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!


Anonymous said...

We need more fights for the fans better music cause its getting real boring....

Inside the Nest said...

Interesting comments.

"It's getting real boring" - This is of course a matter of individual opinion, and I for one still enjoy the games tremendously, but the fact that attendance is down from last season in all eight markets in the East Division suggests that you're not the only one who feels this way. It might have a bit to do with the recent addition of the two expansion teams; two extra teams may have watered down the QMJHL product a bit, and we're going to have to hope that within the next couple of seasons, the league grows into its new size.

"We need more fights" - Again, really a matter of personal opinion; some people prefer there to be no fights, especially the "staged" battles between heavyweights that have little to do with the storyline of the actual game. However, let's face facts, the majority of fans enjoy a good, spirited fight, and we haven't seen too many of those at all at C200 this season. I don't really think this is an Eagles-specific problem; their job is to win hockey games, not to make sure fights happen. It's a league-wide problem, a hockey-wide problem even.......... you can likely blame in large part the "new NHL" for the latest trend towards the extinction of fighting. Want to know my personal opinion? I miss the fights too. I'm not saying that I think anyone should go to the games JUST to see a few fights, but how many fights have we seen at C200 in the last ten or so home games? One? Two? I definitely think it's something that's lacking in the experience of going to a QMJHL hockey game today, although I'll say again that I don't think the Eagles are very much to blame for this problem; it's a complaint among fans throughout the league.

"Better music" - This is where I'll humbly disagree with you. I think that the music has improved by quite a bit over last season. In my opinion, Kyle Moore is doing a great job, seems pretty in touch with what people want to hear, and puts a fresh new energy and enthusiasm into the job. I'll admit that there are a couple of selections that he overplays a little bit (cough Promiscuous Girl), and of course there's always room for improvement, but on the whole, I for one give Kyle Moore two thumbs up on his job in the DJ booth so far.

Thanks for your comments and opinions on your experiences of going to a game, you touched on a few interesting things.

Anonymous said...

Bring back that yellow crease! We need that Eagle yellow goal crease from the 02 season! It spells playoff success :)

Inside the Nest said...

To whomever made the comment about bringing back the yellow crease, HERE HERE!! I totally agree........ the one year the Eagles had yellow goal creases at C200 was the one year they went far in the playoffs. Every time I see highlights from that season and see the yellow goal creases it brings back good memories- it's funny too.

Anonymous said...

Bring the "rust" crease back !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!