THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

Therrien looks to lead attack

IROQUOIS FALLS – The Abitibi Eskimos have just three forwards back from the high-octane squad that found the back of the net 241 times during the 2011-12 regular season.   And since none of them are named Marc-Alain Begin, you might expect this year’s squad to be a little challenged when it comes to scoring goals.   While it’s true that Begin’s 31 goals and team-record 123 points won’t likely be replaced by one player, it is important to remember that two members of Abitibi’s top unit will be back in 2012-13.   “Marc-Alain Begin being too old is a great loss for us,” said Eskimos captain Richard Therrien.   “But we are going to try and fill up that role … fill up his shoes … but was a phenomenal player.   “I don’t think anybody can replace him, but we are going to try and do our best.”   Therrien potted a team-leading 44 goals and finished with 91 points last season and he is confident heading into the 2012-13 campaign.   “We are going to be a bunch of young guys and we are going to be very fast and very skilled,” he said.   “So I think it looks promising right now.”   And centre Corey Hamel also averaged more than a point a game, as he finished with 18 goals and 34 points in 33 games.   “Hamel coming back on my line is really going to help me because we already have that chemistry going,” Therrien said.   “Plus we have a couple of players I played with back in midget, so that should will be extremely helpful with team chemistry, as well, so I think we are going to be pretty good.”   The other returning forward is Jason Forward, who split last season between Kirkland Lake and the Eskimos, scoring once and adding 14 assists in 41 regular season games.   Despite having only three forwards back from last year’s team, the captain doesn’t think it will take too long for the group to gel.   “It might take a couple of weeks, but with (coach and general manager) Paul’s (Gagne) system I think we are all going to by OK,” Therrien said.   Shayne Borden has been acquired from the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and while he is not well known for putting the puck in the net (four goals and five assists in 32 games) he does bring a bit of an edge to the roster.   “Shayne will bring a little bit of spunk to our team,” Gagne said.   “He’s a big, physical kid and he will play some minutes defensively. Do some assignments here, for us.”   Miles Nolan, the Geraldton native who played in four games with the Eskimos during the 2011-12 campaign as an affiliate player, also has a good shot of making the team.   In 30 games with the Hearst Elans, Nolan scored 21 goals and finished with 50 points, second on the team.   With so few players back, there are plenty of jobs open up front.   “We are looking for a mixture of players,” Gagne said.   “We are going to have to spend a few dollars to bring in a couple of replacements in the status of Begin and stuff like that.   “We need to replace those guys.   “Within two or three weeks, hopefully we will have couple of guys coming in.”   In the meantime, the forwards who are in camp will have ample opportunity to impress the coaching staff during a week of practices and a pair of exhibition games.   “The position we are going to put them in, they are going to have to do their assignments,” Gagne said.   “It doesn’t matter if they score three goals and they can’t do one assignment, then they don’t belong.   “That’s what we are going to be evaluating these kids on, is their comprehension of what we are asking for them to do … our program, our systems.   “Their skill sets we already know and we have already seen it, so now it’s a matter of let’s comprehend here and focus and do it at a high level.   “And then we will go from there, because I want to get ready for Friday and Saturday.