Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Training Camp Schedule and Roster - It's That Time of Year Again!

Greetings Eagle fans far and wide, and I hope all of you had a great offseason although it may have been about the shortest offseason ever- at least it felt that way to me!

It's very hard to believe that a new camp and a new season will begin this weekend, and this year's tryouts shape up to be a fair bit more interesting than last year's. Last year we were returning almost an entire team of veterans and there were few open spots to be fought for. This time around, the Eagles lost a sizeable number of vets from last year's team - leaving several roster spots wide open to the new competition.

This blog is back after an offseason-long hiatus, and I'll get right into the information any hardcore Eagle fan wants to know: the training camp schedule and rosters.

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE (opening weekend)

Thursday, August 16

7-8 PM, Practice Group A
8-9 PM, Practice Group B

Friday, August 17

8:45-9:45 AM, Goalies on-ice
10-11:30 AM, Practice Group A (fitness testing)
12-1:30 PM, Practice Group B (fitness testing)

7:00 PM - Intrasquad Game

Saturday, August 18

8:45-9:45 AM, Goalies on-ice
10-11:30 AM, Practice Group B (fitness testing)
12-1:30 PM, Practice Group A (fitness testing)

7:00 PM- Intrasquad Game

Sunday, August 19

9:00-11:00 AM - Practice.

6:00 PM - Annual Black vs White Game


Group A

Jeff Amadio
Jackie-Ray Bernard
Mathieu Brodeur
Trevor Carmichael
Justin Collier (G)
Chris Culligan
David Davenport (G)
Marco Desveaux
Kyle Downer (G)
Brandon Edge
William Fradette
Samuel Finn
Dominic Fontaine
Bradley Gallant
Jean-Christophe Gauthier
Jeremy Gouchie
Jonathan Laberge
Alex Lamontagne
Francis Meilleur
Dean Ouellet
Olivier Patry
Vincent Rolland
Daniel Sauve
Neil Sherren
Robert Slaney
Evan Watts

Group B

Olivier Bellavance-Roy (G)
Marek Benda (G)
Etienne Breton
Daniel Brown
Stephen Ceccanese
Nicholas Chouinard
Spencer Corcoran
Olivier Dame-Malka
Lee Chuck Denny
Jeff Deruelle
Paul Dorsey (G)
Daniel Fazzalari
Philippe Fontaine
Maxime Gervais
Joey Haddad
Curtis MacDonald
Mickey MacDonald
Nick MacNeil
Kyle Mariani
Jan Piskacek
Beau Prokopetz
Michel Querry
Alexandre Quesnel
Cody Roland
James Sheppard


- As you can see, there aren't separate "rookie camps" and "veteran camps" as has been the case in some past seasons. It seems as though new and old faces will hit the ice together from Day One.

- All eligible returnees from last season have been invited back, excluding guys who were obviously going pro (Luc Bourdon, Ondrej Pavelec, Oskars Bartulis). The list of returning invitees includes three players who spent the first half of the season with the Eagles last year in Stephen Ceccanese, Mickey MacDonald, and Daniel Fazzalari.

- All five returnees who are eligible to play on the team as overagers have been invited to camp. Among this group are Dean Ouellet, Beau Prokopetz, Jonathan Laberge, David Davenport, and Brad Gallant.

- Six goaltenders are in camp; they are denoted on the above lists with (G).

- Both 2007 European Draft selections, goaltender Marek Benda and defenceman Jan Piskacek, are to attend camp.

- Note on the training camp rosters the players picked up by the Eagles in offseason trades - winger Joey Haddad (from PEI) and defenceman Alex Lamontagne (from Baie-Comeau). Both are entering their 19-year-old seasons.

- The following were Eagle selections in the 2007 Q midget draft:

D Samuel Finn (rd 1)
G Olivier Bellavance-Roy (rd 3)
D Mathieu Brodeur (rd 4)
W Philippe Fontaine (rd 5)
D William Fradette (rd 6)
W Lee Chuck Denny (rd 7)
D Francis Meilleur (rd 9)
G Justin Collier (rd 10)
W Neil Sherren (rd 11)

* Rd 8 pick Ryan Taylor (D) and Rd 12 pick Pier-Olivier Cotnoir (C) do not appear on the training camp list. Until further notice, I'm assuming that means that they will not be in camp. Also noticeably absent from the training camp list is 2005 5th round pick Guillaume Vasseur, who attended each of the previous two Screaming Eagles preseason tryouts.

