Sunday, December 31, 2006

Complete 60-minute effort; Eagles get solid 5-2 road win over Rocket

In Charlottetown last night, a total team effort gave the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles a very well-deserved 5-2 win over the host PEI Rocket, who had won four straight going into last night's hockey game.

The Eagles got on the board early, as Paul McIlveen was found in the slot and snapped one in blocker side on PEI goaltender Antoine Lafleur. PEI would tie things up minutes later, however, as overager Guillaume Doucet put in his own rebound in a scramble.

Cape Breton would take the lead again thanks in large part to a miscue by PEI defencemen Pierre-Luc Lessard and Benoit Gervais. At the Eagles' blueline, Lessard tried to fire a D-to-D pass over to Gervais, but Gervais was not in position, and Cape Breton ended up breaking out on a four-on-two the other way. JC Sawyer fed James Sheppard, who one-timed a low drive home for his fifth goal in three periods, and a 2-1 Eagle lead after one period.

Period two did not get off to a good start for Cape Breton, as Tyler Hawes found Guillaume Doucet parked literally in the blue paint of David Davenport's crease, and the diminutive centre one-timed the pass through the five hole of the Eagle netminder to tie things at 2-2.

Shortly afterward, the Eagles regained the league, as JC Gauthier made an excellent backhand pass to find McIlveen parked at the side of the net; nobody else on the ice had picked up our overage sniper, and he had a wide open net to tuck home his second of the hockey game. Once again, what a pass by young JC Gauthier.

Midway through the period, the Eagles faced a stiff challenge, as they were nailed for two penalties at the same time, giving the Rocket a full 2:00-long two man advantage. The same three penalty killers - Chris Culligan, JC Sawyer, and Oskars Bartulis- killed the entire penalty, and deserve a ton of credit for their fine work. Culligan in particular was huge on this penalty kill; on at least three occasions, he was able to read the play and intercept Rocket passes that would have resulted in prime scoring chances. And of course, the old cliche is that your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender, and our David Davenport made several very good saves on this kill; his rebound control was key.

That penalty kill was made that much more important when the Eagles' Dean Ouellet was able to score just moments afterwards to give the team a much more comfortable 4-2 lead. Had we not killed that disadvantage off, it would have been 3-3 instead, and there is a big difference between 3-3 and 4-2, so that kill was definitely the most important part of the game for Cape Breton, the "turning point" if you will.

Alexandre Quesnel put the cherry on top of the sundae in the third with a great breakaway goal; he scored with a nifty backhand deke. The third period also featured a fight between the Eagles' Daniel Fazzalari (welcome back to the lineup by the way) and PEI's Greg Paynter. I can't lie about this one; Paynter won the fight extremely decisively, although Fazzalari was no worse for the wear.

On the topic of fighters, Brad Gallant sat this game out with badly bruised-up knuckles after his Thursday night fight with Saint John's David Stich.

All in all, this was an excellent road effort in which the Eagles seemed to be in their highest gear for pretty much the entire game. Their forechecking and aggressiveness were just too much for a Rocket team that looked tired and seemed able to only muster an average-or-so effort. As an Eagles' fan, one couldn't be much happier with the team's performance last night.

Cape Breton finishes off 2006 with an impressive 26-12-2 record, good for 54 points and second place overall in the league. The team still trails the Lewiston MAINEiacs by five points for first in the division and first overall; it seems like we have been trailing these guys by five points forever, and it's going to be quite hard to catch them.

The Eagles' next game is at home on Jan 3, 2007 against their provincial rival, the Halifax Mooseheads. Halifax has made several roster changes since the two teams last met up. Here is hoping that this upcoming matchup with the Mooseheads is substantially more entertaining than the two meetings between the two teams in Halifax before the Christmas break.

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sheppard runs amok for four goals as Eagles pound Sea Dogs before biggest crowd of the year

In front of a near-capacity holiday season crowd of just under 4300 fans, many of whom were seeing the Screaming Eagles for their first time this season, the team left a pretty good impression with a convincing 7-1 victory over the second-year Saint John Sea Dogs.

James Sheppard was obviously the story of the night, scoring four goals to tie a team record. Other Eagles to have scored four goals in a game include Ryan Walsh, Philippe Tremblay, Pierre-Luc Emond, Francois-Pierre Guenette, and Cam Fergus. He had a couple of great chances to set a new team record with a fifth goal, as teammates were trying very hard to set him up for it, but he was robbed on a couple of occasions by Sea Dog goaltender Travis Fullerton, who played a respectable game despite the final score.

Other Eagle goal scorers were Cam Fergus, who with his goal managed to hit the 35-goal plateau before the New Year, Nick MacNeil, who continues to move closer to becoming the first Eagle rookie to ever score 20 goals in a season, and Dean Ouellet, who hit the 25-goal plateau with his powerplay marker.

Also having a big night for Cape Breton were Scott Brannon, Chris Culligan, and Paul McIlveen, all of whom finished the night with three assists.

Defencemen Oskars Bartulis and Etienne Breton were very welcome additions back to the lineup, and played well in their first games back after fairly long layoffs.

A rather large damper was put on the night, however, when defenceman Charlie Pens took a hit to the head from the Sea Dogs' Brett Gallant and struggled mightily to skate off the ice under his own power. Pens has a history of concussion problems, and it looked as though he may have sustained yet another one on this play; his future with the team, and in hockey, is in jeopardy, and it was very unfortunate to see happen. Here's hoping for all the best for Charlie, but things did not look good last night.

A fun night in front of the biggest crowd of the season was capped off with two dandy scraps, sending the fans home extra happy. Brad Gallant squared off with Saint John's David Stich, and after a spirited bout, left Stich bloodied. On the ensuing faceoff, Brad's brother Brett Gallant of Saint John made a beeline for Breton of the Eagles, and Breton did pretty well for himself considering that Gallant had a bit of a head start in the fight (and picked up the instigator penalty for his efforts).

A 7-1 victory, a four-goal night by one of the team's stars, and two spirited scraps in front of almost 4300 fans means a successful night for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles last night, and more importantly, the victory enabled the team to improve to 25-12-2 for 52 points and move to within three points of the division and league-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs.


To confirm rumours that have been circulating around, Francois Gauthier has indeed been traded to the Sea Dogs in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2007 midget draft. Hopefully Francois can get more ice time in Saint John and can find the niche there that, for whatever reasons, he never really found here.


A few trades were made around the league yesterday, the most notable two being:

1) Halifax traded overage goaltender Jeremy Duchesne to the Val d'or Foreurs in exchange for 18-year-old dman Guillaume Monast and a 3rd round pick in the 2008 midget draft. It is possible that that draft pick could end up going back to Val d'or for a player at the draft.

2) Shawinigan traded 19-year-old defenceman Jean-Philippe Paquet and a 5th round pick in the 2007 midget draft to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in exchange for 17-year-old defenceman Adam Leblanc-Bourque and 17-year-old forward Francis Filion.

Both of these trades are relevant to the Eagles. The first one means that one of our main competitors for a league title, the Foreurs, just got a lot stronger in goal. The second one means that the Screaming Eagles now have one less potential impact defenceman available to them through the trade route; some thought that the Eagles were going to pick up Paquet for the stretch drive and playoff run, but now Cape Breton will have to look elsewhere for the veteran help on the blueline that so many fans believe that the club needs.

With these two moves having been made, more pressure is on coach and GM Pascal Vincent to start making the moves necessary to solidify this team for the stretch drive and playoffs before all of the impact players on the trade market are spoken for.


