Welcome to the new home of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League
IROQUOIS FALLS - Brandon Janke’s power-play goal 34 seconds into the second overtime frame lifted the visiting North Bay Trappers to a 2-1 win over the Abitibi Eskimos at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
Eskimos defenceman Corey Dubbeldam was sent off as play expired in the first overtime session, giving the Trappers the extra skater as the second overtime period got underway.
It didn’t take Janke long to beat Abitibi netminder Marc Audet, who made 31 saves to keep the home side in the game.
“That penalty at the end really didn’t help us, but I thought we played a great game, overall,” Audet said.
Having now faced all three of the top teams in the NOJHL, Audet is pleased with the way his game is progressing and how well his teammates are playing in front of him.
“I am feeling confident in net and hopefully I can bring some confidence to the team,” he said.
Audet feels gaining three of a possible four points during the past two weekends should provide the Eskimos with a big boost.
“It’s great motivation for us and it’s definitely great motivation for the fans to come watch us and support us,” he said.
“We are playing great hockey.”
Both North Bay coach Tom McCarthy and Eskimos coach Paul Gagne were pleased with the player of their respective teams.
“Any time on the road you get yourself in position to win a game like this and come out with the victory, you are definitely pleased,” McCarthy said.
“Our goalie (Greg Dodds) has played extremely well so far this season and he has been a big reason for our success.
“At the same time, the goaltending at the other end, for Abitibi, was excellent, as well.”
The Trappers, who will host the Dudley Hewitt Cup, are off to an excellent start and have yet to lose a game in regulation.
“We are not trying to look past to the Dudley situation,” McCarthy said.
“We are trying to win our league, win our championship and walk in the front door, even though we have the privilege of hosting it, that comes next after we win the championship in our league.”
Saturday’s double OT loss represents the second solid effort in the past two weeks against two of the NOJHL’s strongest teams, following last Saturday’s 5-4 win over the visiting Soo Thunderbirds.
“There weren’t too many negatives, because we were playing against a team that is hosting the Dudley and for us to come out and play the way we did, different players are still not playing within the program, and there is lots of thinking out there, but you know what they did play 100% better than the last game,” Gagne said.
“So, progression wise, it’s excellent. There were no negatives. None whatsoever.”
Like McCarthy, Gagne was impressed with the goaltending at both ends of the rink.
“In the first period it could have easily been 2-0 for us,” Gagne said. “Our goalie kept us in the game in the second period. They outshot us, I believe, it was 13-4, or something like that, so, yes, the goalies were both hot ... but there were a lot of shots from the outside.”
Gagne was pleased with the Eskimos ability to generate scoring opportunities, if not their ability to bury the chances they did get.
“The third period we had key situations, great area in front of the net, in the slot area and we hit the post,” he said. “The goalie made a big save and on another one the net was off when the kid went around the net and jammed it. I thought it was a goal, but it wasn’t.
“We were pleased with the effort and we are pleased with the way they are playing within our program.”
Samuel Blanchett’s second-period goal had staked the visitors to a 1-0 advantage after neither side could find the back of the net during the first period of play.
The Eskimos were finally able to get back on even terms late in the third period with Audet on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Right winger Peter Poulin-Roy, playing his first game with the Eskimos, beat North Bay goalie Greg Dodds from close in, with just 1:28 to play in the third period.
Abitibi coach Paul Gagne had opted to pull Audet with 3:20 to play in the final frame, causing a number of fans in the stands to question whether it was too early to make the move.
Poulin-Roy made Gagne look like a genius, however, and brought all the doubting Thomases in the stands to their feet.
“I knew that we needed to get a goal, so that’s what I was trying to get, Poulin-Roy said.
“I was just trying to play my game. I hadn’t played in a while, so I was just trying to keep it easy and try and contribute as best as I could.”
Poulin-Roy feels the strength of his game is skating, shooting, forechecking and taking the body,and his new coach agrees with that assessment.
“He is big and strong and he has a good shot,” Gagne said.
“Again, we are talking about instincts and stuff. There are a lot of little areas and assignments that weren’t done, but it’s just a matter of time.”
Poulin-Roy, obtained at the end of last week from Trenton, has only had three practices with his new teammates to try and pick up the Eskimos system.
Dodds made 35 saves for the Trappers to earn the victory, while Audet took the loss.
Audet was forced to leave the game early in the first period because of an equipment issue, with Etienne Roy make his Eskimos debut but not facing any shots in the 4:22 he was in the Abitibi cage before Audet returned to the ice.