- Defenceman Daniel Sauve, a free agent invite, spent part of last season with the Gatineau Olympiques. He is entering his 18-year-old season.

- Guys returning from previous training camps who will get another shot at cracking the roster include D Evan Watts (2006 rd 5), W Jeremy Gouchie (2006 rd 4), D Maxime Gervais (2005 rd 3), F Nicholas Chouinard (2006 rd 5), G Kyle Downer (2006 rd 8), D Curtis MacDonald (2006 rd 10). As well, the team returns defenceman Kyle Mariani who tried out for the team as a free agent last year.

- Interesting battles to watch include the wide-open battle for the team's two goaltending positions and the overage situation (five guys in camp, must be reduced to three).

- It's hard to really know what all of the mostly unkown free agents coming to camp will bring, but most years at least one or two such players end up making the final roster. Who it will be this year is really anyone's guess at this point! Pretty much any player that has yet to be specially denoted in these "notes" is a free agent/invitee. Brandon Edge is an interesting invite because he's 19 years old and I've heard good things about Olivier Patry (for what that's worth!).

If anybody else has any further information to add pertaining to the training camp roster or schedule, feel free to share it, and if there is any erroneous information or glaring omissions in this piece, please bring it to my attention.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The two most exciting words in sports: Game Seven

Or in the case of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and their fans, the two most unnerving words in sports right now.

Things were looking pretty good when Cape Breton scored a convincing Game 4 victory at home over the Val d'or Foreurs to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the best-of-seven QMJHL semifinal. Most, myself included, really thought that the Eagles were going to end the series at home in Game #5 on Friday night but it was not to be as Brad Marchand's overtime goal stood up as the winner, sending the series back to Val d'or.

In Game 6 tonight at the Air Creebec Centre, Cape Breton outshot their Val d'or counterparts 44-24 but came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision. As much as it was great that the Eagles outshot their opponent by such a wide margin, most of those chances were honestly from the perimeter. Both times that Cape Breton struck in tonight's game, they allowed the Foreurs to get it back within less than a minute - totally deflating any momentum they may have gained from their tallies.

Special teams were the really glaring difference in Monday night's contest, as Val d'or went 1/4 on the powerplay and Cape Breton was shut out with the man advantage for the second straight game, going 0/5. The Eagles have not even come close to scoring a powerplay goal in either of the past two hockey games, after having so much powerplay success throughout the 2007 playoffs. If the coaching staff and players cannot find a solution to this "power outage" tomorrow, it could be "lights out" on the season.

Right now, some of Cape Breton's best players simply are not performing like their best players. Veterans like Cam Fergus, Paul McIlveen, JC Sawyer, and Oskars Bartulis have been excellent all season but seem to be going cold at the wrong time of year. The Eagles will need these key guys to turn it around tomorrow night in the winner-take-all Game 7.

As well, the Eagles absolutely HAVE to find a way to slow down Brad Marchand. He is singlehandedly killing us out there, and seems able to blow through the entire team unchecked at times. With the veteran defence corps Cape Breton has, they should be able to do a better job on this guy. Plain and simply - the Eagles have to be much more physical with Marchand.

All of that said, nothing is a disaster until that fourth game is lost. We are still just one win away from winning this series and if Cape Breton finds a way to win tomorrow night, the Game 5 and 6 losses will be forgotten soon enough. In the playoffs, momentum can shift in the blink of an eye; just look at how it happened for Val d'or thanks to the result of Game 5.

And the Eagles do have some positives to build on entering the seventh game. They outshot the Foreurs 32-15 over the final two periods, and at times Val d'or really was hanging on for dear life. If Cape Breton can pick up in Game 7 where they left off tonight with that intense play and hemming up the Foreurs in their zone, they may end up being fine. As well, the Eagles probably haven't played their best hockey in five of the six games so far (Game 4 excluded) yet the series is still tied 3-3. What happens if they happen to come out with their best hockey tomorrow night? Finally, and this may not have anything to do with the outcome of tomorrow night's game................... but for what it's worth, the road team has won all three Game 7's to have occurred thus far in the 2007 playoffs.