Cape Breton's next game is Saturday night, December 30, in Charlottetown against the newly-tweaked PEI Rocket. The Rocket will be tough opposition, as they are rejeuvenated by the impact addition of Brett Morrison to their lineup. Cape Breton has also won the last four games against the Rocket, so PEI might be due for a few bounces against the Eagles. The team will have to be on their toes for this game for sure.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The boys are back in town

After a relaxing holiday break, the Screaming Eagles and their fans are back to C200 tomorrow night as the team kicks off the second half of the season with a game against the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Tomorrow night's game should see one of the bigger crowds of the season on hand, as many people are home for the holidays. This should create for a real fun atmosphere inside the rink; the game is always a more exciting experience when it's played in front of a packed house!

The Screaming Eagles had a very good first half, entering tomorrow night's game with a record of 24-12-2 for 50 points in the league standings. They'll try to start the second half on a positive note when they face a recently-renovated Sea Dog team. Saint John has made several trades since the opening of the Christmas trading period. The following is a brief look at who's come and gone for the Sea Dogs:

In: Keven Guerette-Charland and Kyle Kelly (from Victoriaville), Bruno Desjardins and Alexandre Leduc (Val d'or), as well as goaltender Travis Fullerton (Lewiston).

Out: Charles Bergeron (to Acadie-Bathurst), Felix Schutz (Val d'or), Alexandre Labonte and Alexandre Monahan (Victoriaville), Maxime Dubuc (St. John's), Dave Bouchard (kicked off team after controversial "flag incident").

Saint John sits in last place in the East Division and second-last place overall in the league, but of course no opponent can be taken for granted. Cape Breton found that out just before the break in Halifax, when they were maybe a bit overconfident going into that second game against the Mooseheads.

The Sea Dogs also feature in their lineup Sydney native Ryan Sparling, who is among their leading scorers. One more kid to watch is defenceman Yann Sauve, the top pick in the latest Q midget draft.

Cape Breton enters this game with a big boost on defence with the return of Oskars Bartulis, who was playing in the Pool B World Juniors with Latvia. Though the defence held up quite well while he was gone, he was missed (especially on the powerplay) and it will be great to have him back in the lineup tomorrow night for the first time in almost a month. Also scheduled to return soon from injury are defencemen Etienne Breton and Daniel Fazzalari, although I honestly don't know if either would be back for tomorrow night's game.

We should see David Davenport getting the call in goal for Cape Breton, and after his stellar third star performance tonight in Halifax, we could very well see new Sea Dog Travis Fullerton between the pipes for Saint John. Hopefully the holiday layoff gave Davenport a bit of time to regroup, refocus, and find his game again, as he struggled in five of his last six starts just prior to the break. You may remember Fullerton from a couple of games against Lewiston last season; on two occasions he robbed the Eagles of victories with 40-plus save performances. He has had our number, so the Eagles have to be sharp!

Once again, should be a great crowd on hand tomorrow night, and even though it would be nice if we were playing a bit bigger a rival for the occasion, it's still great to come out and catch a game during the holiday season. See you at the rink!

Note: The Screaming Eagles have also added a player from Ontario to the practice roster. 18-year-old defenceman Collin Carwardine skated with the team today. He is currently here on permission to practice with the team; whether or not he ever ends up playing any games for the Eagles remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trading period well underway!!!!

It's Day 3 of the QMJHL's annual midseason trading period, and ladies and gents, we have our first blockbuster of the season!!!

Yesterday morning, it was confirmed by Charlottetown newspaper The Guardian that the PEI Rocket have sent 20-year-old defenceman Pierre-Marc Guilbault along with long-time goaltender Ryan Mior (19 years old) to the Gatineau Olympiques in exchange for 18-year-old defenceman Benoit Gervais and Sydney-born sniper Brett Morrison (19).

In Mior, Gatineau gets that real #1 goaltender they've been in need of all season, and also picks up a very solid offensive defenceman in Guilbault, giving them another option on the powerplay (along with guys like Martin Frechette and Maxim Mallette), as well as additional depth on the defensive end. On the outs is overage goaltender Olivier Laliberte, which freed up the overage spot to be used by Guilbault.

The Olympiques lose their top centerman and one of their top scorers in Morrison, but rumour has it that star European David Kveton will be joining the team after Christmas; he would help offset the offense lost with Morrison's departure.

PEI is getting a bonafide 40-50 goal scorer in Morrison, and he'll most likely be back with them as a 20-year-old next season, the year they're looking at to make some noise. They also get a respectable defensive defenceman in Gervais (+10 so far with the Olympiques).

This looks to be a trade that will be good for both teams, and it's once again the first real blockbuster (first of many I'm betting) that we've seen this trading period.


One other wrinkle to this deal is its effect on our provincial rival, the Halifax Mooseheads. Strong rumours had the Mooseheads dealing star goaltender Jeremy Duchesne to Gatineau in exchange for a package that would include Morrison, but obviously that's not going to happen now. Will Halifax now find a taker for Duchesne? Some think that the contending Val d'or Foreurs could use a goaltending upgrade. Time will tell!


Speaking of those Foreurs, they have made a ton of noise very early on in this trade period. In the first two days alone, they picked up three forwards that they hope will play key roles in their quest for a title this year: Jerome Samson (from the Moncton Wildcats), Felix Schutz (from the Saint John Sea Dogs), and Justin Saulnier (from the Halifax Mooseheads).

It was known since last year that Samson was going to Val d'or as part of the conditional Luc Bourdon trade from last season. Samson would go to Val d'or if Bourdon returned to the Q this year, which he obviously did. He adds lots of skill, two-way play, grit, and character to the Foreurs' lineup.

Schutz, a native of Germany, is expected to add scoring depth and gives the Foreurs a second European player to go along with Slovakian Julius Sinkovic. Saulnier is slated for a third line energy role as a pesky crasher and banger who can chip in offensively a bit more than your average third line player. His attitude is the big question mark and was his downfall in Halifax, but this change of scenery may be exactly what he needs.

Val d'or can make all the moves they want, and it may turn out great for them, but this collection of talented individuals must become a TEAM if they are to win the President's Cup this year.


The Saint John Sea Dogs are the other extremely active team this trading period, as they're pretty much overhauling their team after a painful first half. GM/coach Jacques Beaulieu promised to be active during the trade period, and he wasn't kidding.

Out are Schutz, disgruntled overager Charles Bergeron (to Bathurst), Alexandre Monahan and Alexandre Labonte (to Victoriaville), and of course the much-maligned Dave Bouchard, who was kicked off of the team in a story that's been all over the news.

In are Keven Charland and Kyle Kelly (from Victo), goaltender Travis Fullerton (played with Lewiston last year but was kicked off the team this year after an off-ice incident), Bruno Desjardins and Alexandre Leduc (Val d'or), and Bathurst's 4th round pick.


The Screaming Eagles have yet to make any moves; they traditionally seem to wait until a bit later in the trading period before Pascal Vincent pulls any aces out of his sleeve. Rumours, however, are swirling around as to who may end up in a Cape Breton jersey for the second half of the season. Among the names rumoured are Matt Marquardt (Mon), Wesley Welcher (St. John's), Tyler Hawes (PEI), Beau Prokopetz (Dru), JP Paquet (Sha), and of course any contender in the league is "rumoured" to be going after Moncton's Luc Bourdon, although it would probably take a ridiculous price to fetch him.

The Eagles must add a player or two; they definitely have the high-end talent to make this year their year to take a run at the title, but they need more depth than they currently have. As of now, a couple of injuries to key players at playoff time could be lethal. However, I do not believe that Cape Breton has to go crazy and empty the cupboards, making multiple blockbuster deals and bringing in a huge slew of new players. We must not totally sacrifice the future, and adding too many players (or the wrong players) can disrupt dressing room chemistry, one of the Eagles' best assets over the past three seasons.

In this writer's opinion, two or three (at the very most) new bodies is all that the Screaming Eagles need to tweak for the second half and playoffs, as long as the guys picked up are the right fit.

