SUDBURY - The Nickel Barons notched three power-play goals en route to a 5-3 win over the visiting Abitibi Eskimos at the McClelland Arena Wednesday night.
Two of those goals — scored while Eskimos forward Cameron Etherington was serving a five-minute major for head contact late in the second period — proved to be especially costly.
“It was one of those games where we just couldn’t get any momentum,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“Anytime we would go one or two good shifts, with a great forecheck, and pick up the momentum a bit, all of a sudden there would be a stupid penalty.
“From a head check and I think they called three, or four of them last night, to checking from behind, they were just momentum killers.
“And with those head checks, it is either a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct, or a game misconduct, or a two and a 10, so we always had players in the penalty box.
“To me, it’s just losing hockey. We were a little undisciplined, very undisciplined. It seemed like we had a chip on our shoulder.”
Etherington, who received a game misconduct to go along with his five-minute major, will miss the next two games, as he serves a suspension.
Kyle Levis and Brennan Roy were each assessed two-minute minor penalties and 10 minute misconducts for head contact, while Dalton Bruce received a two-minute minor penalty for checking from behind. Unlike Etherington, however, Bruce’s banishment did not come with a suspension.
“We have been emphasizing to the players the importance of finishing checks, but last night they were a little vicious, it seemed like,” Gagne said.
“They had a little mean streak. At times, that’s good, but not when we don’t have momentum. You have got to have momentum to play great hockey.”
Jimmy Roy and Ryan Theriault each scored a pair of goals to pace the attack for the winners, who also got a goal from Khadyn Butterfly.
The Eskimos got goals from three defencemen — Nick Minerva, Brennan Roy and Joshua DeJulio.
The Nickel Barons got on the scoresheet first, when Butterfly scored a power-play goal with just 38 seconds remaining in the opening period.
“A situation like that, in the first period, we had puck possession and we gave it to their D and their defenceman walks the line and takes a shot on net and they score,” Gagne said.
“The bottom line is get the puck out. There is no reason for that. It was a real lackadaisical play. It was just the theme of the whole evening. We couldn’t get it going, we couldn’t get the momentum and it definitely hurts.
“Then, when we get five-minute majors and we are short handed, with a couple of guys in the penalty box and we are already shot on players, it definitely hurts.
“You can’t play catch-up hockey like that.”
They increased their lead to 2-0 less than four minutes into the second period, when Theriault scored the first of his two goals.
The Eskimos got that one back two-and-a-half minutes later when DeJulio netted a power-play marker, his first goal as an Eskimo.
Jimmy Roy’s first goal of the night two-and-a-half minutes later restored Sudbury’s two-goal advantage, however.
Minerva’s first goal as an Eskimo cut the Sudbury lead to 3-2 midway through the middle period, but Sudbury struck twice before the teams headed to the dressing room for the second intermission, as both Jimmy Roy and Theriault netted their second goals of the night, to make it a 5-2 hockey game.
Brennan Roy’s unassisted goal with just under five minutes to play in the third period cut the Nickel Barons’ lead to 5-3, but that would be as close as the Eskimos would come to getting back on even terms.
Jessie Morin made 26 saves to pick up the win for Sudbury, while Eskimos starting goalie Chet Tooker (18 saves and three goals allowed) took the loss before giving way to Braddock Baalerud (28 saves and two goals allowed).
Perhaps even more important than the hockey game, the Eskimos have lost defenceman Jamey Lauzon for an extended period of time due to an upper-body injury.
He joins forward Ryan Tront and defenceman Michael Rancourt, who are also out with injuries.
The Nickel Barons went 3-8 on the power play, while the Eskimos were 1-4 with the man advantage.
The next game for the Eskimos will be Saturday night when they host the Blind River Beavers at the Jus Jordan Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“We have got to get refocused,” Gagne said.
“This game is over now and we have to set things straight, which is normal.”
Playing the Beavers might just cure what was ailing the Eskimos Wednesday night, but Gagne knows that you can’t take any team too lightly in the NOJHL.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” he said.
“If we would have played Blind River last night, I think it could have been the same outcome.
“We need to play our game and we have to be ready for them and not just take them lightly, whatsoever.
“We played great hockey for three games and last night we didn’t play at all the way we had played in the last three games. The intensity wasn’t there. Nothing was the same.”