It was an Onaping Falls Huskies reunion, circa 2005.
Re-uniting linemates Jordan Carroll, Jamie Haines and Nick Esposto for the first time since their second year of Bantam hockey in Levack, Sudbury Cubs coach Bryan Verreault created instant chemistry.
Wednesday night at the McClelland Arena in Copper Cliff, the trio racked up 17 points, accounting for seven of their team's nine goals as the defending NOJHL East Division champs opened the 2011-2012 campaign, bouncing the Abitibi Eskimos 9-5.
The evidence of some 293 OHL games of experience split evenly between the troika was easy to spot last night as the top line moved the puck around at will, chasing Abitibi starting netminder J.P. Fecteau after 20 minutes of play.
Needless to say, Esposto (3G-3A), Carroll (2G-4A) and Haines (2G-3A) have grabbed the early lead in the NOJHL scoring parade, though few will be surprised if all three are still in the thick of things throughout the upcoming season.
Joel Gagnon and Sebastien Leroux rounded out the scoring for Sudbury, while Remi Bernier, Jordan Delaurier, Jeffrey Gagne, Karl Spenard and Richard Therrien all replied with solo markers for the visiting Eskies.
"We grew up playing together, at "AAA" Bantam and stuff, so we knew each other from there," Carroll said after the game. "Coming into the summer, we were talking and hoping that we might be on a line together."
"We were already strategizing through the summer," Carroll added with a smile. "Once we got to camp, we were seperated for a bit, but then we started practicing together. It didn't take long before we had a real good connection."
Interestingly enough, all three played exactly two years of OHL hockey, with both Carroll and Esposto finishing with exactly 107 games within the league. Though there was some familiarity dating back six seasons now, much has changed in terms of what the talented snipers can bring to the rink.
"We're just able to do so much more," Carroll said. "The maturity and the composure - when you're a kid, you're just going, going, going. Now, we have nicer plays, we can really read off each other."
Though Sudbury looked impressive in building up a 9-3 lead after 40 minutes before being outscored 2-0 in the final frame, the team is also coming off a humbling 11-4 loss to the Wellington Dukes at a tournament in Soo (Michigan) last weekend, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
"They (Wellington) bury all their chances, and that's something that just comes with time," Carroll said. "A lot of them are returning, they know each other, they already have chemistry and we were missing some key pieces of the puzzle."
"We were short guys, not that it's an excuse, but we'll plug away now and look to keep getting better." The Cubs outshot the Eskimos 39-32 as goalie Alex Laino picked up the win for Sudbury, while Fecteau and Martin Bilodeau shared the netminding duties for Abitibi.
Sudbury will look to improve to 2-0 on the weekend, heading to North Bay to face the Trappers Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. - interestingly enough, Carroll will be facing the team that gave him his junior hockey start back in 2007-2008.