Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Training Camp Schedule and Roster - It's That Time of Year Again!

Greetings Eagle fans far and wide, and I hope all of you had a great offseason although it may have been about the shortest offseason ever- at least it felt that way to me!

It's very hard to believe that a new camp and a new season will begin this weekend, and this year's tryouts shape up to be a fair bit more interesting than last year's. Last year we were returning almost an entire team of veterans and there were few open spots to be fought for. This time around, the Eagles lost a sizeable number of vets from last year's team - leaving several roster spots wide open to the new competition.

This blog is back after an offseason-long hiatus, and I'll get right into the information any hardcore Eagle fan wants to know: the training camp schedule and rosters.

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE (opening weekend)

Thursday, August 16

7-8 PM, Practice Group A
8-9 PM, Practice Group B

Friday, August 17

8:45-9:45 AM, Goalies on-ice
10-11:30 AM, Practice Group A (fitness testing)
12-1:30 PM, Practice Group B (fitness testing)

7:00 PM - Intrasquad Game

Saturday, August 18

8:45-9:45 AM, Goalies on-ice
10-11:30 AM, Practice Group B (fitness testing)
12-1:30 PM, Practice Group A (fitness testing)

7:00 PM- Intrasquad Game

Sunday, August 19

9:00-11:00 AM - Practice.

6:00 PM - Annual Black vs White Game


Group A

Jeff Amadio
Jackie-Ray Bernard
Mathieu Brodeur
Trevor Carmichael
Justin Collier (G)
Chris Culligan
David Davenport (G)
Marco Desveaux
Kyle Downer (G)
Brandon Edge
William Fradette
Samuel Finn
Dominic Fontaine
Bradley Gallant
Jean-Christophe Gauthier
Jeremy Gouchie
Jonathan Laberge
Alex Lamontagne
Francis Meilleur
Dean Ouellet
Olivier Patry
Vincent Rolland
Daniel Sauve
Neil Sherren
Robert Slaney
Evan Watts

Group B

Olivier Bellavance-Roy (G)
Marek Benda (G)
Etienne Breton
Daniel Brown
Stephen Ceccanese
Nicholas Chouinard
Spencer Corcoran
Olivier Dame-Malka
Lee Chuck Denny
Jeff Deruelle
Paul Dorsey (G)
Daniel Fazzalari
Philippe Fontaine
Maxime Gervais
Joey Haddad
Curtis MacDonald
Mickey MacDonald
Nick MacNeil
Kyle Mariani
Jan Piskacek
Beau Prokopetz
Michel Querry
Alexandre Quesnel
Cody Roland
James Sheppard


- As you can see, there aren't separate "rookie camps" and "veteran camps" as has been the case in some past seasons. It seems as though new and old faces will hit the ice together from Day One.

- All eligible returnees from last season have been invited back, excluding guys who were obviously going pro (Luc Bourdon, Ondrej Pavelec, Oskars Bartulis). The list of returning invitees includes three players who spent the first half of the season with the Eagles last year in Stephen Ceccanese, Mickey MacDonald, and Daniel Fazzalari.

- All five returnees who are eligible to play on the team as overagers have been invited to camp. Among this group are Dean Ouellet, Beau Prokopetz, Jonathan Laberge, David Davenport, and Brad Gallant.

- Six goaltenders are in camp; they are denoted on the above lists with (G).

- Both 2007 European Draft selections, goaltender Marek Benda and defenceman Jan Piskacek, are to attend camp.

- Note on the training camp rosters the players picked up by the Eagles in offseason trades - winger Joey Haddad (from PEI) and defenceman Alex Lamontagne (from Baie-Comeau). Both are entering their 19-year-old seasons.

- The following were Eagle selections in the 2007 Q midget draft:

D Samuel Finn (rd 1)
G Olivier Bellavance-Roy (rd 3)
D Mathieu Brodeur (rd 4)
W Philippe Fontaine (rd 5)
D William Fradette (rd 6)
W Lee Chuck Denny (rd 7)
D Francis Meilleur (rd 9)
G Justin Collier (rd 10)
W Neil Sherren (rd 11)

* Rd 8 pick Ryan Taylor (D) and Rd 12 pick Pier-Olivier Cotnoir (C) do not appear on the training camp list. Until further notice, I'm assuming that means that they will not be in camp. Also noticeably absent from the training camp list is 2005 5th round pick Guillaume Vasseur, who attended each of the previous two Screaming Eagles preseason tryouts.