Other trades around the league can be seen here:

Happy Holidays all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Eagles finish off first half with split against Mooseheads

The first half of the 2006-2007 QMJHL season is in the books, and following a weekend split in Halifax against the Mooseheads, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles go into the holiday break in second place overall in the entire league with a 24-12-2 record, good for 50 points.

On Saturday night, Cape Breton played a virtually flawless game en route to an unbelievably easy 4-0 win. Their Halifax opponent looked totally disinterested in playing the game, and put up absolutely no fight whatsoever. Had it not been for the brilliant play of Moosehead goaltender Jeremy Duchesne, the score would have been somewhere around 8-0 for the Eagles. David Davenport picked up the shutout in goal, making some nice saves along the way, which was nice to see after he had struggled for four starts in a row.

Sunday afternoon, Cape Breton played a pretty good first period, but seemed to totally fall asleep once they fell behind in period two, and were handed a very unnecessary loss as a result. Perhaps the guys got a bit overconfident after the extremely easy win the night before; it would have been hard not to. Whatever the reason, the Cape Breton players mostly looked like they were more interested in going home for the holidays than they were in coming back and winning the hockey game. The end result was an uninspiring 4-1 loss to a Mooseheads team rejeuvenated mostly by an emergency team meeting held after their putrid Saturday night performance.

Neither game deserves any further discussion than the brief paragraphs written above, so no further discussion will occur. Cape Breton and Halifax are now tied at 3-3 in the season series. The Mooseheads are a far inferior team to the Eagles this season and in my opinion there is no way that we should only have a split of the season series with them so far. As well, there has been a grand total of one fight in the six meetings between the two "rivals".

Although the team is entering a Christmas vacation, we at Inside The Nest will continue to update you the fan on what's happening around the league throughout the holidays. Today is the opening of the annual midseason trading period, so even though there won't be any hockey games until after Boxing Day, there should be lots of league news to discuss.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

LIVE TONIGHT from the Halifax Metro Centre in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia

It's the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles against the Halifax Mooseheads in the first of a two-game set between the two teams to finish off the first half of the season for both clubs.

It's always a rivalry between these two hockey teams, and no matter where they are in the standings, it seems to be a close battle almost every time the two teams meet.

Cape Breton will have pretty much the same lineup as they had for the two games in St. John's, but will need goaltender David Davenport to really regain his form after four consecutive shaky starts in the Eagle cage.

The Eagles come into tonight's game with a record of 23-11-2, good for second place in the East Division; five points back of the division-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs. However, when these two teams meet, standings are almost an afterthought; the rivalry is such that Halifax-CB bragging rights for the night is what is really paramount in the minds of the fans.

The Halifax Mooseheads are in one of the worst tailspins of their 12+ year existence, but once again, such trends totally go out the window when these two teams meet. The Mooseheads are 2-6-2 in their last ten hockey games, and have been in a state of turmoil with players (Justin Saulnier, Kirk Forrest) quitting the club and general rumours of an unhappy dressing room. But they might pull their act together through a desire to score a win against their hated rivals.

That's about it for today, there should be at least a few contingents of Cape Bretoners in the stands tonight to cheer on their Eagles. I will be among them. Go Eagles go!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eagles rebound on the Rock

After a sloppy performance in a 7-6 overtime loss in their first game of a two-game set in St. John's, NL against the Fog Devils, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles rebounded in a big way last night, defeating the Fog Devils 6-3 and outshooting them by a margin of 49-19.

A lot of credit has to be given to the defensive core. This is the fourth time in the last five games that they have held their opponents to a very low shot total, even though the blueline is currently filled with rookies, call-ups, and forwards masquerading as defencemen. At one point the shots were 40-8 for the Screaming Eagles, so full credit to the entire team for a dominating performance on the road.

Nick MacNeil scored twice for Cape Breton, bringing his rookie season goal total to 11 already. He was also named the game's first star. The team record for goals in a season by a rookie is 19, shared by Martin Kasik and Vladimir Kubus. MacNeil has a pretty decent chance at breaking that record this season. Also scoring for the Eagles were Dean Ouellet and Paul McIlveen (24th goal of the season for both), along with Scott Brannon and Alex Quesnel. Quesnel had a very good overall game and was given third star honours.

David Davenport picked up the win in goal for Cape Breton, but was very shaky for the fourth straight game since Ondrej Pavelec has gone away to the World Juniors. The team is really going to need him to find his game again this weekend as they go to Halifax for a two-game set against their biggest rival, the Halifax Mooseheads.

The game was a pretty chippy affair, featuring a handful of scraps and a miniature line brawl. Fights of record included:

Paul McIlveen vs Pat O'Keefe
Robert Slaney vs Nicolas Bachand
Stephen Ceccanese vs former Eagle Luke Gallant
Scott Brannon vs TJ Brennan

The latter two were part of the mini line brawl that started as a result of Brannon making contact with Fog Devil goaltender Ilja Ejov and sending him for a tumble. Defenceman Charlie Pens was also challenged to a fight by Fog Devils forward Ryan Graham (who also had two goals in the game and was named second star), but smartly declined, as (1) he is still recovering from a concussion (2) his hand was taped due to a minor injury, and fighting with a taped hand results in an automatic ejection from the game. A lot of credit has to go to Slaney for doing well for himself in his fight against the bigger and much more experienced fighter Bachand. In McIlveen's fight, O'Keefe unfortunately fell awkwardly to the ice and suffered a ten-stitch cut to his face along with a broken nose. He returned to the game wearing a full shield, a testament to his character.

With the win, the Eagles improved their record to 23-11-2, managing to earn three out of a possible four points in Newfoundland this week, a big improvement from their one point out of a possible eight last season. More importantly, Cape Breton was able to pass the Moncton Wildcats for second place in the East Division standings, and now sit only three points behind the Lewiston MAINEiacs for first place in the division (and first overall in the league). Lewiston does however hold two games in hand on the Eagles. Cape Breton was also able to pass the Val d'or Foreurs in the overall standings for sole possession of second place in the entire 18-team league.

Not much else to say about this one except to reiterate that the result was a very encouraging turnaround from the team's sloppy seven goal/44 shot-against effort in the previous game. The Eagles have one more mission before going home for a well-deserved Christmas break: a two-game weekend set in enemy territory against their biggest rivals of all, the Halifax Mooseheads. Wouldn't it be sweet to invade the Metro Centre and take all four points? It will not be an easy task, but what a way to cap off an excellent first half it would be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Five-game winning streak over; Eagles fall 7-6 in overtime to Fog Devils

It was a wild and wooly affair from Mile One Centre last night, and despite some heroics from the Eagles' two Newfoundland boys playing in front of family and friends, the team dropped a 7-6 decision in OT to a plucky St. John's Fog Devils hockey club.

St. John's native Kyle Downer made his first appearance in the QMJHL, taking over from starter David Davenport early in the first period after Davenport gave up three goals on six shots in 6:07 of action. Despite the pressures of coming in cold in his first game in front of family and friends, Downer played pretty well and gave the team a chance to win. Who knows, maybe he will get the start in tonight's rematch (6:30 ADT, CJCB AM 1270).

The other Newfoundlander to come up big on the night was Upper Island Cove native Robert Slaney, who fired the game-tying goal at 14:53 to send the game to overtime. Robert only has three goals so far this season, but two of them have been clutch game-tying goals at very key times.

The first period was a crazy whirlwind unlike any the Eagles have been in so far this season to my knowledge. The game wasn't quite eleven minutes old before the score was 4-3 Cape Breton! The Eagles fell behind 3-1 early, which spelled the end of Davenport's night, but two powerplay goals by Cam Fergus and Mickey MacDonald's first goal in the QMJHL gave the Eagles the 4-3 lead heading into the dressing room after one. The three-goal Eagle rally was sparked in part by a timely fight by scrapper Brad Gallant, who challenged the Fog Devils' Tim Spencer to a fight immediately off the faceoff following the third St. John's goal. Over the years, Gallant has proven that he is very good at picking the right time to try and find a scrap to spark his teammates, and more often than not, it works.