The key thing for players, coaching staff, and fans alike right now is to not panic. Many a Stanley Cup champion or QMJHL winner has had its back against the wall in a Game 7 somewhere along the line in their ride to glory. Some have even blown 3-1 leads along the way and still found a way to lift the Cup at the end of the day. Look no further than last season's Carolina Hurricanes, who let a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final slip through their fingers only to end up winning Game 7. Of course, they got to play Game 7 at home....... ours is on the road. But honestly, if we can only beat Val d'or once out of four tries in their building in a playoff series we do not deserve to advance to the next round.

This is the ultimate test of the resiliency and character of this Eagle hockey team, and few if any have doubted this team's mettle in those regards this season. We cannot give up on this hockey team until the final horn goes tonight. If we do, how stupid do we look if the Eagles end up winning Game 7 and going on to lift the President's Cup?

The 2007 playoffs have seen us FINALLY beat Bathurst........... FINALLY win at the KC Irving Centre............ and FINALLY break that five-year-long playoff overtime drought. All of that tells me that anything is possible.

Keep believing, guys. You may end up being glad you did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The "unsung hero" local boy is unsung no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris Culligan made Eagle history in a plethora of ways tonight, by scoring the game winner in Game 3 of this league semifinal series vs Val d'or in overtime ON A PENALTY SHOT.

For those of you who aren't quite aware how rare an occurrence that is, I'd say it ranks up there as pretty much the Halley's Comet of hockey......... a playoff overtime winner on a penalty shot. ESPECIALLY as far into the postseason as the third round.

Utter delirium ensued in the C200 crowd, with many speculating that the crowd reaction for the goal was the most emotional ever seen since the Screaming Eagles came to town. This blogger remembers a couple of goals in the 2002 Halifax series that at least give it a run for its money, but no matter - it was definitely a moment that will live on for a long, long time......... especially if the Eagles go on to win the series.

The "made for Hollywood" overtime winner saved the Eagles from what could have been a crushing defeat, as they had blown leads of 3-0 and 4-3 earlier in the game.

In the two games in Val d'or, Culligan had just one assist while James Sheppard was held pointless. They needed to come up big tonight, and did they ever respond. James scored a goal and an assist, while Chris had two goals and two assists including the potentially-legendary overtime winner.

What's weird about this is that Cape Breton fans didn't see a single game go to overtime all season or playoffs at C200 leading up to tonight. As well, only one Eagle game all season went into a penalty shot shootout. It was in Moncton. Wanna guess who scored the penalty winner for Cape Breton in that game? ;) One Chris Culligan, of course!

With that, Cape Breton takes a 2-1 lead in this ultra-tight semifinal series with Val d'or, with Game 4 going tomorrow night from C200. That is also historically significant in that a 2nd win in the 3rd round of the playoffs means that this year's Eagles have now officially gone farther in the postseason than any Eagle team has ever gone before. The 2002 Eagles lost the third round 4-1 in games.

Not much time to savour this win, right back to the rink for another HUGE game tomorrow. We let these guys back into this series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or.............. we don't want to let them back in it a second time.

There could be pages and pages written on tonight's game, as it was one of the most exciting and action-packed Eagles games ever, but for now I'll just leave it all at that. Not much time to savour this win, as it's right back to the rink tomorrow night for another HUGE game. We let these guys back into the series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or........... we don't want to let them back in it a second time. Be ready to bring the intensity just as loud and proud tomorrow night as you did this past night, Eagles fans. C200 was HOPPIN for Game 3, and the Eagle fanbase should be proud of a job very well done!

Finally, in terms of the raw collection of talent assembled on the ice, it may have been the highest calibre of hockey we've ever seen in a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles hockey game. These are two serious QMJHL heavyweights, both dotted with future NHLers, going toe-to-toe. It's a huge treat to watch, and anyone who wasn't at Game 3 owes it to themselves to get down to C200 tomorrow and Friday nights to see this stuff.

Despite tonight's deliriously gratifying win, we all know that the Eagles are capable of a better 60-minute performance. Let's hope we see that tomorrow night as the team strives to put a stranglehold on this series and go ahead three games to one.

See you at the rink!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Game 3 tomorrow; get ready to ROCK the Nest!!!

