SAULT STE. MARIE - Turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving fair, but the Abitibi Eskimos were thinking Meat Loaf after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon.
“Two out of three ain’t bad,” Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne said, summing up the four points his NOJHL squad was able to earn during its three-game road trip.
“After the Sault Ste. Marie game, that’s what we said, two out of three ain’t bad. We got four points out of six.
“It’s not easy, playing three games in three nights … not even three nights, two nights and one afternoon.
“We are not happy with the results today, but we are happy about the way we have been playing and progressing.”
The Eskimos fell behind 1-0 during the first period of play, with Gavin Burbach putting the Thunderbirds on top.
Anthony Miller and Tyler Jones added second period goals to increase the home side’s advantage to 3-0.
“We made three mistakes and it resulted in three goals,” Gagne said.
“There is no secret about the game of hockey. We weren’t sharp and when you are not sharp, it’s hard to get back into it and to continue on and reach that next level … get a spark and get going.”
Miller added a second goal midway through the third period to put the Thunderbirds up 4-0 before the Eskimos were able to find the scoresheet.
Marc Dube finally put Abitibi on the board, with Brenden Locke and Ryan Tront earning assists on the play.
Burbach’s second of the afternoon closed out the scoring, however, and made the final 5-1.
“We ran out of gas today,” Gagne said.
“A lot of times when we score the first goal we get a little extra energy, but after they scored the first goal you could feel it, you could feel it.
“It’s hard to play catch-up hockey when you are not 100% mentally, or physically, either.
“It’s tough, but we will learn from it.”
Joel Horodziejczyk, of the Thunderbirds, stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced to pick up the win, while Sylvain Morin, of the Eskimos, blocked 33 of the 38 shots fired his way to take the loss.
The Eskimos were coming off a 5-2 victory over the Beavers in Blind River Saturday night.
Ryan Wildman scored an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and a short-handed goal in that contest.
And his second of three goals proved to be the game winner.
“We were confident and we were playing well enough to win,” Gagne said.
“The effort was great, but not exceptionally great. The intensity was good, but not exceptionally great.
“Blind River gave us a hard time. They really forechecked hard, they went after us, but we were just in that zone of confidence and played well enough the win.”
The Eskimos jumped on the Beavers early, with Wildman and Brady Clouthier putting Abitibi in front 2-0 before the game was even five minutes old.
“Ryan Wildman had some nice goals,” Gagne said.
“And our first line with (Shane) Hiley, (Brady) Clouthier and (Erik) Robichaud, they scored a couple of beautiful goals of their own.
“It was a great game to watch.”
Tommy Labrecque and Jacob Kenney earned assists on Wildman’s goal, while Shayne Hiley and Erik Robichaud had helpers on Clouthier’s goal.
Marc Pompei scored a power-play goal for Blind River to cut the Eskimos lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
Wildman’s second goal of the game, the power-play marker and game-winner, put the Eskimos in front 4:50 into the second period.
Andrew Green and Brenden Locke earned assists on the play.
Samuel Wilbur scored a short-handed goal with 31 seconds to play in the second period to cut the Eskimos lead to 3-2 and give the home-town fans a little hope heading into the second intermission.
That hope quickly faded as the third period progressed, however, as Robichaud scored at the 4:58 mark to increase the Eskimos advantage to 4-2.
Hiley and Clouthier had helpers on the goal.
Wildman then completed his hat-trick with his short-handed goal to close out the scoring and make the final 5-2.
Clouthier earned the lone assist on the play.
Miron stopped 33 of the 35 shots fired his way to earn the victory. Dylan Knox, of the Beavers, blocked 38 of the 43 shots he faced to take the loss.
The Eskimos went 1-6 on the power play, while the Beavers were 1-5 with the man advantage.
The Eskimos opened the three-game road trip with a 5-3 win over the Rivermen in Espanola Friday night.
“The intensity was incredible,” Gagne said.
“What a great game. The energy level on the bench was incredible and we maintained it.
“We played really well. I would have to say it was probably one of our best games we have played all year.
“There were no passengers. Everybody was supporting each other, so it was a good feeling.”
The Eskimos scored three second-period goals — including two 30 seconds apart — en route to ending a two-game losing streak.
Jacob Kenney scored the lone goal of the first period to put the visitors in front 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
Corbin Bean’s goal 7:56 into the second period got the Rivermen back on even terms, but it didn’t take the Eskimos long to retake the lead.
Hiley scored the first of his two goals on the night to make it a 2-1 game.
Labrecque and Clouthier then scored goals 30 seconds apart to put the visitors in front 4-1 heading into the second intermission.
Espanola fought back with goals from Brandon Janke and Bean — on the power play — to make it a 4-3 game late in the third period, but that would be as close as the Rivermen would come to getting back on even terms.
Hiley’s second goal of the night, into an empty net, sealed Espanola’s fate and allowed the Eskimos to start off their trip on a winning note.
Miron stopped 22 of the 25 shots the Rivermen fired his way to earn the victory, while Alex Chandler, of Espanola, was tagged with the loss, after stopping 13 of the 17 Eskimos shots he faced.
Chandler was replaced by Griffin Strain following the fourth Eskimos goal. Strain played the final 22:02 of the game and didn’t give up any goals.
The Eskimos were 0-2 on the power play, while the Rivermen were 1-4 with the man advantage.
The Eskimos will return to action Saturday night when they host the North Bay Trappers at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.