ELLIOT LAKE - The Abitibi Eskimos dropped their second-straight game on the road Saturday night, falling 4-3 to the Bobcats.
Bobcat Brett Wagner beat Eskimos goalie Brody Wagner, no relation, with the only goal of the third period with 1:35 remaining in regulation to snap a 3-3 tie and send the fans home happy.
“You know what, it’s two games that we didn’t win, but we played well,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“For example on Saturday, with 1:35 left it was just a plain little mistake, we didn’t get the puck out, it should have been out and the guy walks in he shoots and he scores.
“We had great opportunities prior to that. We had two-on-ones and two-on-ones and we didn’t capitalize.
“It could have been 4-3, it could have gone either way.”
The game winner was Wagner’s second goal of the night, while Andrew Palushaj and Aviv Milner also scored for Elliot Lake.
Ryan Wildman, Steven Pettite and Shane Hiley replied for the Eskimos.
Wagner blocked 49 of the 53 shots the Bobcats fired his way in a losing cause, while Alex Bitsakis made 32 saves to pick up the victory.
“Brody Wagner played really well in net all weekend,” Gagne said.
“We were pleased with that.
“We were pleased with our play, basically, but we have just got to get some victories.”
The Eskimos were 3-3 on the power play, while Elliot Lake was 1-4 with the man advantage.
“It was a good, fast-paced game,”
“I think the first game we played on Friday we could have played better in the first period, but again I understand it’s a travel day and our first period was not the best period.”
On Friday night, the Eskimos dropped a 5-3 decision to the Rivermen in Espanola.
The Eskimos fell behind early and spent most of the night trying to play catch-up hockey.
Brennen Dubchak, Robert Smythe, Corbin Bean, Daniel Robertson and Brad Edwards scored for the Rivermen.
The Eskimos got goals from Wildman, Brady Clouthier and Erik Robichaud.
“If there was one positive on the weekend, our power play was doing well,” Gagne said.
“We were happy, we were finally capitalizing on the power play, so that was nice.”
The only way the power play could have been more effective for the Eskimos, in fact, would have been if they were to have had more opportunities.
They went three-for-three against the Rivermen and followed that up by going one-for-three against the Bobcats — a 67% efficiency rate.
Joakim Jutras stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rivermen, while Wagner blocked 40 of the 45 shots fired his way in the Eskimos net to take the loss.
“It’s not a good sign when you lose, but we played well enough to win,” Gagne said.
“That’s hockey. We have just got to eliminate our mistakes.”
Clearly, there is a lot of parity in the NOJHL this season.
“If you look at the standings, absolutely, any given night, if you have a bad break, if your team is making more mistakes, you are going to lose close games,” Gagne said.
“There is a lot of parity in the league, so you have to have your ‘A’ game every game that you play.
“It’s an eye opener. Bring your ‘A’ game.”
The Eskimos will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 9, when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
The Thunderbirds are the only team in the league that has been able to establish a lengthy winning streak so far this season.
“You know what, though, if they don’t bring their ‘A’ game and we do you never know what is going to happen.
“That’s what they have been doing. They have been bringing their ‘A’ game and finding ways to win.