Going into the first two games in Val d'or, most fans felt that if the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles could attain a split of those two games, that they'd be in good position heading home for three straight games at a rocking and sold out C200.

Mission accomplished.

Now, the team and its fans have to take advantage of these home games. As the title of this blog says, get ready to rock the Nest, because these are the biggest games we've seen there in five years. Two exciting teams that are built for a run at a championship. Tons of interesting subplots. This series seems to have it all. An unforgettably raucous atmosphere at C200 would just put it over the top. The fans in Val d'or definitely brought it; now it's up to us to match that intensity. Our crowd has been great all year, so I think we can make for an atmosphere that hasn't been seen since the 2002 series against Halifax!

The Foreurs had the upper hand in both games in Val d'or, but now the series shifts to C200. Here, not only do the Eagles have the home crowd behind them, but they also have the all-important benefit of "last change"....... i.e. they get to wait until Val d'or throws a line out on the ice before deciding what line they want to counter with. This could be of great benefit to Cape Breton as they will probably get to use the Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon line to try and neutralize Brad Marchand, who as predicted has been doing most of the damage for les Foreurs. Marchand was given too much room to move in the first two games, and if the Eagles are to have success in this series, they will have to slow him down and frustrate him.

All in all, Cape Breton has been an excellent home team all year, so there is much reason for optimism heading into Game 3 with the series tied 1-1.

Sheppard, Culligan, and Cam Fergus have been excellent and consistent producers for the Eagles all season, but only managed two "second assists" among them in the two games in Val d'or. Sheppard was actually held pointless. Therefore, look for these three guys to factor in on the scoresheet in the three upcoming home games in this series.......... they usually aren't held scoreless for too long. It is also hoped that Paul McIlveen can continue to be the hot hand that he was up north, that Dean Ouellet can continue to be the silent producer he's been all playoffs, that Jo Laberge can continue his timely postseason scoring, and that our defence corps can tighten up and hold the Foreurs at bay. The Eagles gave up 36 and 42 shots against in the first two games, which is a bit uncharacteristic of our team. Look for the shots against to come down in the next couple of games.

One final interesting twist going into tomorrow night's pivotal Game Three is that goaltender Jeremy Duchesne is said to have returned to the Foreurs and will most likely get the start in goal tomorrow night, relieving Raffael D'Orso who played the first two games. This development only further thickens the plot of a series whose plot is already quite deep. I expect that if he is in goal tomorrow night, Duchesne will be extremely hard to score on. Thankfully we counter with the league's best goaltender in Ondrej Pavelec; let's hope that he's at 100% after taking a few rough rides during Game Two that led some to question whether or not he was maybe hurting a little bit during that contest.

I can't really build this game up any more. It's the third round of the playoffs, against an extremely exciting and exotic team. There should be a loud and raucous sellout crowd. It's a chance for our Eagles to advance farther than they've ever advanced before. It's games like this that the entire season has been building towards.

I could go on and on............ but it would be pointless. It's as simple as this: if you're not ready to tear the roof off of C200 for this one, you may want to check your pulse.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Great teams find ways to win games they shouldn't!!!!

For two periods tonight, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles were quite outclassed by the Val d'or Foreurs.

That didn't end up mattering though, as Cape Breton found a way to score twice in the third period to tie the game, regain the momentum and carry the play for the first extended period of time in the contest, and force OT.

That set the stage for, believe it or not, the first Eagle playoff overtime win since Andre Martineau scored to end Game 2 of the 2002 second round series vs Halifax. The Eagles had lost EIGHT playoff OT games in a row in the meantime.

Early in the extra frame, Paul McIlveen scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history, when his snapper from about the top of the circle found the top shelf on the glove side of Val d'or goaltender Raffael D'Orso. This set off pandemonium on the Eagles' bench, and in many homes throughout Cape Breton where fans were gathered together to watch this huge game.

Ondrej Pavelec was the game's first star, and for extremely good reason. The Eagles were dominated in the first two periods, and Pavelec was by far the biggest reason that Cape Breton was even still in the game. He made several game-saving stops throughout the night, showing the Abitibi region of Quebec why he is the #1 goaltender in this league. Without this guy tonight, we fall behind about 4-0 after two periods, in my books.