- Defenceman Daniel Sauve, a free agent invite, spent part of last season with the Gatineau Olympiques. He is entering his 18-year-old season.

- Guys returning from previous training camps who will get another shot at cracking the roster include D Evan Watts (2006 rd 5), W Jeremy Gouchie (2006 rd 4), D Maxime Gervais (2005 rd 3), F Nicholas Chouinard (2006 rd 5), G Kyle Downer (2006 rd 8), D Curtis MacDonald (2006 rd 10). As well, the team returns defenceman Kyle Mariani who tried out for the team as a free agent last year.

- Interesting battles to watch include the wide-open battle for the team's two goaltending positions and the overage situation (five guys in camp, must be reduced to three).

- It's hard to really know what all of the mostly unkown free agents coming to camp will bring, but most years at least one or two such players end up making the final roster. Who it will be this year is really anyone's guess at this point! Pretty much any player that has yet to be specially denoted in these "notes" is a free agent/invitee. Brandon Edge is an interesting invite because he's 19 years old and I've heard good things about Olivier Patry (for what that's worth!).

If anybody else has any further information to add pertaining to the training camp roster or schedule, feel free to share it, and if there is any erroneous information or glaring omissions in this piece, please bring it to my attention.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The two most exciting words in sports: Game Seven

Or in the case of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and their fans, the two most unnerving words in sports right now.

Things were looking pretty good when Cape Breton scored a convincing Game 4 victory at home over the Val d'or Foreurs to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the best-of-seven QMJHL semifinal. Most, myself included, really thought that the Eagles were going to end the series at home in Game #5 on Friday night but it was not to be as Brad Marchand's overtime goal stood up as the winner, sending the series back to Val d'or.

In Game 6 tonight at the Air Creebec Centre, Cape Breton outshot their Val d'or counterparts 44-24 but came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision. As much as it was great that the Eagles outshot their opponent by such a wide margin, most of those chances were honestly from the perimeter. Both times that Cape Breton struck in tonight's game, they allowed the Foreurs to get it back within less than a minute - totally deflating any momentum they may have gained from their tallies.

Special teams were the really glaring difference in Monday night's contest, as Val d'or went 1/4 on the powerplay and Cape Breton was shut out with the man advantage for the second straight game, going 0/5. The Eagles have not even come close to scoring a powerplay goal in either of the past two hockey games, after having so much powerplay success throughout the 2007 playoffs. If the coaching staff and players cannot find a solution to this "power outage" tomorrow, it could be "lights out" on the season.

Right now, some of Cape Breton's best players simply are not performing like their best players. Veterans like Cam Fergus, Paul McIlveen, JC Sawyer, and Oskars Bartulis have been excellent all season but seem to be going cold at the wrong time of year. The Eagles will need these key guys to turn it around tomorrow night in the winner-take-all Game 7.

As well, the Eagles absolutely HAVE to find a way to slow down Brad Marchand. He is singlehandedly killing us out there, and seems able to blow through the entire team unchecked at times. With the veteran defence corps Cape Breton has, they should be able to do a better job on this guy. Plain and simply - the Eagles have to be much more physical with Marchand.

All of that said, nothing is a disaster until that fourth game is lost. We are still just one win away from winning this series and if Cape Breton finds a way to win tomorrow night, the Game 5 and 6 losses will be forgotten soon enough. In the playoffs, momentum can shift in the blink of an eye; just look at how it happened for Val d'or thanks to the result of Game 5.

And the Eagles do have some positives to build on entering the seventh game. They outshot the Foreurs 32-15 over the final two periods, and at times Val d'or really was hanging on for dear life. If Cape Breton can pick up in Game 7 where they left off tonight with that intense play and hemming up the Foreurs in their zone, they may end up being fine. As well, the Eagles probably haven't played their best hockey in five of the six games so far (Game 4 excluded) yet the series is still tied 3-3. What happens if they happen to come out with their best hockey tomorrow night? Finally, and this may not have anything to do with the outcome of tomorrow night's game................... but for what it's worth, the road team has won all three Game 7's to have occurred thus far in the 2007 playoffs.

