NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013
Countdown to face-off – Team Preview: Abitibi Eskimos
SUDBURY – As the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season gets underway this week and with the countdown to game action in week 1 in the NOJHL just a day away, a team-by-team preview is being offered heading towards puck drop.
The first member club synopsis is that of the Abitibi Eskimos.
Looking to rebound from a 2012-13 campaign that saw them finish seventh in the NOJHL with a 14-31-0-3 overall record, optimism reigns supreme in Iroquois Falls and the Eskimos looks to get back among the league’s elite this season.
Offensively Abitibi will look to garner more offensive production for this year’s roster as last season’s squad was sixth overall in goals for at 165 or 3.4 per game.
Preseason play saw the team drop a pair of exhibition decisions to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners; falling 5-2 on home ice in the opener on Aug. 24 and 3-2 in double overtime in the rematch back in Kirkland Lake the following night.
Among the group of returnees to don the black, white and gold are three forwards head coach and general manager Paul Gagne has high hopes for starting in Wednesday’s season-opener on the road in Copper Cliff vs. Sudbury.
Veteran 20-year-old Ryan Wildman, who was acquired from Fort Frances (SIJHL) part-way through 2012-13, will look to build on the 41 points in 31 outings he compiled after joining the team netting 15 tallies and setting up 26 others.
“Entering his second season with the team Ryan shows great leadership and we will depend on his excellent play,” stated Gage on the Timmins product.
Zach Innes, a ’93-born forward will begin his third year with the Eskimos and is coming off a 14-goal, 17-assist, 31-point run with the club in 42 contests in the season that was.
Then there is ’94 forward Ryan Tront, who averaged nearly a point-per-game with 24 in 28 matches, including 20 assists.
“Entering his second season with the Eskimos, Ryan will be one of our leaders on and off the ice,” offered Gagne on the play-making forward.
Defensively after allowing a league-high 258 goals against a year ago the Eskimos hope to improve on that.
One of those who will be called up to lower the number is rookie netminder Sylvain Miron.
Born in 1995, Miron hails from Iroquois Falls and played midget hockey for the Kapuskasing Flyers.
“Sylvain is a consistent goaltender which we will rely heavily on this season,” said the Abitibi bench boss on his new puck stopper.
Another local recruit who patrolled the blueline for the Kap Flyers is defenceman Brennan Roy.
When commenting on the first-year D-man Gagne replied; “He is reliable defenseman, who finishes his checks, has a great shot and a first good pass in D-zone.”
Rounding out a list of homegrown talent, who skated for Kapuskasing in the Great North Midget League last season, is ’97-born forward Brenden Locke.
The GNML the rookie of the year was also drafted in the 14th round, 275th overall, by Barrie Colts of the OHL priority selection this past May.
“Brenden is a nifty centreman, a beautiful skater and can put the puck in the net,” commented Gagne.
After Wednesday’s contest against Sudbury the Eskimos return home for their home opener Saturday vs. Espanola in a 7:30 p.m. start at Jus Jordan Arena.