KIRKLAND LAKE - A pair of late short-handed goals scored into an empty net clinched a 4-1 victory for the Gold Miners over the Abitibi Eskimos at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex on Sunday night.
“We played a different game last night,” Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne said Monday morning.
“If the forecheck wasn’t there then we just clogged up the neutral zone. We pretty much played a one-four game.
“We were just patient. It was a beautiful game compared to Saturday night’s (a 9-6 win over the Rivermen) and it was a great team effort.
“We worked hard, but we also played smart. We hardly gave them anything.
“It was almost like the script was written for us, because we were patient. It was a 2-1 game and it happens. They scored goals on a couple of mistakes here and there.
“We made it 2-1 and we said let’s not open it up. Let’s keep playing it the same way. We said we would wait for a shot on net, something is going to happen, maybe a power play and with 1:27 to play we get a power play.
“So we pulled the goalie and we didn’t even have a power play break out. We were just standing at the blue line, we got the puck and we gave it to them and they put it in the open net. We didn’t even set up.
“I don’t know what happened. It was perfect, but we just let it slip away. It was unbelievable.
“That’s why they scored the two short-handed goals. We were standing at the blue line, not even entering the offensive zone with speed, or anything.
“We were just standing there. We got the puck and we gave it to them and they scored. That was it, end of game.”
The Gold Miners’ short-handed empty-net goals were scored 28 seconds apart, with Dylan Rosen netting his second of the night with 48 seconds remaining in the third period and Dan Morin netting the Kirkland Lake’s final got to make it a 4-1 hockey game.
“It was perfect hockey for us,” Gagne said.
“We played really well until we had the power play at the end. There was no reason for it. I don’t know what happened there. I do know what happened, but I don’t know why it happened. I don’t know why they decided to stand at the blue line.”
Rosen gave the Gold Miners a 1-0 lead late in the first period and Mathieu Lecompte scored early in the second period to increase the home side’s advantage to 2-0.
Erik Robichaud finally got the Eskimos on the board five minutes later, but that would be the only offence the visitors would generate against Kirkland Lake goalie Jeremy Pominville.
The injury list continues to grow for the Eskimos who were missing forwards Brady Clouthier and Landon Hiebert, as well as defenceman Steven Pettite, on Saturday night.
“Now we have got (Shane) Hiley who is out,” Gagne said.
“He took a slap shot on the skate (Saturday night) and it is a little swollen. He has a hard time putting his skates on and (David) Becker lasted only a period and a half. He hurt his back and he couldn’t play, so we are short again.”
Becker was injured Saturday night when he was checked from behind into the boards head first by Espanola defenceman Byron Sam.
“His back was not 100%,” Gagne said.
“He tried it, but he was not up to par so we told him to take a shower.”
Pominville needed to make just 18 saves while picking up the victory for the Gold Miners.
Eskimos netminder Sylvain Miron stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced while taking the loss.
The loss proved costly for the Eskimos, as Espanola Rivermen’s 4-1 victory over the Trappers in North Bay Sunday night allowed them to leap frog the Eskimos in the standings and reclaim third place.
Despite having an injury-depleted lineup, Gagne is not about to concede third place to the Rivermen, however.
“You know what, we play to win,” he said.
“We would like to finish in third and why not. We have two games to play and both of them are at home.
“Why not win both games at home here?
“Either way, we are going to have home ice advantage, but it is just a matter of pride.
“You play to win and that is what we want to do here.”
In North Bay, Brennen Dubchak scored twice to lead the Rivermen to victory one night after they dropped a 9-6 decision to the Eskimos.
Brandon Janke and Robert Smythe had the other Espanola goals, while Chance Thomas replied for the Trappers.
Espanola goalie Keegan Paulette made 17 saves while earning the victory and Evan Cormier of the Trappers stopped 30 shots while taking the loss.
Sunday’s other game saw the Elliot Lake Bobcats, soon to become the Cochrane Crunch, double the Blind River Beavers 6-3.
The Bobcats got goals from six different players — Torrin Grange, Aviv Milner, Dylan Sakatch, Brad Holman, Dustin Cordeiro and Jared Walker — en route to their victory in Blind River.
Zack Nadeau, Trevor Simonick and Jacob Zarzycki replied for the Beavers.
Matt Young made 19 saves for the Bobcats while earning the victory and Dylan Knox of the Beavers blocked 60 shots while suffering the loss.
The Eskimos return to action Monday night when they host the Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.