In the second period, the see-saw battle continued, with the score 5-5 after two frames. St. John's overager Nicolas Bachand scored early in the third to give the Fog Devils their third lead of the hockey game, but Slaney's heroics sent the game to overtime.

To start the four-on-four overtime, the coaching staff rolled the dice by starting three forwards (Fergus, Paul McIlveen, and Dean Ouellet) and one defenceman (Jean-Claude Sawyer). The move didn't work, as it took just 26 seconds for St. John's sparkplug Ryan Graham to use his speed to motor to the front of the net and tip home a pass from partner in crime Wes Welcher to end things.

It sounds as though it was a very entertaining game from Mile One, but the Eagles have to be disappointed with giving up seven goals to one of the lowest-scoring clubs in the league. On the radio post-game show, assistant coach Mario Durocher claimed that the Eagles played one of their worst games of the season, and stated that there was no way that the Fog Devils should have outskated us like they did. He suggested that maybe the guys took this Fog Devil hockey team a bit for granted. Considering our now 0-5 all-time record at Mile One Centre, we have no business doing that.

The Eagles gave up a goal early in each of the four periods played last night. They have also given up a goal on the first shot of the hockey game in each of their past three outings. They have given up the first goal in each of their last five games, although they won four of those.

For tonight, here's hoping for a better and more consistent effort, especially defensively, and for a better game from whatever goaltender ends up starting. We would all very much like to end this regular season Mile One winless streak, we need the two points in the standings (now one point behind Moncton and five behind Lewiston), we need to start finding a way to win on the road (the Eagles sport a mediocre 7-8-2-0 road record), and you really want to finish what's been a great first half on a positive note.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You're in for a scare....... you're in for a shock........

how does it feeeeeeeeeel........... to be hit by the rock?

OK so we haven't heard that song in a good ten years, but tonight and tomorrow night, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles visit "The Rock" for a pair of games against the St. John's Fog Devils, and if they can't get up for these games or take the Fog Devils lightly, that's what's going to happen to them!

Look no further than the Eagles' record last season (regular season) at Mile One Stadium in St. John's against the expansion Devils: four games, four losses, and just one point out of a possible eight (one loss came in overtime).

Granted, that was last year, this is now. St. John's hasn't been doing as well this season as last, especially on home ice. Last season, the expansion Fog Devils finished an amazing 25-8-1-1 on home ice. So far this season, the Devils are a less-imposing 8-7-0-1 at Mile One. As well, the Eagles may have lost all four regular season games in St. John's last season, but as I'm sure most of us recall, they broke the Mile One curse come playoff time, winning all three playoff games played there during their first round series win agains the Fog Devils.

Still, the Eagles should know that St. John's is not to be taken lightly on their home ice, even if they sit second-to-last in the East Division with a record of 12-19-1-1, good for just 26 points.

The Fog Devils have been having a difficult sophomore season in the QMJHL. They haven't had as much success as they had last year............ they have had countless injuries............ they have received inconsistent goaltending........... and they have had a number of off-ice problems with certain players. These problems all snowballed to send St. John's spiralling on a real bad streak lately (seven losses in eight games recently), although they have recently found a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, winning their last two games against the Halifax Mooseheads, and welcoming troubled overager Nicolas Bachand back into the lineup after he was temporarily sent home. As a result, the Fog Devils might be feeling better right now than they have for much of the season, so the Eagles will have to be on their toes.

Cape Breton comes into tonight's game with a record of 22-11-1, good for 45 points, and now sit just four points back of the league and division-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs. Just a few days ago, the Eagles were a whopping eight points behind Lewiston. The MAINEiacs play at home tonight, against the Saint John Sea Dogs.

One would assume that David Davenport would get the call again tonight for Cape Breton. Despite his somewhat shaky play against PEI this past weekend, he was still good enough to get the two wins, and I think that it would take circumstances a bit more extenuating than a couple of shaky games for the team to throw rookie Kyle Downer into the fray, seeing as how he hasn't played a minute of QMJHL action to date. However, if Davenport falters tonight, perhaps we could see Downer make his first appearance in the Eagle crease; he'll have friends and family on hand in his hometown of St. John's. Of course, the hope is that this doesn't have to happen, as we're looking for a strong game from "DD" tonight. St. John's will almost certainly start veteran Ilja Ejov, against whom the Eagles have had some troubles over the past two seasons.

The puck drops tonight at 6:30 ADT; be sure to tune in on CJCB AM 1270, where Ken MacNeil will be providing his usual excellent play-by-play. Do not be confused by the listed start time of 7:00; remember that Newfoundland time is a half hour ahead of our time here in Cape Breton!

Here's hoping that the Eagles can get their sixth straight win tonight, although it certainly won't be easy in a rink where the team has yet to win a regular season game. It's time for the Eagles to step up, try not to get too caught up in thinking about the upcoming holiday festivities, and finish that lingering regular season curse the team has had in this building.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weekend roundup

Although one could have asked for two slightly more inspiring hockey games, one couldn't ask for a better result for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, as they took both games of their two-game weekend mini-series against division rival PEI. On Friday night, Cape Breton outscored their opponent 7-4 in a powerplay-filled game dominated by the referees, and on Saturday night, Cape Breton snuck away with a 4-3 victory in a game that perhaps shouldn't have been as close as it was considering the 43-19 shots advantage and overall territorial advantage held by the Eagles. The most important fact is that Cape Breton started the weekend eight points behind the first-place Lewiston MAINEiacs, but finished the weekend just four points behind the division leaders.


The big storyline to take away from Friday night's game was the play of captain James Sheppard. In his first game since the disappointment of being left off of Team Canada's WJC selection camp roster, Sheppard came out like a man possessed. He scored three goals and an assist, hit everything that moved, skated through the Rocket like a hot knife going through butter at times, and overall played by far his best game of the season. After his surprising omission from the Canadian roster, James could have sulked and let it affect his play, or he could have taken it as a challenge to step up his game and prove a few people wrong. While this weekend was only two games, it seems so far like he has adopted the latter attitude. In any event, it certainly was nice to see James get a few breaks around the net after having so much trouble scoring goals so far this season.

In a game with a ridiculous amount of powerplays (so many that there was little to no flow in the game), Cape Breton made theirs count, finishing the night 5/13 with the man advantage. In conjunction with this, the Eagle penalty killers also had a great night, limiting PEI to just two goals on ten powerplay opportunities, and you can almost throw out one of those goals as it came on a six-second-long PEI powerplay; not exactly a "true" powerplay with sustained pressure and the like, in fact the Rocket player who was in the penalty box wasn't even back in the play.

To use a badly overdone cliche, Cape Breton's best players were their best players in Friday night's game. In addition to Sheppard's big night, Cam Fergus had two goals and two assists (his second goal being his 30th of the season), JC Sawyer had three helpers, and Paul McIlveen assisted on three goals. However, the win wasn't just about the team's stars. Credit call-up defencemen Spencer Corcoran and Maxime Gervais for filling in capably on the blueline, as well as Robert Slaney for dropping back to defence for hopefully one last time this season and doing a fine job. Credit Scott Brannon for a rambunctous effort that saw him land many big hits. Credit Chris Culligan for yet another excellent game on the PK; he has quietly developed into one of our best penalty killers. Credit Nick MacNeil for a very strong return from a long absence due to a bout with mono; he scored a great goal in the game's late stages. It was unfortunate that the game was so dominated by special teams, as it robbed many young third and fourth-line players on both teams of a chance to play very much.

