butorac, Matthew Zalewski and Anthony Miller each netted goals for the Thunderbirds in the final 20-minutes to eliminate the Eskimos in Game 4 of their opening-round matchup.
“You have to give them credit, they are a good hockey club,” said Dube. “We made just a couple of mistakes and they capitalized.”
Zach Innes got the Eskimos on the board late in the first period, linking up with Ryan Wildman and Nick Fountain on the play.
However, Brandon Warmington responded for the Soo 38 seconds into the second period to tie the game at 1-1.
Eskimos netminder Jackson Winkler started between the pipes for the second day in a row, turning aside 24 of 29 shots he faced.
“Winkler made the big stop when we needed him to and it got the bench going,” said Dube.
Steven Dombrowski got the start for the Soo, stopping 27 of 30 shots he faced.
At the 15-minute mark of the second, Peter Poulin-Roy got the Eskimos their second goal of the contest, giving Abitibi a 2-1 lead heading into the final frame where things turned for the worst.
The Thunderbirds struck five times in the period, with Pymaki’s goal coming on the powerplay.
Poulin-Roy notched his second goal of the contest at the 8:53 mark of the period, linking up with Kapuskasing call-up Brennan Roy and defender Ryan Kerr.
But the Thunderbirds, who finished the season in second place and are considered one of the top junior teams in the country, held off the surging Eskimos to grab the series-clinching win.
“We were really proud of the guys,” said Dube. “They showed a lot of character. The Soo really had to play hard to get those four wins because we didn’t give it to them by any means.
“The fans that came to support us the last two days got great hockey games from two clubs laying it all on the line,” said Dube. “I told the guys to keep their heads up high. They didn’t quit, they played well, they did what they could do. The guys were all supportive of each other.”
The Thunderbirds will have to wait to find out who they will be playing the second round.
It will either be the Sudbury Nickel Barons or the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
The North Bay Trappers, who finished in first place and had a first-round bye will play the team with the worst regular season record.
It all depends on who wins between the Barons and Elliot Lake Bobcats.