IROQUOIS FALLS – On Iced Pink night at the Jus Jordan Arena, the Abitibi Eskimos left their fans feeling a little blue.
The Eskimos spotted the visiting North Bay Trappers a 3-0 advantage before dropping a 7-4 Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League decision to the second-place squad.
“It’s catch-up hockey,” said Eskimos coach and GM Paul Gagne.
“It’s hard. We spotted them three goals and we lost by three goals, but it’s the nature of the game. It happens. We don’t want it to happen too often, but we fought really hard tonight.
“We tried everything to come back, which we did. Second and third period, I thought was excellent, the way we played.
“It’s a big improvement. Even the moral was much better tonight. The kids hate losing, but the way we played, it’s winning hockey. We are going to win more hockey games that way.
“So I was happy about the effort, the performance, the assignments were done. They really worked hard.”
The Trappers got goals from Graham Pickard, Brandon Janke and Samuel Blanchet before the game was five minutes old and Gagne pulled starting goaltender Etienne Roy and put in 16-year-old Marc Audet.
The move seemed to settle the Eskimos down and Dustin Jesseau netted a power-play goal with just over five minutes to play to send Abitibi to the dressing room trailing just 3-1.
Trappers associate coach Stacy Jackson, who was behind the bench in place of coach Tom McCarthy, was pleased with his team’s effort.
“.We stuck to the game plan and we were fortunate to get out to an early lead and we were able to maintain that pressure,” he said.
Aaron Kerr’s goal five minutes into the second period made it a one-goal game, with the Trappers up 3-2.
North Bay restored its two-goal lead six minutes later, however, as Stephen Langford scored to make it a 4-2 game.
Captain Richard Therrien scored a power-play goal to pull the Eskimos to within one goal again prior to the end of the second period and North Bay was up just 4-3 heading into the final 20 minutes.
Therrien’s second goal of the game, 1:50 into the third period, brought the fans to their feet in the Jus Jordan Arena and got the Eskimos back on even terms, 4-4.
“We were forechecking well and we created a couple of bounces here and there that went our way and got some good shots,” Therrien said.
“We buried a couple and missed a couple, that’s just how it is.
The joy of Therrien’s game-tying goal was short lived, however.
“We had the momentum, but there were a couple of bounces here and a turnover there, boom and the score’s now 7-4,” he said.
“We were just playing catch-up from that point on.”
“It’s the nature of the game, you know, it wasn’t really mistakes,” Gagne said.
“They are a good hockey club and they capitalized on the chance they got and it was a goal.”
Brennan Dubchak’s goal less than two minutes later signalled another swing in momentum, however, and the visitors never looked back.
“Dubchak, tonight, was playing very well,” Jackson said.
“And, you know what, all four lines tonight contributed on the scoresheet. It’s hard to single out what particular guy, but Dubchak is the one guy who kind of stands out. He played an excellent game, all the way through.
“He played well killing penalties, as well. He kind of got our game MVP tonight for sure.”
Cole Clippenstein’s power-play goal and Brad Edward’s even-strength marker closed out the scoring and made the final 7-4 for the Trappers.
“We preach to them about keeping our feet moving during the play and stopping on pucks and not skating by guys,” Jackson said.
“We really showed that in the third period, when Abitibi tied it up 4-4.
Greg Dodds was solid in goal for the Trappers, blocking 41 of the 46 shots the Eskimos fired his way.
“You know what, he’s a game changer,” Jackson said.
“We are very fortunate to have him. Night after night he continues to play very consistent hockey. He is smart with the puck and, you know what, he gets us out of a lot of jams. He plays well and he is the backbone of the team right now.”
Audet made 40 saves on 43 shots after taking over for Roy, who stopped just six of nine shots he faced.
“It was a great game,” Gagne said. “I think the fans got got a good outing of that on a Saturday night. There was good intensity. There was a lot of speed, a lot of great forechecking, a lot of good plays, so overall we are really happy with the game … but not with the outcome.”
Moving forward, the Eskimos captain knows the team must stop spotting other teams big leads – especially early in the game.
“We have to be more ready before the game,” Therrien said.
“They kind of caught us off guard, but I really liked how we battled back. It shows character.”
Forward Adriano Mungioli, a Dallas native who was acquired from the Humboldt Broncos, saw his first action in the Eskimos lineup on Saturday.
“It was good to get playing and start to get some chemistry going with my linemates,” Mungioli said.
“This league is a little bit slower and a little bit less physical, but it’s still a very good league and I am pretty impressed with the speed and everything.”
The right winger feels he can help contribute on the offence and bring some hard work to the Eskimos.
“This is a beautiful area and I love that it’s a hockey town,” Mungioli said.
“It’s great play in a place where people care and hopefully I can help give them a good show and we can win some games for them.”
ESKIMOS NOTES: The Trappers were 2-2 on the power play, while the Eskimos were 2-6 with the man advantage … The Eskimos next game will be on Friday, Nov. 2, when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Archie Dillon Sportsplex in Timmins. Game time is 7:30 p.m. The following night the Eskimos will host the Sudbury Nickel Barons at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls. Game time is 7:30 p.m.