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Trappers stifle Eskis in Game 4

NORTH BAY — Brad Gehl and  Brandon Janke are a bit of an odd couple.   The 21-year-old Gehl weighs 230 pounds and is sporting the thickest playoff beard in the hockey world. The 18-year-old Janke is barely 150 pounds and a week without shaving might generate traces of peach fuzz.   But on the ice, there’s no separating them. Janke set up Gehl for the first two goals and Gehl returned the favour for the third as the North Bay Trappers pushed the Abitibi Eskimos to the brink of elimination with a 3-1 win in front of 679 fans at Memorial Gardens, Friday.   The Trappers lead the best-of-seven NOJHL East semifinal 3-1, with Game 5 Sunday night in Iroquois Falls.   Goals were hard to come by Friday, but Gehl’s physical presence as a bruising power forward with a heavy shot might just establish that little extra space required for a shifty waterbug like Janke to create some offence.   “After a couple of months together now, we just seem to understand how each other plays,” Janke said. “Plus, he has a pretty deep voice, so you can always hear him out there and know where he is.   “He definitely draws some attention, so I think I get more room out there.” Gehl was acquired at midseason and awarded the captaincy, a move that seems to be paying off.   He had 38 points in 25 games in the regular season, and now has seven goals in the first four games of playoffs.   “Brad is just a force,” said Trappers head coach Tom McCarthy. “We can all see his size, but his determination and character, though, I think it just elevates everybody in the room and on the ice. He’s a big, strong kid who has to really watch what situations he puts himself in, because he’s that big and that strong.”   The Trappers jumped on the Eskimos early Friday, limiting them to five shots in the first period, perhaps taking advantage of Abitibi’s extended five-hour bus ride through bad weather, a late arrival that pushed back the start of the game.   As well, pesky Trappers forward Bryce Lipinski resumed his role of shadowing Eskimos’ star Marc-Alain Begin, limiting the 123-point man’s effectiveness most of the evening. The Eskimos were assessed six minor penalties to the Trappers’ four.   “We did a good job adjusting during the game and that’s important — every game, you have to find a different way to win,” said McCarthy. “Teams will play a little different and throw things at you and I thought we did a heck of a job tonight with our discipline and making adjustments as the game went on.”   The Trappers outshot the Eskimos 40-18 overall, including 31-11 over the first two periods while building a 3-0 lead.   The Eskimos’ Jordan Delaurier was the only one to solve North Bay netminder Carmine Alfano, chipping in a centering pass at the top of the crease with 6:31 remaining. It was Alfano’s first start of the series, after Stephen Klein played the first three games.   “We showed them a different look,” said Trappers head coach Tom McCarthy. “We get to see the same goalie (J.P. Fecteau) every night and you get a book on him after awhile.   “When we throw a different goaltender in there, they might need a little time to adjust because they might be getting used to Klein from the first few games. With Alfano in there, he didn’t have a really busy night, but he had a solid evening.”   The Eskimos now have zero room for error, but with the series returning to Iroquois Falls, they might have the Trappers right where they want them. Looking at things positively, all they have to do is win their two remaining home games, while winning their next one on the road.   “We had a little more urgency in the third period and at least we had everybody thinking the same way,” said Eskimos head coach Paul Gagne. “But prior to that, we were just not in sync. It was one of those games — it’s not that they choked us, because we had puck possession, but we weren’t making the right decisions with the puck. We were just not clicking.”   “That’s the positive for me. We hit three posts, we didn’t bring our A-game and we still only lost 3-1.”   Adding to the challenge of needing to win three straight games to take the series is the fact the Eskimos have a handful of regulars sidelined by injury, with six affiliate players suiting up Friday.   “These kids are coming in and giving us icetime and they did well,” Gagne said. “Yes, we’ve run into injuries and stuff like that, but I know they’re going to work hard. Sunday night is going to be another nailbiter, because the kids will come out to play and they love playing in front of the fans.”