After taking a step forward the week before, the Blind River Beavers took a giant leap backwards this past Saturday and landed in the basement of the Northern Ontario Junior “A” Hockey League.
With an entire week to prepare for the cellar-dwelling Abitibi Eskimos and playing before their home fans at the Blind River Community Centre, the Beavers produced their worst effort of the season and fell 6-3 to the Eskimos. In fact, the final score flattered Blind River, which trailed 6-1 before a pair of goals midway through the third period made the scoreboard more respectable.
The Beavers started strongly by putting the pressure on the Eskimos early in the first period. However, in what would become a familiar theme, the Beavers surrendered the opening goal of the contest when Zach Innes was left alone in front to jam a short shot past Brandon Currie in the Blind River net.
Richard Therrien began his assault on the Beavers’ net by scoring his first of three goals on the night on the power-play midway through the second period to give Abitibi a 2-0 lead. The margin expanded to 3-0 early in the third period when Kevin Walker’s long shot skipped past Currie.
Paul Muio briefly gave the home fans some hope when he beat Eskimo goalie Etienne Roy from the slot to pull the Beavers to within 3-1 with 17:11 left in regulation time. Within the next minute, however, Therrien scored twice on a pair of defensive miscues by the Beavers to complete his hat-trick and put Abitibi up by a comfortable 5-1 advantage.
Walker put the Beavers even further behind the eight-ball when he scored on a breakaway with 13:04 left on the clock to make it 6-1 for the Eskimos. The Beavers managed to add a power-play goal by Tyson MacLeod and a short-handed marker by newcomer Myckauly Melanson to pull to within 6-3, but could get no closer.
With the disappointing result, the Beavers fell into a tie with the Eskimos for last place in the NOJHL standings with a record of two wins, one overtime loss and seven regulation-time losses for a total of five points. The Sudbury Nickel Barons and Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds lead the league with 16 points each, while the North Bay Trappers are just two points behind. The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners are fourth with 11 points, and for the first time this season, the Elliot Lake Bobcats are ahead of the Beavers with six points.
Muio leads the Beavers with a total of nine points, while Tyler Brown has eight points and is tied for the team lead in goals with five. MacLeod also has five goals, and is tied with Sam Wilbur for third place on the Beavers with seven points each.
Currie has recorded a save percentage of .898 this season, along with a goals-against average of 4.39 per game. Fellow Beaver netminder Aaron Cormier has a goals-against average of 4.99 per game and a save percentage mark of .881.
The Beavers will try to get back into the victory column with a pair of games this week, beginning with a tilt against the defending NOJHL champion Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday evening. Saturday, the Beavers host North Bay at 7:30 p.m. at the Blind River Community Centre Arena.