IROQUOIS FALLS - Abitibi goalie Sylvain Miron got his groove back Saturday night, former Eskimos goalie Etienne Roy, not so much.
Miron, making his first start after sitting six-straight games, was steady in the net, while stopping 30 of the 34 shots Elliot Lake fired his way.
“We feel relieved for him,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“It wasn’t easy, playing at home and against a good hockey team like Elliot Lake.
“He held his own. We were out shot and he made some key saves. Even the first one (goal) was an unlucky one. It was redirected.
“The players were so happy for him. We need two good goaltenders and that is what we have right now.
“He (Miron) had just gone into a little funk for about three games and those things happen. It was his turn tonight and he came up big.
“It will be a great confidence booster for him, for sure.”
For the second time in as many visits back to the Jus Jordan Arena, Roy was given the hook by Elliot Lake Bobcats coach and general manager Ryan Leonard during the Eskimos 6-4 win Saturday night — the NOJHL squad’s third-straight victory.
Roy was replaced by Alex Bitsakis after Kealey Cummings’ goal put the Eskimos in front 2-1.
Ryan Tront, of the Eskimos, and Ryan Fletcher, of the Bobcats, had exchanged goals early in the first period.
Bitsakis didn’t fare much better than Roy, however, as Shane Hiley scored to put the Eskimos in front 3-1 with 34 seconds to play in the first period.
Brett Wagner got that one back with just 18 seconds to play, sending the two squads to the dressing room with the Eskimos in front 3-2.
Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne was against pleased with the effort put forth by his team in securing their third-straight win.
“You know what, we are competing,” he said.
“When you get on a roll, you win one and it’s a confidence builder. The players are more conscious of their play, even in the defensive zone. They are working really hard in the defensive zone, other than the second period, we didn’t look too good in the second period in the defensive zone, but it happens.”
Another key for the Eskimos has been the play of Brady Clouthier, Tront and Hiley.
“Our No. 1 line has been helping us quite a bit,” Gagne said.
“With them scoring like that, it gives the other lines a little bit of leeway. They are working hard defensively and they are popping in a goal here and there.
“It just balances things out, which is nice.”
Clouthier, the Eskimos leading scorer, has far exceeded the team’s expectations when he became one of the first players they signed before the start of training camp.
“We knew that he had some offensive ability and with him coming to school here it was just a bonus that we saw him skate during the first two days of camp.
“We knew he had a lot of skills, but he has really progressed and not only that, he has shown leadership on and off the ice. He is well respected among his peers and he is one of the best additions that we have made in a while.”
Hiley, the latest addition to the No. 1 line seems to be gelling with Clouthier and Tront.
“Shane has got great hands,” Gagne said.
“Anywhere around the net, he can dish it out, or he can shoot. He has got one of the best shots in the league.”
The right winger knows just how important Saturday night’s victory was for the Eskimos.
“It was big to come back and get three big wins out there,” he said.
“It definitely brings out confidence back up.”
The Eskimos win, combined with Espanola’s 6-2 loss in Kirkland Lake Saturday night pulls Abitibi to within six points of the Rivermen and they have three games in hand.
“You always want to take it one game at a time,” Hiley said.
“You never want to focus too far ahead. You just want to focus on getting two points each night and hope that brings you up in the standings.
There is no real secret to why the trio is clicking.
“They seem to be really communicating,” Gagne said.
“Even off the ice, they talk about things and plays and they are really motivated.”
Roy returned to the Bobcats net to start the second period of play and he finished up the game.
“I felt bad for him,” Leonard said.
“A 20 year old and it was the second time we have had to pull him here. The first time it was four goals on six shots, so I decided to let him go back in in the second period.
“I told my guys in the dressing room I take full blame for the loss tonight for going with my gut and giving him a second opportunity.
“You can’t blame the players. The forwards were working hard tonight. There were a couple of little mistakes and a couple of cross bars, a post, but that’s the way hockey is played.
“You could see both teams were pretty evenly matches out there and it’s going to be very exciting down the stretch.”
Tront, with his second goal of the game, and Clouthier scored in the first five minutes of the second period, as the Eskimos extended their lead to 5-2.
Aviv Milner, who seems to score every time the Bobcats visit the Jus Jordan Arena, got one of those goals back to make it a 5-3 game during the second period.
And the Bobcats pulled to within one goal when Andrew Palushaj scored just 33 seconds into the third period.
Both teams had excellent chances to score, but neither could find the back of the net until Andrew Green buried an empty net goal with 38 seconds to play.
“Last night (a 3-0 loss to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake) we did the same thing,” Leonard said.
“We took Kirkland Lake hard the first five minutes of the game and we gave up a breakaway early, like we did tonight and we got down 1-0 early and we couldn’t come back.
“Last night I thought we played well enough, but not well enough to win. That’s why the game was so close.
“Tonight, we outshot them, we outplayed them all three periods, but again, two goals in the first period on two shots and the first two shots of the second period in the net. We never got the goaltending again, like we should have. We were outshooting them 7-0 in the first period and the first two shots go in. Second period, they come out and 29 seconds in the first shot goes in. It’s hard to battle back from that, but we did battle back to make it 5-4. We need our goaltender to stop the puck when he comes here and it’s just not happening.
ESKIMOS NOTES: The Eskimos were 1-3 on the power play, while the Bobcats were 0-4 with the man advantage … The official attendance was 434 … The Eskimos will be on the road for three games next weekend, Friday night in Elliot Lake, Saturday night in Sudbury and Sunday afternoon in North Bay … The next home game for the Eskimos will be on Saturday, Nov. 30, when they host the Nickel Barons at the Jus Jordan Arena .