All in all, Friday night's game was good in that the team won and in that the fans got to see yet another dominating offensive onslaught from the Eagles (7 goals, 50 shots), but the fact that the game was so lacking in intensity and flow was sometimes hard to ignore, from an entertainment standpoint. As mentioned before, the two referees had a lot to do with this problem.


The Eagles received some good news heading into this one, as defenceman Charlie Pens would finally return to the lineup after missing a good month and a half or so with a concussion. Pens ended up playing quite capably in his first game back. He was solid defensively and picked up an assist. Whether or not he'll be able to truly return to the bone-crunching physical game that he loves to play remains to be seen, but he certainly played capably in his return on Saturday night and it was nice to see him back.

Cape Breton dominated this game for the most part (final shots 43-19) but surprisingly only snuck away with a slim 4-3 victory. PEI hardly looked like they were interested in playing at times, but they somehow continued to hang around in a game they had little business being in. Perhaps the Eagles were a little bit guilty of letting the Rocket back into the game on a couple of occasions. For example, the second goal against was a result of Cape Breton's top line getting too fancy in the offensive zone and an ill-advised drop pass (and two guys' failures to pick it up) resulting in a breakaway the other way. The boys got the two points, and dominated the game for the most part, but it was surprising that the outcome was still in doubt during a pretty tense final minute.

The outcome was mostly decided early in the third period. With the game tied 2-2, Cam Fergus came up with yet another excellent snipe at a key time, shelfing one glove side on PEI goaltender Ryan Mior, who played excellent and kept his team in the game almost singlehandedly. Shortly afterwards, Francois Gauthier came up with a great shot of his own, letting go of a rocket of a slapshot that seemed to go right through Mior. Brad Gallant and Dean Ouellet also scored for the Eagles. Gallant's goal was a rebound off of a good solid point shot by Jason Swit, and Ouellet's goal was a one-timer (a bit of a knuckleball) into the top corner off of a nice feed by James Sheppard.

It should also be noted that Cape Breton perhaps caught a break early in the second period, as PEI had a goal waved off.

The Eagles could soon be without the versatile Robert Slaney for a short while, as he may be facing a suspension for his hit from behind on PEI's Chad Locke in the third period of this game. The illegal hit saw Slaney receive a five minute major and game misconduct, and set off a bit of a melee that involved several players on the ice; it was the first real fireworks seen at C200 in a long, long time.

Once again, a lot of credit has to be given to the defensive corps and the team's defensive game as a whole. For the third consecutive game, the Eagles limited their opponents to very few shots despite having so many injuries on the blueline. All in all, great to see the Eagles pick up all four points on the weekend, although it was disappointing to see so few fans in the stands both nights, and neither hockey game was the most entertaining one we've seen at C200 this year.


I would just like to throw this out there for fans to respond to with their viewpoints. What do you think of the trend of back-to-back games against the same opponent that the Eagles have seen so many times (both at home and on the road) this season?

When the schedule came out and I noticed how many back-to-back games we had against the same opponents this season, I figured that either (1) It would be great, it would feel like a mini playoff series, and would really help foster intense rivalries (2) It wouldn't be that great, would be bland for the fans to see the same team two nights in a row, and the teams would have more trouble getting up for the second game against the same team than they would if they were playing against somebody different. Another concern would be that it could have an adverse effect on attendance, as many fans would see two games against the same opponent and would choose to go to just one, figuring (perhaps correctly) that the two games would be pretty much the same thing.

Respond away with your own opinions, but I think I have made it fairly clear what I think of these back-to-back games.


This weekend's games were the last Eagle home games prior to the Christmas break. The Eagles posted an extremely impressive 15-3 home record during the first half of the season, and scored goals at a rate never before seen over such a sustained period of time by an Eagles team on C200 ice. Thanks for the entertainment boys, have a great Christmas and we'll see you on the 28th!

Before going home for the holidays, Cape Breton finishes out their first half schedule with four road games; back-to-back this Tuesday and Wednesday at St. John's against the Fog Devils and back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday at Halifax against the Mooseheads. Tuesday night's game starts at 6:30 AST and can be heard on CJCB AM 1270.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Regular season game #33- PEI Rocket @ Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Tonight's game opens a two-game weekend doubleheader between the fifth-place PEI Rocket and the third-place Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. We have seen quite a few such doubleheaders this season, as the QMJHL seems to be favouring a schedule that cuts down on travel costs. The Eagles and the Rocket met in a doubleheader back in October in Charlottetown, and it ended up in a split; PEI won the first game 5-4, Cape Breton took the second contest 3-0. Pascal Vincent and his troops will be looking for a better result this time around at C200. Cape Breton leads the season series between the two teams by a count of two games to one; in addition to the two games just mentioned, the Eagles scored a 5-2 victory over the Rocket on October 30 at C200. Cape Breton trails the Moncton Wildcats by two points for second place in the East Division, although they hold two games in hand. They also trail the Lewiston MAINEiacs by eight points for first place in the division; Lewiston finally had their 13-game win streak snapped in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Wildcats on Wednesday night.

The Eagles enter tonight's matchup having won their last three hockey games. They will be without defenceman Oskars Bartulis and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, as those two have already left to join their respective World Junior teams. Called up to help fill these voids are goaltender Kyle Downer from St. John's Midget AAA, and defencemen Spencer Corcoran (Charlottetown Jr A) and Maxime Gervais (College Antoine-Girouard Midget AAA). The Eagles will also still be missing defencemen Etienne Breton (shoulder), Charlie Pens (concussion), and Daniel Fazzalari (knee), although the latter two are said to be returning soon. David Davenport will no doubt get the start in goal tonight for Cape Breton, while most of the line combinations should be fairly similar to what they were last game. The Eagles are still counting offensively on the lines of Dean Ouellet-Cam Fergus-Paul McIlveen and Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon; both lines have been playing very well since they were put together two weeks ago prior to a game against the Halifax Mooseheads.

It will be interesting to see how McIlveen performs after being named QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week last week (five goals and an assist in two games), and it could be even more interesting to see how Sheppard responds to his disappointing omission from the Canadian World Junior selection camp roster. A lot of guys seem to feel the "Player of the Week" pressure and tail off in the game or two immediately following their selection, so we'll see if McIlveen can avoid that trend, and as for Sheppard, his attitude has been that his being left off of the Canadian roster will only serve as further motivation to play his best and prove them wrong.

From the PEI side of the ice, starting in goal for head coach Yannick Jean and his gang could be 18-year-old Antoine Lafleur. He has started the last four hockey games for the Rocket (playing extremely well), and there are plenty of rumours swirling around that long-time #1 goaltender Ryan Mior is on his way out of town. Helping to back up these rumours is the fact that the Rocket have recently called up goaltender Evan Mosher from the midget ranks.

On defence, the Rocket are led by the big three of Marc-Andre Gragnani, Pierre-Marc Guilbault, and Pierre-Luc Lessard. These guys are all very mobile, slick-skating, puck-moving two-way defencemen. All excel on the point on the powerplay, and all are key parts of PEI's transition game. The Screaming Eagles will have to keep a close eye on these three guys. Also playing well on defence for the Rocket is 16-year-old rookie Jordan Southorn, who they took in the first round, 17th overall, in this past June's draft. PEI also boasts a couple of other former first round QMJHL picks on the blueline in Stephen Lund and Pascal Boutin, although both have been disappointments thus far in their Q careers.

Up front, the Rocket have a pretty balanced attack, although they don't really have any "superstar" calibre scorers. Their most dangerous man offensively is overager David Laliberte, who leads the Rocket in scoring with 46 points in 31 games. Sniper Geoff Walker (40 points in 31 games) has a great shot and is dangerous from almost anywhere inside the bluline. The diminutive Guillaume Doucet has 29 pts in 31 games and often plays on a line with Laliberte; the two complement each other pretty well. Other decent forwards for the Rocket include Sydney native Joey Haddad (17 pts in 30 games), Europeans Martin Latal and Peter Cmorej, crasher and banger Tyler Hawes, and sophomores Chad Locke and Matthew Lachaine. The latter two, however, have had disappointing offensive production thus far this season. Latal is questionable for tonight's game after having left the Rocket's previous game with an undetermined injury.

