IROQUOIS FALLS - Brady Clouthier scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season early in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and lift the Abitibi Eskimos to a 3-1 win over the North Bay Trappers Saturday night.
The two teams had been locked in a tight struggle until that point, with Eskimos goalie Sylvain Miron and Trappers puck stoppers Dustin Hummel and Evan Cormier standing tall.
“We played really well in the defensive zone, but in the offensive zone we missed quite a few chances in front of the net,” said Eskimos assistant coach Dan Dube.
“Their goalie played well. He is a big goaltender and he made the key saves. There was a deflection and he kicked it out.”
The Eskimos drew first blood in Saturday night’s contest, with Zach Innes beating Cormier to put the home side in front 1-0.
North Bay was able to get back on even terms before the end of the first period, however, as Zachary Shankar beating Miron with less than two minutes to play.
“All in all, we are really happy with the way the kids played,” Dube said.
“We didn’t quit. We played hard for 60 minutes. We took care of our own end first and we got a lot of shots on net.
“It kind of wasn’t going our way at the start and then we got a goal to make it 2-1 and take the lead.
“It was kind of like there was a monkey off our backs (at that point).”
Not playing 60 minutes of hockey was what did in the Trappers Saturday night, according to the team’s head coach Zane Neily.
“We played a pretty solid 40 minutes,” he said.
“The first and second period I thought we came out pretty good and had them just where we wanted them, a 1-1 tie heading into the third period.
“But we came out in the third period very flat. We didn’t want to win battles. We didn’t even want to compete with anyone, so I pretty much feel we gave them this game. The third period we just gave up.”
That couldn’t really be said of Hummel and Cormier, however, as they were solid from start to finish.
“Evan came in and took over from Hummel just because Hummel was sick and wasn’t feeling well,” Neily said.
“He will probably be back in the net Monday. Evan is a very strong goalie and we have probably the best one-two (tandem) in the league.”
Hummel started the game and stopped nine of the 10 shots he faced in the first period. Cormier played the final two periods and was tagged with the loss. He blocked 20 of the 21 shots the Eskimos fired his way.
Miron picked up the win for the Eskimos, stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
The Eskimos ran into some penalty woes later in the third period, but the Trappers were not able to capitalize.
Defenceman Jamey Lauzon took a charging minor shortly after centre Ryan Tront was rocked with an open ice hit at the offensive blue line.
Neither referee Dan Ouellet, nor referee Dan Clermont felt there was anything wrong with the hit, although their 517 unofficial assistants in the stands saw it differently.
“It was tough, the guys got up on their feet and they were wondering why there was no call on the play,” Dube said.
“We just tried to keep it calm on the bench and we kept our composure and we played well defensively in the last 10 minutes of the game. We got the puck out and got the puck high off the glass.”
Tront, no stranger to sick bay or playing hurt, did not suffer any long-term effects from the hit and Dube says he is “fine.”
Lauzon took another minor penalty, this time for head contact, as well as a 10 minute misconduct with under three minutes to play.
North Bay once again was not able to capitalize with the man advantage, however, and when they pulled Cormier with under a minute to play Eskimos defenceman Kealey Cummings scored into the empty net to make the final 3-1.
“Kealey worked hard for that last one,” Dube said.
Cummings realizes that it was important for the Eskimos to get a victory for the home-town fans in their first game at the Jus Jordan Arena in some time.
“It felt good to be back home and we wanted to let the fans know that we are still working hard and that we appreciate their support,” he said.
“We worked hard and we played our game. I think if we would have hit the net a little bit more the score would have been a lot higher.
“We really played well together, as a team, so you can’t really complain.”
Cummings, in his third season on the Eskimos blue line, realizes that the Eskimos have to be able to win all kinds of hockey games.
“Low-scoring games really keep you into it, so that you continue to play your game and the system,” he said.
“And that is what we have been doing the last couple of weekends.”
Dube was impressed with what he saw from the Trappers Saturday night and realizes that the Eskimos will have to work hard to beat them in North Bay on Monday.
“They are a quick team and their power play is really effective,” he said.
“So we are going to have to stay disciplined in North Bay on Monday. They move the puck well, but if we take care of our own end first the goals will come on Monday.”
Dube and the rest of the Eskimos know what it will take to earn another victory on the road, after taking two of three during a road trip last weekend.
“We know all about playing on the road,” he said.
“Our guys are getting used to it, especially our younger guys. They are not used to going on the road during the week, but our vets will play a big role in keeping them composed.
“We like to keep it simple on the road.”
Neily also sees the formula for victory on Monday as being a simple equation.
“We just have to compete for 60 minutes,” he said.
“I think if we come out in the third period ready to play, that game will have a different score.”
The Trappers have one of the youngest teams in the NOJHL, so it may take some time for them to develop the consistence Neily is looking for, night in, night out.
“There is just no leadership in the room right now,” he said.
“A couple of moves were made over the week, so maybe people are a little bit on edge.”
ESKIMOS NOTES — The three stars of the game were Clouthier, Miron and Eskimos forward Ben Miller, who played his first game after returning for the injury list … Defenceman Steven Pettite left Saturday night’s game with an injury, but the coaching staff is hopeful he will be ready for Monday night’s game in North Bay … The Eskimos were 0-4 on the power play, while the Trappers were 0-7 with the man advantage … Elsewhere in the NOJHL on Saturday night the Soo Thunderbirds edged the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 2-1 and the Espanola Rivermen dumped the Blind River Beavers 7-2.