In the playoffs, sometimes you have to find a way to win a game you don't really have any business winning. The Eagles somehow managed to do that tonight. It's good to know that the team played their worst game of the playoffs to date, and still managed to win. That said, much better games are needed from the team throughout the rest of the series, as I honestly doubt Val d'or lets us off the hook like that again.

The Foreurs showed us for much of tonight's contest that they are a FAR cry from the teams we faced in the first two rounds. They are extremely skilled and speedy, and boast some borderline ridiculous high-end talent in Letang and Marchand. Cape Breton seemed overwhelmed by Val d'or's speed and skill in the first two periods tonight, and will have to find a way to play entire games the way they played the third and OT if they are to have success in this series.

Expect Val d'or to come out with fire in their eyes tomorrow night in Game 2 to redeem themselves from the one that got away, but you would also think that Cape Breton would come out with a better all-around game as well.

In any event, one of the most thrilling wins in years tonight, and the standard playoff goal of a split on the road is already complete.

Game 2 goes tomorrow night at 8:00 PM AST, also televised/webcasted Eastlink.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An outlook on Eagles-Val d'or

Well here we are, finally on the eve of one of the biggest playoff series in team history. It's only the second time in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' ten-year existence that they've reached the third round of the playoffs, the first time coming in 2001-2002 when they faced the Bathurst Titan and lost in five games. That loss hurt that year, and fans have been eagerly waiting for a return to round three for some redemption, and they'll finally get their chance to see it this year against the Val d'or Foreurs. The only playoff series the Eagles have been involved in that I can think of as having been more anticipated than this one would have been the 2001-2002 second round series against the Halifax Mooseheads, which received extra hype for obvious rivalry-related reasons.

Not only is this series a glorious opportunity for Cape Breton to move on to the QMJHL final for the first time, but it could also be the source of some of the most exciting and highest-calibre hockey ever seen at C200 since the Screaming Eagles landed in 1997. Both teams involved in this series have lineups dotted with big names and impact players at all positions, both teams can play any style of hockey game you want (freewheeling, defensive, you name it) and most pundits around the league see the Eagles and the Foreurs as being extremely evenly-matched. At the Christmas trade period this season, no two teams made a bigger statement that they were going for it this year than Cape Breton and Val d'or, and here they are on a semifinal collision course. It's extremely exciting stuff.

With all of that said, let's look at how the teams match up:


Both teams have an extremely deep and potent offense. Cape Breton has two full lines who can score with the best of them (Ouellet-Fergus-McIlveen and Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon), and can also get some decent scoring from third line members Slaney and Laberge. They also receive some offense from blueliners Sawyer, Bartulis, and Bourdon.

Val d'or has about seven forwards and two defencemen who score on at least a fairly consistent basis.

Those seven forwards are Brad Marchand, Mathieu Roy, Jerome Samson, Felix Schutz, Martin Thibeault, Marc-Andre Cote, and Julius Sinkovic. The two extremely offensively-gifted defencemen are Kristopher Letang and Sebastien Bisaillon.

So far in these playoffs, Marchand and Letang have been the rock stars. Marchand has 23 points in 9 playoff games, and Letang 19 points in 8. While Val d'or has a ton of threats, it's clear that THESE TWO GUYS are who the Eagles will have to really key in on and try to shut down. If these two guys are shut down, that may be enough to break down this Val d'or machine, because although the Foreurs have a lot of guys who can score, they rely quite a bit on these two. One only has to look at the game summaries of their playoff games to date. There aren't too many goals that Marchand and/or Letang aren't in on.

Roy is their finisher; he had 50 goals last year for Bathurst and 42 for Val d'or this season. However, I don't quite find he can make things happen out of nothing like Marchand and Letang can. Samson is an awesome two-way player who had 44 goals and 99 points to lead the Foreurs in regular season scoring this year. He won a President's Cup with Moncton last year, and has an incredible work ethic and character to go along with his talents. He's a real playoff guy who will be lethal. Schutz seems to be one of those "final piece of the puzzle" type trade deadline pickups........ he's been playing excellent hockey since being rescued from the doldrums of Harbour Station and the Saint John Sea Dogs. Finally, Bisaillon is Letang's partner in crime on the blueline, and teams up with Letang to form probably the deadliest due on the point on the powerplay in the league. He has a rocket of a shot and, while his numbers are a bit down this year, he had 35 goals last year.

