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.