For fight fans, don't get too excited about tonight; PEI has virtually no fighters to speak of (unless you consider Devan Praught to be a fighter), and the Eagles haven't seen a fight occur in a home game in about a month.

Special teams:

Cape Breton powerplay = 3rd iu the league at 24.9%
Cape Breton penalty kill = 4th in the league at 81.8%

PEI powerplay = Tied for 6th in the league at 21.6%
PEI penalty kill = 3rd in the league at 82.7%

PEI is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team; some nights they look as good as the league's contenders, other nights they seem to implode and beat themselves. Who knows which version will show up at C200 this weekend? Maybe we'll see both. Most weekend doubleheaders the Eagles have been involved in so far this season have ended up being splits, but it would be nice if Cape Breton can set the bar a little higher this weekend and go for three or even four points from the Rocket.

A couple of other little matters of interest:

- The Eagles have played 32 games so far and have yet to participate in a shootout. They have also only been to overtime once (5-4 OT loss in Bathurst in late October).

- If there is one disturbing stat about this year's Eagles, it is that they are 1-6 this season in games decided by one goal. This is a trend that has got to turn around; truly good teams find a way to win the close ones.

Not much else to say about tonight's game; Go Eagles!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

QMJHL Trading Period preview

Another day, another topic here at Inside The Nest. I would like to thank all of the fans who have participated and left comments thus far; the more fan participation we have, the better a place this blog becomes to talk about Screaming Eagles hockey and the QMJHL. Keep the comments coming!

Today's topic is a preview of the QMJHL midseason trading period, which opens on Dec. 18 and closes in early January. This is the time of year that teams, who have had the first half of the season to gauge where their team stands, make (or don't make) the moves necessary to build towards the goals they have in mind. Some teams have decided, based on a talented veteran lineup and a successful first half, that it would be best to trade for more help this season to take a run at the league title. Other teams realize that they have little to no chance of making much playoff noise this season, and will attempt to trade veteran assets in exchange for young prospects, effectively building for the future. Still other teams will stand pat with what they have, figuring that either they are a strong enough contender as they are, or that their time is next year, and they want to keep all of their main pieces together for a run at the title then.

In today's blog, I'll briefly run down what the league's eighteen teams may possibly do at the upcoming trading period. This is just the opinion of one reporter, they are educated guessed if you will, so take these prognostications with a grain of salt please!

I will run down the teams in terms of their current division standing, and will briefly comment on where their trading period priorities, and their intentions for this season, may lie.


1. Lewiston (23-5-0-3, 49 points): Going for a run at the league title for SURE. This team has been building towards this season for the past few years, and their first half success has done nothing but reinforce their notion that this is the year for Lewiston to finally make some real playoff noise. The #1 item on their shopping list seems to be another top offensive defenceman to help out Chad Denny.

2. Moncton (21-12-0-1, 43 points): Do not let their record fool you; this team is not a league contender. They deserve all the credit in the world for getting the absolute most out of what they have so far this season; they've had a phenomenal first half. But the fact remains that after last year's championship run, the Wildcats are in rebuilding mode. If they were to keep their team intact this year, sure they would finish high in the standings and might win a round or two in the playoffs, but they just don't have the depth to truly contend for the league title this year, and holding on to their top veterans and losing them for nothing at the end of the season would set the Wildcats back for at least a couple of years. Furthermore, they're already losing top scorer Jerome Samson to Val d'or during the trading period as the final compensation for last year's Luc Bourdon deal. Expect this team to SELL, trading away some key veterans such as Bourdon, Andrew MacDonald, Matt Marquardt, and Nathan Welton (not all, but two or three for sure).

3. Cape Breton (20-11-1-0, 41 points): With it being the last year in junior hockey for Cam Fergus, Paul McIlveen, JC Sawyer, Oskars Bartulis, Ondrej Pavelec, and possibly James Sheppard, and with the Eagles' proving in the first half that they can run with the big dogs, this seems to be a year in which we should go for it. Topping the Eagles' shopping list, if they can be had at the right price, should be a top-four defenceman and a top-six forward.

4. Acadie-Bathurst (19-12-1-0, 39 points): Early in the season, the Titan were 3-7, had seemingly no goaltending, and seemed to be getting all of their production from just a handful of veteran guys. It was looking like it would be a rebuilding year in Titan land. However, the team has turned it around significantly since and has moved up the standings enough to be considered a possible contender. Mathieu Perreault has emerged as a very special superstar, and may be the best player in the QMJHL today. Sniper Thomas Beauregard leads the league with 38 goals and will not be back next season. The Titan still have question marks in goal, but their situation has improved with the acquisition of the adequate-at-the-very-least Brant Miller. Bathurst now looks like a team that could make some playoff noise.

The Titan could still conceivably rebuild, as they still have quite a few holes to fill if they want to truly contend, but history has shown that in most years where Bathurst looks like they have a halfway-decent chance, owner Leo-Guy Morrissette will give the green light to make moves to go for it. In conclusion, I could see the Titan taking various directions at the trading period, but my gut is leaning towards predicting that they're going to do a little bit of tweaking towards making some noise THIS year.

5. PEI (15-11-1-4, 35 points): The PEI Rocket have a pretty good team this year; they should finish above .500 and could win a round or two in the playoffs. That being said, I think that Rocket management is looking more towards next year as their big year. I think that PEI will for the most part stand pat (still leaving them with a pretty decent team this season), and may actually trade a veteran or two (rumours have goaltender Ryan Mior and dman Marc-Andre Gragnani on the trading block).

6. Halifax (15-14-2-1, 33 points): The Mooseheads have had a pretty disappointing first half, and even though team philosophy is usually to hold on to veterans and try to make as much noise as possible every year, I'm thinking that the Mooseheads' play so far this season has made it apparent that the team isn't going anywhere this year, and that it would be best to trade away a veteran or two and build for the future (which could very well be as soon as next season). Their biggest asset is star goaltender Jeremy Duchesne, who has been mentioned in a ton of trade talks, most of which have him going to the Gatineau Olympiques, possibly for a package that would include high-scoring Brett Morrison going to Halifax at the draft in June. Anyhow, Halifax should be SELLING.

7/8. Saint John (10-18-1-1), St. John's (10-19-1-1), 22 points each: These expansion cousins are both a good two years away from contending for any league titles. They will play out the rest of this season, giving ice time to young guys who will be key parts of their future, and will try to trade away the few veteran assets they have. The biggest name on the block from these two teams is Fog Devils' leading scorer Wesley Welcher, who has generated some interest from a few potential contenders around the league.


1. Val d'or (20-10-2-1, 43 points): Going for broke, all eggs in one basket for this year. It's been about six years since the Foreurs have had a real contender, and their fans are starving for a deep playoff run. Starting with moves made at the end of last season to get veterans such as Brad Marchand and Mathieu Roy, Val d'or made it crystal clear that they're going full speed after the Cup this season. They will immediately acquire Jerome Samson from Moncton as soon as the trade period opens, and might even make further adjustments to fine-tune for the playoffs. Goaltending is one area where many think they need improvement. To summarize, this team will do everything it can to be in the championship mix.