The key thing for players, coaching staff, and fans alike right now is to not panic. Many a Stanley Cup champion or QMJHL winner has had its back against the wall in a Game 7 somewhere along the line in their ride to glory. Some have even blown 3-1 leads along the way and still found a way to lift the Cup at the end of the day. Look no further than last season's Carolina Hurricanes, who let a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final slip through their fingers only to end up winning Game 7. Of course, they got to play Game 7 at home....... ours is on the road. But honestly, if we can only beat Val d'or once out of four tries in their building in a playoff series we do not deserve to advance to the next round.

This is the ultimate test of the resiliency and character of this Eagle hockey team, and few if any have doubted this team's mettle in those regards this season. We cannot give up on this hockey team until the final horn goes tonight. If we do, how stupid do we look if the Eagles end up winning Game 7 and going on to lift the President's Cup?

The 2007 playoffs have seen us FINALLY beat Bathurst........... FINALLY win at the KC Irving Centre............ and FINALLY break that five-year-long playoff overtime drought. All of that tells me that anything is possible.

Keep believing, guys. You may end up being glad you did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The "unsung hero" local boy is unsung no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris Culligan made Eagle history in a plethora of ways tonight, by scoring the game winner in Game 3 of this league semifinal series vs Val d'or in overtime ON A PENALTY SHOT.

For those of you who aren't quite aware how rare an occurrence that is, I'd say it ranks up there as pretty much the Halley's Comet of hockey......... a playoff overtime winner on a penalty shot. ESPECIALLY as far into the postseason as the third round.

Utter delirium ensued in the C200 crowd, with many speculating that the crowd reaction for the goal was the most emotional ever seen since the Screaming Eagles came to town. This blogger remembers a couple of goals in the 2002 Halifax series that at least give it a run for its money, but no matter - it was definitely a moment that will live on for a long, long time......... especially if the Eagles go on to win the series.

The "made for Hollywood" overtime winner saved the Eagles from what could have been a crushing defeat, as they had blown leads of 3-0 and 4-3 earlier in the game.

In the two games in Val d'or, Culligan had just one assist while James Sheppard was held pointless. They needed to come up big tonight, and did they ever respond. James scored a goal and an assist, while Chris had two goals and two assists including the potentially-legendary overtime winner.

What's weird about this is that Cape Breton fans didn't see a single game go to overtime all season or playoffs at C200 leading up to tonight. As well, only one Eagle game all season went into a penalty shot shootout. It was in Moncton. Wanna guess who scored the penalty winner for Cape Breton in that game? ;) One Chris Culligan, of course!

With that, Cape Breton takes a 2-1 lead in this ultra-tight semifinal series with Val d'or, with Game 4 going tomorrow night from C200. That is also historically significant in that a 2nd win in the 3rd round of the playoffs means that this year's Eagles have now officially gone farther in the postseason than any Eagle team has ever gone before. The 2002 Eagles lost the third round 4-1 in games.

Not much time to savour this win, right back to the rink for another HUGE game tomorrow. We let these guys back into this series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or.............. we don't want to let them back in it a second time.

There could be pages and pages written on tonight's game, as it was one of the most exciting and action-packed Eagles games ever, but for now I'll just leave it all at that. Not much time to savour this win, as it's right back to the rink tomorrow night for another HUGE game. We let these guys back into the series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or........... we don't want to let them back in it a second time. Be ready to bring the intensity just as loud and proud tomorrow night as you did this past night, Eagles fans. C200 was HOPPIN for Game 3, and the Eagle fanbase should be proud of a job very well done!

Finally, in terms of the raw collection of talent assembled on the ice, it may have been the highest calibre of hockey we've ever seen in a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles hockey game. These are two serious QMJHL heavyweights, both dotted with future NHLers, going toe-to-toe. It's a huge treat to watch, and anyone who wasn't at Game 3 owes it to themselves to get down to C200 tomorrow and Friday nights to see this stuff.

Despite tonight's deliriously gratifying win, we all know that the Eagles are capable of a better 60-minute performance. Let's hope we see that tomorrow night as the team strives to put a stranglehold on this series and go ahead three games to one.

See you at the rink!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Game 3 tomorrow; get ready to ROCK the Nest!!!

Going into the first two games in Val d'or, most fans felt that if the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles could attain a split of those two games, that they'd be in good position heading home for three straight games at a rocking and sold out C200.

Mission accomplished.

