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.