2. Gatineau (20-10-1-2, 43 points): Not putting all their hopes on this year like Val d'or is, but still most likely making a run at the title. They have the depth at forward to do it, and they're looking to make the moves to upgrade in goal and on defence; if they're successful, they will be a very, very serious contender for the league title. However, the 'Piques will tweak in a way that won't leave them with nothing next season...... they want to be competitive every season. A team like Val d'or, on the other hand, will likely go "all in" (to use poker terminology) this season, with little regard for the coming season or two. As mentioned earlier, Gatineau is highly rumoured to be going after Halifax goalie Jeremy Duchesne. They are also apparently looking for another top-four dman (some rumours swirling about Bathurst's Mathieu Carle, although they would need the Titan to decide to rebuild if they were to get him). Even if they made no moves, Gatineau would still be a threat in the playoffs. This team will contend, and it may only take a single move or two.

3. Rouyn-Noranda (18-11-2-3, 41 points): The Huskies are a highly respectable team this season, but they have been planning for a long time for their big run to be next year. Despite their good record, they know that their key players are a year too young to start making big trades to add big pieces this year. I expect Rouyn to pretty much stand pat and wait for next season, although this will still see them finish in the top half of the standings and do halfway-decent in the playoffs. The only rumour swirling here is that the Huskies may be tempted to deal veteran goalie JP Levasseur, because so many contending teams could use a goaltending upgrade. Other than that possibility, expect these guys to pretty much stand pat.

4. Baie-Comeau (17-10-1-4, 39 points): A powerful team capable of making some noise, they possess the best offensive numbers in the league to date. However, they still may have a few too many holes in other areas (defence, goaltending) to really compete with teams in their division like Val d'or and Gatineau once those teams have made their upgrades. I think that the Drakkar will mostly stand pat and look more towards next season, when stars like Francois Bouchard, Alex Picard-Hooper, and Benjamin Breault should all still be with the team.

5. Quebec (18-14-0-1, 37 points): Patrick Roy likes to win, and I would be surprised if he didn't at least make a couple of minor tweaks to make his Remparts a little bit more of a contender this season. I'm not sure if they have the contender potential that the Foreurs and Olympiques possess, but Roy could decide to make a couple of moves to try and move his Remparts up the standings with those teams. I could also see him deciding that his team is a little bit young for a run this year and looking more towards next season. If they are going to try and make noise this season, Quebec needs a goaltending upgrade and a real high-calibre defensive anchor to at least in part offset the loss to the NHL of the man they were counting on to lead their defence, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. This could be a possible destination for the Wildcats' Bourdon, or PEI's Gragnani. In summary, I'm guessing Quebec will make a couple of moves to try and join in on the fun.

6. Victoriaville (18-13-0-0, 36 points): A decent team but I can't really see them contending this year. They'll likely mostly stand pat and keep their main pieces intact for next season, while possibly listening to offers for goalie JC Blanchard, dman Maxime Noreau, and maybe forward Benoit Doucet. I don't know if these guys will be too active during the trading period.

7. Shawinigan (15-14-1-3, 34 points): Have been falling fast since a hot, overachieving start. Only have a handful of impact players and are definitely in rebuilding mode, despite their decent record. I would look at them as sellers, with veteran guys like Francis Pare, Danick Bouchard, and JP Paquet sure to generate lots of interest on the trade market. They should trade at least one or two of these guys to try and speed up the rebuilding process.

8. Drummondville (14-16-0-3, 31 points): The poor Volts. They entered this season expecting to make this their big year, expecting to totally contend. However, almost everything that could possibly go wrong, has gone wrong for this hard-luck team. They lost one superstar, Guillaume Latendresse, to the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL, and their other superstar, Derick Brassard, has yet to play a game this season; he's out until at least February with a terrible shoulder injury. To add to this, they lost overage dman Olivier Magnan to the pro ranks, and potential star forward Francis Charette has quit the QMJHL altogether. Add it all up and it's been a disastrous first half for Drummondville, and they are left with just too many holes to plug to possibly take the run at the title that they had hoped that they could. Even with Brassard coming back late in the season, they would still have too many other holes; furthermore, Brassard has gone on record in newspapers stating that he would prefer to be traded to a contender when he returns to action. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see what the Volts do with Brassard at the upcoming trading period; some rumours have him going to the Gatineau Olympiques to play in his hometown. What kind of price can they fetch for a superstar who is no guarantee to ever fully recover from his terrible injury? Anyhow, expect these guys to sell as much as they can, a big disappointment for their long-suffering fans who were hoping for a real contender this season.

9. Chicoutimi (11-17-4-1, 27 points): In full rebuilding mode after a failed run at the title last season, the Sags are just letting their young kids play this year in hopes of icing a strong team in 2008-2009, when they hope to host the Memorial Cup. They do have a couple of veterans left over that should be of interest to contending teams, the best of whom is easily overage center David Desharnais, who should be one of the very most sought-after names on the trading market this Xmas.

10. Rimouski (6-21-4-1, 17 points): In Year Two of a massive rebuilding project that's been taking place ever since their glorious Sidney Crosby years came to an end in the 2005 Memorial Cup final. The Oceanic are talented, but extremely young, and are waiting to contend again in two seasons, 2008-2009. They don't really have veteran assets to speak of that I could see contending teams being interested in. I'd say this team will be relatively inactive at the trading period, just content to play out this season and let their kids gain experience; playoffs are very unlikely for these guys, but that's the way they like to build.

So in summary:

For sure contenders = Lewiston, Val d'or, Gatineau, Cape Breton

Teams that could well contend with a couple of moves = Quebec, Acadie-Bathurst

Teams likely not really going for it this year that will still be good teams and could upset a contender = Baie-Comeau, Rouyn-Noranda, PEI, Victoriaville

Sellers/rebuilders = Moncton, Halifax, Drummondville, Shawinigan, Chicoutimi, St. John's, Saint John, Rimouski.

Thoughts and comments would be appreciated!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Good news and bad news for Screaming Eagle players today

Good news for today: Paul McIlveen was named QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week thanks to his five goals and one assist in the two games played this week. He was absolutely electric in those two games, with most of his goals being highlight reel calibre. Hopefully this serves as a real confidence-builder for a guy who had been struggling a bit in the four or five games prior to this week.

Bad news for today: Captain James Sheppard was surprisingly left out of the invitations for Team Canada's World Junior selection camp. James hasn't set the world on fire with his offensive totals so far this season, but he has still been a well-rounded two-way force for Cape Breton; playing in all situations and dominating at times physically, creating space for himself and teammates and causing turnovers in the Eagles' favour.

Many still expected him to at least be extended an invite, seeing as how he was selected 9th overall in the NHL draft and has been representing our nation for the past few years, playing very well on U-17 and U-18 teams within the program. This is not to say that players should be able to ride the coattails of their past performances into an invite to the WJC camp, but it certainly seemed like he was very much on Team Canada's radar and that only a disastrous start to the season would see him fall off of it. While Sheppard's offensive totals could be a little bit higher, he certainly hasn't had a disastrous start to the season.

From the Eagles' point of view, this means that he won't be lost to the team this month as was expected, but you always want the best for your players and I'm sure everyone is disappointed for him and wishes he had gotten the invite.

Thoughts on either issue?

Eagles salvage game in third period; defeat Moncton 4-2 to move into second place tie

Things weren't looking very good for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for a while on Friday night against the Moncton Wildcats, but for the second straight game, three early third period goals saved the day.

The first period was very boring and saw the Eagles come out pretty flat; passing was off and the team couldn't seem to get anything going. A great pass by Andrew MacDonald found Phil Mangan in the slot, and the free agent pickup roofed one blocker side on Cape Breton starter Ondrej Pavelec to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead after one period.

The Eagles had a bit more jump in the second period but still had some trouble getting anything going due to a stifling defensive style being played by the visiting Wildcats, who seemed content to try and sit on their 1-0 lead. After a couple of good scoring chances, the home side thought they had finally scored one late in the second period, but the goal was waved off as Cam Fergus was ruled to have interfered with Moncton goaltender Jhase Sniderman on the play. Fergus was also assessed a goaltender interference penalty. This was the second game in a row that saw the Eagles denied of a goal due to a goaltender interference penalty to Fergus, and like the previous time, a lot of fans thought that he had been pushed into the goaltender and that therefore the goal should have counted.

