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!