How do the two teams' offenses stack up?

While once again both teams have excellent scoring, and while Val d'or may possess the league's best overall hockey player in Letang, I think that Cape Breton has a little bit deeper an offense that Val d'or has. With the Eagles, which line do you shut down? The one consisting of a 40 goal scorer/a 53 goal scorer/a 37 goal scorer, or the one with James Sheppard? Val d'or, while they also have a ton of scoring options, seems to rely a bit more on a couple of select players, namely Marchand and Letang. On the other hand, no CB players have been scoring at the crazy paces that those two have been thus far in the playoffs. If they can continue scoring at such torrid rates, the Eagles may be in trouble. You can expect the Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon line to see a lot of ice against the line with Marchand and Roy.

It's extremely close, but I think I'd give an ever-so-slight edge to Cape Breton on offense.


Cape Breton has a very uniform "top four" that can be tossed over the boards all game long and shut down opponents. It consists of pairings of Sawyer/Bourdon and Bartulis/Prokopetz. In this, the Eagles essentially have two legitimate "top pairings". As #'s 5-6, Swit and Corcoran have been steady and reliable, although whether or not they receive quite as much ice in this series as they did in the last two remains to be seen. #7 (or 6-B) Etienne Breton is ready to return from his broken jaw, but I don't know how easy it would be to work him back into the lineup at this stage of the playoffs.

Val d'or relies a ton on their twin superstar two-way defencemen, Letang and Bisaillon. Letang has cleanly established himself as the best overall defender in the league, and possibly even the best overall player in the Q at any position this season. He's good enough to turn a series around by himself. After that, Vdo's #3-4 are serviceable defensive defencemen Louis-Etienne Leblanc and Samuel Richard. I honestly don't know too much about #'s 5-6-7-8 Jason Legault, Cedric Archambault, Patrice Daneau, and Shawn Morton-Boutin. Legault was the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 midget draft (same draft where James Sheppard went #1 overall), but has far from lived up to expectations at the major junior level.

Overall, while the Foreurs have the best defenceman on either team in Letang, Cape Breton's D corps looks a fair bit deeper than Val d'or's. After the top two, there seems to be a bit of a dropoff on the Foreur blueline to the rest of the pack, while Cape Breton can throw out two real #1 units.

Give Cape Breton the edge on overall defensive depth, but is Letang good enough to make up for that spread?


Ondrej Pavelec of the Eagles vs Jeremy Duchesne of the Foreurs............ that's a goaltending battle if there ever was one, and I see very little to choose between the two goalies. Both are among the top three in the league as far as I'm concerned. A battle between these two over a long series would probably be a stalemate for quite a long time, and it would basically be a situation of who ends up blinking first. Having said all of that, whichever team receives better goaltending in this round is likely to win the series. Pavelec needs to remain on top of his game and outduel the technically sound and playoff-proven Duchesne. Fans may remember Duchesne from his extended stay with the Halifax Mooseheads, where he became a very familiar foe to the Screaming Eagles.

Sadly, Duchesne will not be available to start the series as he has taken a leave of absence from the Foreurs due to the passing of his father, Gaetan Duchesne. Raffael D'Orso will be given the nod between the pipes for Val d'or for the time being, and will start Game 1 tomorrow night. He'll continue to start until if/when Jeremy is ready to return. D'Orso is 17 years old, but isn't just any rookie; he was good enough to make Canada's U-18 team this past summer, and is considered to be a solid NHL draft prospect. While he is raw and doesn't quite have the veteran experience Duchesne has, he'll be no pushover in the Val d'or net. He was first star in a 4-1 Val d'or win in his only start against the Eagles this year.

Whether it's Duchesne or D'Orso in the Val d'or net, Pavelec will have to be on top of his game like he's been since Christmas in order to give our team the goaltending edge it needs in this series.


Both teams have absolutely lethal powerplays. Cape Breton ranks 1st in the postseason at 38.0%, while Val d'or is 4th at 24.6%. The two powerplays are a lot closer than those numbers indicate. Cape Breton has finally seemed to find two really good PP units that can both realistically threaten to score, and powerplay success has been a huge part of their playoffs so far. This HAS to continue vs Val d'or. The Foreurs, if I'm not mistaken, use one powerplay unit a lot more than they use the other, as they really only have two defencemen on the team that can play the point on the PP. Their main PP unit is a fully loaded one; Roy-Marchand-Samson up front with Bisaillon-Letang on the points. Take dumb penalties, and you know that stacked unit makes you pay big time.