Seeing as how it was "Teddy Bear Toss Night", a lot of fans who thought the Eagles had scored a goal threw their stuffed animals onto the ice, to be collected by charities and dispersed to needy children on Christmas. In a move that drew the ire of most of the C200 crowd, Moncton defenceman Luc Bourdon allegedly threw a few of the toys back into the stands. He was booed loudly every time he touched the puck for the rest of the game.

The Eagles finally broke out in the third period, salvaging a game that looked like it was in danger of going down as a frustrating loss. Oskars Bartulis, playing his last game before going away to the World Juniors to represent Latvia, made one of the very best passes we have seen at C200 so far this year to send Paul McIlveen off on a breakaway. Bartulis, in his own end, spotted McIlveen "hanging out" at the opposing blueline, and banked a pass off the boards right onto his tape, sending him in all alone. McIlveen did the rest, beating Sniderman with a terrific forehand-to-backhand-to-forehand deke to tie the game and finally give the fans something to cheer about.

The Eagles then went on a powerplay and took the lead for good, as the top powerplay unit came through with a goal. Dean Ouellet showed great vision in finding Fergus at the lip of teh crease on the right side of the net, and the 20-year-old vet easily tipped it home for a 2-1 Cape Breton lead. Cape Breton then added to their lead with their third goal in just 2:41 (after being unable to get much of anything going at all in the first two periods), as JC Gauthier continued his hot play of late by banging home the rebound of a Brendon MacDonald shot from a bad angle. MacDonald's assist gives him a point in each of four consecutive games now, a rare accomplishment for a player whose duties are primarily of the checking and penalty killing variety. 3-1 Cape Breton and all the momentum our way.

Moncton made things interesting late in the game, as Bourdon went on a spectacular end-to-end rush (being booed the whole way), and then fed sophomore forward Matt Eagles (son of former NHLer Mike Eagles) in the slot. Eagles beat Pavelec low blocker side and suddenly things were a little more tense. However, McIlveen would ice the game with a brilliant empty net goal with just over a minute remaining, and Cape Breton would manage to win 4-2 despite trailing 1-0 heading into the third and final period. Two seasons ago, in 2004-2005, the Eagles failed to win a single game that they trailed after two periods.

It was not the best or most exciting hockey game of the year at C200, and the attendance of just over 2700 for a Friday night game in December was very disappointing, but the Eagles managed to pull it out in the late stages and improve to 20-11-1, tying the Wildcats for second place in the division and placing the Eagles third overall in the QMJHL standings. The Eagles still trail Lewiston by seven points for first in the East Division, as they're totally on fire, having won 13 straight hockey games.

Cape Breton next sees action this coming Friday and Saturday, when the PEI Rocket come to town for a doubleheader. The two games are the final two home games for the Screaming Eagles before the holidays, so come on out and catch a game; it will be a while before you can do so again!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Regular season game #32; Eagles vs Moncton Wildcats

Tonight's game at C200 is a showdown of sorts for second place, as the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles host the defending President's Cup champion Moncton Wildcats for the second time this season. Cape Breton won the previous matchup by a score of 5-2 back on November 5. The Wildcats are two points ahead of the Screaming Eagles in the East Division standings, so tonight's game is an ample opportunity for Cape Breton to pull into a tie for second place.

Cape Breton enters the game with a 19-11-1 record, good for 39 points, which has the Eagles standing at fourth overall in the 18-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The home team also enters tonight's game having won their last two; a 7-3 win over Halifax last Saturday and a 6-4 win over Gatineau this past Wednesday.

Moncton (20-10-0-1) enters tonight's game on quite the tear; they've won four in a row and have won eight of their last ten. This red-hot streak has a lot to do with the return from the NHL of star defenceman Luc Bourdon, who has been an absolute force most nights for the Wildcats since being sent back to junior by the Vancouver Canucks. With Bourdon, Andrew MacDonald, and Nathan Welton, the Wildcats have quite possibly the best "top three" on defence in the league. However, the Cats are still expected to be "sellers" during the upcoming Christmas trading period. They will almost certainly deal Bourdon to help build for the future, and will likely deal at least one of MacDonald and Welton. For tonight, however, the Eagles will have to deal with the Wildcats' "big three" on D.

Up front, Moncton is very young and is not overly deep in veteran/proven scoring, but they've evidently been finding ways to score enough goals to win hockey games. Their most noteworthy weapons up front are veterans Jerome Samson and Matt Marquardt. Samson, for sure the Wildcats' best offensive player, is a slick two-way forward who is putting up great numbers now that he's playing in a first line scoring role; last year with the powerhouse champion Wildcats, his role was on the third line. Moncton will not enjoy the services of their top scorer for much longer, however, as he will be going to the Val d'or Foreurs at the Christmas trade period to complete the trade made last January that netted the Wildcats the aforementioned Bourdon. Marquardt is a very big and physical power forward who has really come into his own as a goal scorer so far this season; his 22 goals leads the Wildcats. Other very good forwards for Moncton include Christian Gaudet, the two-way captain of last year's league champion, Phil Mangan, a recent pickup from the Ontario Jr A ranks who has had instant success in the Q, and Randy Cameron, a 17-year-old rookie who has been contributing from the get-go. As said, Moncton is not a hugely high-scoring team, and their only real consistently dangerous line is the Samson/Marquardt line, but they've been finding ways to win hockey games.

In goal, Moncton has a pretty solid tandem of veteran Jhase Sniderman and rookie Nicolas Riopel, the top goaltender selected in the 2005 QMJHL Midget Draft. The Cats have been using both regularly this season, with Sniderman getting slightly more playing time. Unsure as to a starter for them, but Riopel played in their last hockey game (5-1 win at Halifax on Wednesday), so perhaps it is Sniderman's turn to start.

From the Cape Breton side of the ice, expect a lineup pretty much similar to the one that defeated the Gatineau Olympiques on Wednesday night. The Screaming Eagles only have four for sure healthy defencemen (JC Sawyer, Jason Swit, Oskars Bartulis, Mark Barberio), but still managed to win on Wednesday night. Call-up dman Spencer Corcoran is a question mark at this point for tonight's game, as he left after the first period on Wednesday night after having reaggravated a minor injury. Tonight will be the last game for a while with the Eagles for Bartulis, as he leaves tomorrow for the Pool B World Junior Championships, where he'll represent his home country of Latvia.

Forward lines should be:

Dean Ouellet-Cam Fergus-Paul McIlveen
Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon
Brendon MacDonald-Robert Slaney-Brad Gallant

Fourth line should be centered by JC Gauthier, with any mix of Stephen Ceccanese, Alex Quesnel, Francois Gauthier, and Mickey MacDonald on the wings. Ceccanese in my opinion should play for sure tonight, as he played an excellent hockey game on Wednesday night.

In goal, they might very well go back with Ondrej Pavelec after his solid performance on Wednesday night, but it's also a very real and totally fine possibility to go with David Davenport, who has also been playing very well as of late.

Powerplay: Cape Breton enters the game third in the league at 24.9%, while Moncton's powerplay is just 14th at 18.0%.

Penalty Killing: The Eagles enter tonight's contest with the 5th-best PK, at 81.5%. Moncton is also 14th in this category, with a PK % of 77.4%.

All in all, tonight's game is a battle for second place, a challenge for the Eagles' forwards to overcome the "big three" on Moncton's defence, and finally an opportunity for the Eagles' brass and fans to have a look at Marquardt and Bourdon, two names among the many that fans are considering as possibilities to be traded for during the upcoming Christmas trading period, to help the Eagles potentially make a run for the top in the second half of the season and the playoffs. I know that I will have a close eye on both of those guys.

Bon match!