THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

Eskimos fall to Gold Miners

IROQUOIS FALLS – If the Abitibi Eskimos looked like they were skating in a bit of a fog at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night, it’s because they were.   Both the Eskimos and the visiting Kirkland Lake Gold Miners — not to mention the more than 500 fans in attendance — had to deal with steamed-up glass and fog caused by a combination of high temperatures and humidity outside the arena and cold ice inside the building.   Conditions were the same for both squads, as the Eskimos dropped a 4-1 decision to the Gold Miners in their final tuneup for the 2012-13 NOJHL season.   It was a slightly better outcome than the 8-2 setback the Eskimos suffered in Kirkland Lake 24 hours earlier.   “Considering what we had, as players, we had our best players (captain Richard Therrien and centre Corey Hamel) not playing tonight due to injury, first shift young (Shayne) Borden got hurt, his shoulder, so we were short staffed, basically,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.   “We even had the young (Simon) Desrosiers playing forward. He’s a defenceman. “And, right from the start, we had (Daniel) Villeneuve (another defenceman) on the wing and, you know what, he held his own.   “He was really into it. He had a lot of questions. What do you do on face offs, and forechecking? So, he really did well.”   The soft-spoken Villeneuve, whose steady, solid defensive style on the blueline usually keeps him out of the limelight, was a little surprised when Gagne told him he was moving up to play wing.   “I walked into the room and he told me I would be playing forward today, so it was quite the surprise,” Villeneuve said.   “It was quite a bit different. It was a little faster. You have to have your head up a little bit more to watch out for the guys coming in hard on you.   “You have to be quick and step up and move the puck real quick.”   Villeneuve, a Pembroke, native had not played forward in a game in four years, since he was playing minor midget.   “I think I did pretty good. It was a tough transition to wing, but it felt pretty good,” he said.   Given a choice, Villeneuve would prefer to play defence, “ but it’s always fun to play forward every once in a while … to get a feel for all the different positions.”   At least getting a feel for a different position on Saturday night didn’t involve dressing as a goaltender to back up starter Martin Bilodeau.   With Nick Heimer having left camp earlier in the day and returned to his native Minnesota, the Eskimos opted instead not to dress a back up goaltender.   Villeneuve even managed to get into a tussle with Jordan Turbide, one of the Gold Miners’ biggest offensive threats, and exchange that saw both players banished to the sin bin, but with the Kirkland Lake forward earning an additional 10 minute misconduct for his verbal prowess.   “Considering what we had, I definitely was pleased,” Gagne said.   “The effort was there. Even last night, the effort was there, but tonight the effort was excellent … but also the execution of what we were trying to do … little assignments, defensive zone coverage, face offs, even different things we are trying, that we call an overload in the neutral zone.   “And the kids were buying in, they were doing it and they were happy and, you know what, more assignments were being done and we were pleased with it.”   The Gold Miners jumped into a 1-0 lead 3:20 into the first period when Jordan Turbide beat Bilodeau.   The Eskimos fought back, however, to tie it 1-1 on Aaron Sullivan’s goal 2:57 into the second period.   The Gold Miners went ahead for good, however, when Jordan Briand scored less than four minutes later.   The visitors skated into the final period leading 2-1 and then salted the victory away with a pair of goals midway through the frame.   Anthony Duquette beat Bilodeau at the 8:38 mark and Turbide added an unassisted marker with five minutes to play.   Eskimos defenceman Kealey Cummings acknowledge after Saturday night’s contest that the team still has some work to do, as it gets ready for the regular season opener on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Jus Jordan Arena against the Sudbury Nickel Barons. “This is just the beginning for us,” he said.   “We will be working on a lot of things. Everybody has their individual stuff to do when we get going and there is just still so, so much to do.”   The second-year defenceman was a lot happier with the way he and his teammates played Saturday than the night before.   “We put 110% better effort out there and we can’t complain about that,” he said.   “We only started to fall apart in the last five minutes and even then we didn’t fall apart. We worked really hard, so it was a good effort, a great effort, by every single person.”   In Friday night’s loss, the Gold Miners jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period, on goals by   Tanner Lafrance, Turbide and Briand, with Kealey Cummings replying for the Eskimos.   Kirkland Lake increased the advantage to 6-2 in the second period, with Kyle Bishop, Gordie Sinclair and Duquette scoring and Therrien replying for the Eskimos.   Goals by Joe Ftoma and Duquette closed out the scoring and made the final 8-2 in favour of the home team.