COCHRANE - Brennan Roy’s goal 19 seconds into the first overtime period lifted the Abitibi Eskimos to a 7-6 win over the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night.
The Crunch had stormed back from a 6-4 third-period deficit on goals by Aviv Milner and Dustin Cordeiro to force the extra frame, but it did not take the visitors long to put the game away.
Roy converted a pretty pass from Ryan Attwood for the game winning goal, to help alleviate some of the sour taste left in the Eskimos mouths after the 9-3 and 10-3 setbacks they suffered in the previous home-and-home series with the Crunch.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We played like men. I know they scored to tie it, but it was a lucky bounce and it went right on his tape. Even their second goal went off a skate and went in.
“We had a few mishaps and they cost us goals, but I thought we played excellent.
“We had great offence from (Brady) Clouthier tonight, but unfortunately he got hurt at the end there, from a head check, on his last goal.
The Eskimos got on the board first Friday night, when Clouthier beat Crunch goalie Troy Paquette 8:07 into the opening frame.
The lead did not last long, however, as the Crunch tied it up 1-1 on a Connor Lovie goal less than four minutes later.
Daniel Stagg’s unassisted goal, less than a minute after Lovie’s tying goal, put the home side up 2-1.
“When they scored two quick goals on us, it could have been a real case of panic city there, but Cosimo (Amore) comes in and drives to the net, with a nice pass from (Patrick) Picard, and scores to take the pressure off,” Gagne said.
“It was really the turning point of the game, because it was really sketchy … scary there when they scored those two quick goals.
“We had had such a great forecheck and we were on top of them.”
Amore, playing his first game in an Eskimos’ uniform after being acquired from the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in a three-player trade earlier in the week that also saw the Eskimos acquire defenceman Nick Hautanen in exchange for defenceman Jamey Lauzon, was able to get the Eskimos back on even terms with that goal before the end of the period, however.
“It was a great feeling to get a goal on the board,” said Amore, who was acquired for his speed and intense forecheck, more than his ability to put the puck in the net.
“I think we have a great group of guys and I think we will work hard and get a few wins.
“I want to go strong on the forecheck and get in their first most of the time and make things happen, use my speed and use my size.
“Hopefully I will be able to contribute more to this team.”
Amore practiced with the Eskimos on Wednesday and Thursday, before making his debut with the team Friday night.
“These guys are really good guys and they really made me feel welcome,” he said.
“I am really enjoying it here.”
In addition to arriving with Hautanen, the trade has given Amore the opportunity to reunite with one of his linemates from Kirkland Lake, Picard, whom the Eskimos acquired earlier this season.
“I obviously have some chemistry with him,” he said.
“I played a good three months with him (in Kirkland Lake) and I like playing with him. He really sees the ice really well.”
Cody Gratton’s power-play goal, just 1:17 into the second period, restored the Crunch one-goal lead.
Again, the Eskimos were able to battled back and tie the game up, as Brenden Locke found the back of the net less than four minutes later.
Josh Racek then beat Eskimos goalie Chet Tooker with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the middle frame to send the Crunch to the dressing room with a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes of play.
The third period got off to a disastrous start for the home side, however, as they surrendered three goals in the first 5:19 of the frame, as the Eskimos erased a one-goal deficit and built a two-goals advantage.
Attwood and Clouthier, with his second and third goals of the night, accounted for the reversal in fortunes for the visitors.
Clouthier, who has a history of concussions and concussion-like symptoms, was forced to leave the game after taking a hit to the head while scoring his third goal.
There was no call on the play, however, as neither of the game’s referees — Darren Thib and Owen Rigg — saw the infraction.
Clouthier’s status for the second half of the home-and-home series, Saturday night at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls, was unclear immediately after the game.
Tooker turned aside 48 of the 54 shots the Crunch fired his was to pick up the victory, while Troy Paquette made 31 saves and was tagged with the loss for Cochrane.
Crunch coach, general manager and owner Ryan Leonard was obviously a little disappointed his team was not able to pull out the win, but happy that they were at least able to earn a single point for forcing overtime.
“I am not going to comment too much on the game,” he said.
“I thought the guys worked hard tonight.
“I thought some of our forwards had real good games, but I know our defence really struggled on two-on-twos and one-on-ones. I thought Paquette played well tonight. You can’t blame the goalie tonight. He played well.
“Some of our veteran defencemen need to step up and they know who they are.”
What do the Crunch have to do to secure a victory in the second half of the home-and-home series?
“We just have to play the way we did tonight and tighten up a little bit,” Leonard said.
“Our defence needs to come and play tomorrow. We can’t be giving up one-on-one goals and two-on-two goals. They have to lift sticks and take the body.”
NOJHL NOTES — Official attendance at the Tim Horton Event Centre was 544 … The Crunch went 1-5 on the power play, while the Eskimos were 1-4 with the man advantage … Friday night’s other NOJHL games saw Powassan defeat Blind River 6-2 and the Soo edge Elliot Lake 3-2 in overtime … Game time for Saturday’s rematch at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls is 7:30 p.m.