On the penalty kill, Cape Breton is 1st in the playoffs at 86.0%, while Val d'or is 3rd at 82.5%. The Eagles' three main forward units on the PK are Culligan-Sheppard, Ouellet-Fergus, and Slaney-Laberge. All have done a tremendous job, as have all six defencemen and goaltender Pavelec.

Cape Breton also leads the playoffs with six shorthanded goals.


- Cape Breton and Val d'or have never before met in a playoff series.

- The full circle that is the Luc Bourdon trade(s). Val d'or traded Bourdon to Moncton last season as part of their building for a run this year. They ended up getting superstars Marchand and Samson from the Wildcats in that deal. Now, Bourdon ends up on an Eagle team that they are facing in the league semifinal in their "go for it" year. Very ironic.

Who will win out? Bourdon, or the guys he was traded for?

What's also weird is:

Why do the Eagles have Bourdon? Because Val d'or let him go.

Why do the Eagles have to contend with Marchand/Samson in this round? Because Val d'or let Bourdon go.

I'm not quite sure I've seen a situation quite like this in the Q!

- Bourdon and Letang played together on two consecutive Canadian WJC gold medal winning teams, and actually paired up on defense at the latest championship. Marchand was also on this year's Canadian team.

- Sheppard and Marchand were linemates in midget for the Dartmouth Subways.

- Roy was a big part of the Bathurst Titan team that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

- Justin Saulnier of the Foreurs was always a big rival of the Eagles when he played 3.5 seasons for the Halifax Mooseheads. He particularly seems to have a rivalry with Sheppard.

- Both coaches, Pascal Vincent of the Eagles and Eric Lavigne of the Foreurs, are looking for their first trip to the Q final.

- The two teams haven't met since October.

All in all, this one is about as closely matched up as they come, and could go either way depending on "the bounces". Unlike their first two series, where they were favoured against Bathurst and heavily favoured against St. John's, there is no real favourite going into this best-of-seven. Cape Breton goes into this series knowing that if they don't come up with one of their best stretches of hockey of the season, they will lose.

That said, this blogger is confident that the Eagles are a bit deeper offensively and especially defensively, and that they are on a mission and have what it takes to beat this extremely difficult opponent. Keys to success for Cape Breton will be to do whatever it can to shut down Marchand and slow down Letang, to receive the same excellent goaltending from Pavelec it has since Xmas, and for the powerplay to continue to play the excellent hockey it has thus far in the playoffs.

There's no looking back now.......... no overthinking anything............ no room for fear. It's full steam ahead from here on in; the easy part of this playoff journey is over. This whirlwind of a series starts tomorrow, may fans on both sides be treated to classic hockey, and may the best team win.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Great news; Games 1 and 2 in Val d'or to be televised on Eastlink TV

Fans eager to see their Cape Breton Screaming Eagles kick off Round Three of the playoffs for just the second time in team history got some great news Wednesday.

Instead of having to settle for audio only of the start of this highly-anticipated semifinal playoff series, diehard Eagle supporters will be able to see the action unfold for themselves from the comfort of their homes. Eastlink Television announced today that it will be picking up the video feed from a Quebec TV station (my apologies, I don't know its name yet!) and will air Games 1 and 2 LIVE from the Centre Air Creebec in Val d'or.

Game 1 is scheduled for an 8:30 PM AST start this coming Friday, while Saturday's rematch will get underway at 8:00 PM AST. Please note the different starting times between the two nights.

Get together with some friends, order up some food, crack open a few cold ones (if you're of legal age of course!), and watch Eagles playoff history happen live and in colour!!!!!


For those wondering about the extremely long distance between the two cities in this playoff round and what effect it may have on the Eagles, the team will not be bussing to Val d'or; they will be leaving the Sydney Airport at 3:00 PM Thursday on a charter flight, and will fly throughout the series. Obviously this eliminates a huge portion of the travel weariness that would have otherwise worn down our team in this playoff round between two of the most remote teams in the league.

Fans are invited and encouraged to drop by the airport and give the team a sendoff.