Here come the Abitibi Eskimos

March 27, 2014

Fresh — well, maybe not that fresh — from a seven-game conquest of Elliot Lake Bobcats in the opening round of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League playoffs, fourth-seeded Abitibi Eskimos will get their shot at the top-ranked Soo Thunderbirds.

The second-round series between the Eskimos and Thunderbirds will begin this weekend with Games 1 and 2 slated for Essar Centre in the Soo on Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Abitibi heads to the Soo after winning back-to-back elimination games against Elliot Lake, both by 3-2 scores.

Led by the dean of NOJHL coaches, the peerless Paul Gagne, Abitibi may not have the overall depth of the Soo but the Eskimos do have a number impact players.

Veteran forward Erik Robichaud — who has played in both the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League — is a game-breaker who had 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points for Abitibi in the seven-gamer against Elliot Lake.

Robichaud has select company that includes forwards Brady Clouthier, Landon Hiebert and Ryan Tront and defencemen Ryan Kerr and Brennan Roy and goalie Brody Wagner.

And for good measure, there is 1997 birth-year forward Brenden Locke, a homegrown product who scored 27 times during the regular season and who had 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points in the playoff series against Elliot Lake.

“We’re expecting a very-tough series,” said Thunderbirds coach Jordan Smith. “That is a well-coached, tough team to try to play against.”

The Thunderbirds have been off since Sunday after eliminating the Blind River Beavers in five games in that opening-round series.

Of note, Smith said he expects backup goalie Brian Kment will make his fifth-straight start for the Soo in the series opener against Abitibi.

The Thunderbirds no. 1 goalie, Joel Horodziejczyk, has been affected by a lower-body injury.

Horodziejczyk was named the NOJHL’s most valuable player for the 2013-2014 season.

What you think about “Here come the Abitibi Eskimos”

  1. I think this will be a great series to follow. I watched the EL vs Eskis game last night and it seemed like every time the Bobcats tried to get something going the Eskis used their physical game to literally throw the Bobcats off the puck. If they can do this again against the finesse Thunderbirds players like Haines, this could go a long way. I find it unusual that there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about the impact of not having Horodziejczyk in the line-up for the Beavers series. The Thunderbirds without Hojo is a whole different ball of wax! I agree that Robichaud is a game- breaker but I also think that missing Horodziejczyk is also a game breaker. I’m predicting that the Eskimos take this series and I would love to see a River men-Abitibi final. Just saying.

    1. I like you man! I would love this matchup to occur. Of all the coaches I honour, Tom McCarthy and Paul Gagne are my favourites. There is nobody who can wrest the best from his men when he is standing in a house on fire like Mr McCarthy. And he makes men, this Mr. McCarthy. Paul Gagne is the best. maybe not at putting, but anyone who ever wants to lead a successful hockey team, take notes from this man.
      We haven’t even discussed the guys on the ice yet, and both teams have plenty of talent. What is more important is the seminal rivalry that exists, both teams have always played their best against each other. This would be a smalltown hockey fan’s best outcome.

    1. I think they will need more than a dust shaking if Horodziejczyk isn’t in the line-up for this series but either way, I’ll see you on the bus tomorrow Chestypipes 🙂

  2. No Horodziejczyk and a much more experienced Gagne who’s got his team believing and I’m calling the upset here. Eskis in 6 to set up a HWY 11 final.

    Any truth to the rumors that the “lower body injury ” has even kept him from practicing?

  3. I wish it wasnt so far to go to the games in the Soo. This series promises to be outstanding. The first two games will be televised in the expected to be crowded Curling Rink next door to the Igloo. I cant wait! Good hockey is coming to the Igloo for the 2nd half of the playoff headbutt, and the Eskis fans are licking their chops. There is alot to be said about trying to beat Abitibi in the house that we built for hockey. The Eskis are full of homeboys whose grandparents built this place to give hockey its’ rightful place. Their ghosts and the voices of the fans when the puck drops dries the mouths, tightens the grip, it changes the game. It isn’t silent, or uncelebrated, it is hockey in Iroquois Falls!
    The visitor know the fans never miss a bit of scruffy play, or a bad call, but they will quietly say what a nice goal when the visitors bulge the twine. it is never unfair at the Igloo. It is home ice advantage in our rink.
    I pay my money at the door, sing along with our National Anthem and then let the Hockey Gods decide the outcome.

    1. hey! I like you too man! what a great post! maybe I will run into you at the Igloo when my rivermen play in the Igloo during the next round.

  4. well thats too bad about Horodz, really is the best tender in the league and missing a key piece at a key time sucks! Losing Cloutier was a huge loss down the stretch and the first two games of the series, eskis fans will sympathize with bird fans, its discouraging! Fortunately for the Eskis he came back and played like he was never gone! Scored the tying goal last night and im not sure they could of done it without him! That EL team was very good down the stretch and into the playoffs! To upset the Soo, the eskis will need to bring that same “A” Plus game they brought to game 6 and 7 all series long!

    The Soo tbirds are more than just a goalie folks, fine team, 3 lines deep, very good D, one of the leagues most dangerous offensive players in Haines, league’s most dangerous/ruthless player in Syrette!

    Eskis have little time to recover, but if they can find the energy and stay healthy, anything is possible! hope im wrong but i think theyll have a bit of an emotional series hangover on Saturday night, hopefully they can recover (or avoid it) and come home with the split! The igloo wont be an easy place to play for visiting teams from here on out and ill like our chances in a best of 5 with home ice advantage!

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