Now, the team and its fans have to take advantage of these home games. As the title of this blog says, get ready to rock the Nest, because these are the biggest games we've seen there in five years. Two exciting teams that are built for a run at a championship. Tons of interesting subplots. This series seems to have it all. An unforgettably raucous atmosphere at C200 would just put it over the top. The fans in Val d'or definitely brought it; now it's up to us to match that intensity. Our crowd has been great all year, so I think we can make for an atmosphere that hasn't been seen since the 2002 series against Halifax!

The Foreurs had the upper hand in both games in Val d'or, but now the series shifts to C200. Here, not only do the Eagles have the home crowd behind them, but they also have the all-important benefit of "last change"....... i.e. they get to wait until Val d'or throws a line out on the ice before deciding what line they want to counter with. This could be of great benefit to Cape Breton as they will probably get to use the Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon line to try and neutralize Brad Marchand, who as predicted has been doing most of the damage for les Foreurs. Marchand was given too much room to move in the first two games, and if the Eagles are to have success in this series, they will have to slow him down and frustrate him.

All in all, Cape Breton has been an excellent home team all year, so there is much reason for optimism heading into Game 3 with the series tied 1-1.

Sheppard, Culligan, and Cam Fergus have been excellent and consistent producers for the Eagles all season, but only managed two "second assists" among them in the two games in Val d'or. Sheppard was actually held pointless. Therefore, look for these three guys to factor in on the scoresheet in the three upcoming home games in this series.......... they usually aren't held scoreless for too long. It is also hoped that Paul McIlveen can continue to be the hot hand that he was up north, that Dean Ouellet can continue to be the silent producer he's been all playoffs, that Jo Laberge can continue his timely postseason scoring, and that our defence corps can tighten up and hold the Foreurs at bay. The Eagles gave up 36 and 42 shots against in the first two games, which is a bit uncharacteristic of our team. Look for the shots against to come down in the next couple of games.

One final interesting twist going into tomorrow night's pivotal Game Three is that goaltender Jeremy Duchesne is said to have returned to the Foreurs and will most likely get the start in goal tomorrow night, relieving Raffael D'Orso who played the first two games. This development only further thickens the plot of a series whose plot is already quite deep. I expect that if he is in goal tomorrow night, Duchesne will be extremely hard to score on. Thankfully we counter with the league's best goaltender in Ondrej Pavelec; let's hope that he's at 100% after taking a few rough rides during Game Two that led some to question whether or not he was maybe hurting a little bit during that contest.

I can't really build this game up any more. It's the third round of the playoffs, against an extremely exciting and exotic team. There should be a loud and raucous sellout crowd. It's a chance for our Eagles to advance farther than they've ever advanced before. It's games like this that the entire season has been building towards.

I could go on and on............ but it would be pointless. It's as simple as this: if you're not ready to tear the roof off of C200 for this one, you may want to check your pulse.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Great teams find ways to win games they shouldn't!!!!

For two periods tonight, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles were quite outclassed by the Val d'or Foreurs.

That didn't end up mattering though, as Cape Breton found a way to score twice in the third period to tie the game, regain the momentum and carry the play for the first extended period of time in the contest, and force OT.

That set the stage for, believe it or not, the first Eagle playoff overtime win since Andre Martineau scored to end Game 2 of the 2002 second round series vs Halifax. The Eagles had lost EIGHT playoff OT games in a row in the meantime.

Early in the extra frame, Paul McIlveen scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history, when his snapper from about the top of the circle found the top shelf on the glove side of Val d'or goaltender Raffael D'Orso. This set off pandemonium on the Eagles' bench, and in many homes throughout Cape Breton where fans were gathered together to watch this huge game.

Ondrej Pavelec was the game's first star, and for extremely good reason. The Eagles were dominated in the first two periods, and Pavelec was by far the biggest reason that Cape Breton was even still in the game. He made several game-saving stops throughout the night, showing the Abitibi region of Quebec why he is the #1 goaltender in this league. Without this guy tonight, we fall behind about 4-0 after two periods, in my books.

In the playoffs, sometimes you have to find a way to win a game you don't really have any business winning. The Eagles somehow managed to do that tonight. It's good to know that the team played their worst game of the playoffs to date, and still managed to win. That said, much better games are needed from the team throughout the rest of the series, as I honestly doubt Val d'or lets us off the hook like that again.

The Foreurs showed us for much of tonight's contest that they are a FAR cry from the teams we faced in the first two rounds. They are extremely skilled and speedy, and boast some borderline ridiculous high-end talent in Letang and Marchand. Cape Breton seemed overwhelmed by Val d'or's speed and skill in the first two periods tonight, and will have to find a way to play entire games the way they played the third and OT if they are to have success in this series.

Expect Val d'or to come out with fire in their eyes tomorrow night in Game 2 to redeem themselves from the one that got away, but you would also think that Cape Breton would come out with a better all-around game as well.

In any event, one of the most thrilling wins in years tonight, and the standard playoff goal of a split on the road is already complete.

Game 2 goes tomorrow night at 8:00 PM AST, also televised/webcasted Eastlink.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An outlook on Eagles-Val d'or

Well here we are, finally on the eve of one of the biggest playoff series in team history. It's only the second time in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' ten-year existence that they've reached the third round of the playoffs, the first time coming in 2001-2002 when they faced the Bathurst Titan and lost in five games. That loss hurt that year, and fans have been eagerly waiting for a return to round three for some redemption, and they'll finally get their chance to see it this year against the Val d'or Foreurs. The only playoff series the Eagles have been involved in that I can think of as having been more anticipated than this one would have been the 2001-2002 second round series against the Halifax Mooseheads, which received extra hype for obvious rivalry-related reasons.

Not only is this series a glorious opportunity for Cape Breton to move on to the QMJHL final for the first time, but it could also be the source of some of the most exciting and highest-calibre hockey ever seen at C200 since the Screaming Eagles landed in 1997. Both teams involved in this series have lineups dotted with big names and impact players at all positions, both teams can play any style of hockey game you want (freewheeling, defensive, you name it) and most pundits around the league see the Eagles and the Foreurs as being extremely evenly-matched. At the Christmas trade period this season, no two teams made a bigger statement that they were going for it this year than Cape Breton and Val d'or, and here they are on a semifinal collision course. It's extremely exciting stuff.

With all of that said, let's look at how the teams match up:


Both teams have an extremely deep and potent offense. Cape Breton has two full lines who can score with the best of them (Ouellet-Fergus-McIlveen and Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon), and can also get some decent scoring from third line members Slaney and Laberge. They also receive some offense from blueliners Sawyer, Bartulis, and Bourdon.

Val d'or has about seven forwards and two defencemen who score on at least a fairly consistent basis.

Those seven forwards are Brad Marchand, Mathieu Roy, Jerome Samson, Felix Schutz, Martin Thibeault, Marc-Andre Cote, and Julius Sinkovic. The two extremely offensively-gifted defencemen are Kristopher Letang and Sebastien Bisaillon.

So far in these playoffs, Marchand and Letang have been the rock stars. Marchand has 23 points in 9 playoff games, and Letang 19 points in 8. While Val d'or has a ton of threats, it's clear that THESE TWO GUYS are who the Eagles will have to really key in on and try to shut down. If these two guys are shut down, that may be enough to break down this Val d'or machine, because although the Foreurs have a lot of guys who can score, they rely quite a bit on these two. One only has to look at the game summaries of their playoff games to date. There aren't too many goals that Marchand and/or Letang aren't in on.

Roy is their finisher; he had 50 goals last year for Bathurst and 42 for Val d'or this season. However, I don't quite find he can make things happen out of nothing like Marchand and Letang can. Samson is an awesome two-way player who had 44 goals and 99 points to lead the Foreurs in regular season scoring this year. He won a President's Cup with Moncton last year, and has an incredible work ethic and character to go along with his talents. He's a real playoff guy who will be lethal. Schutz seems to be one of those "final piece of the puzzle" type trade deadline pickups........ he's been playing excellent hockey since being rescued from the doldrums of Harbour Station and the Saint John Sea Dogs. Finally, Bisaillon is Letang's partner in crime on the blueline, and teams up with Letang to form probably the deadliest due on the point on the powerplay in the league. He has a rocket of a shot and, while his numbers are a bit down this year, he had 35 goals last year.

How do the two teams' offenses stack up?

While once again both teams have excellent scoring, and while Val d'or may possess the league's best overall hockey player in Letang, I think that Cape Breton has a little bit deeper an offense that Val d'or has. With the Eagles, which line do you shut down? The one consisting of a 40 goal scorer/a 53 goal scorer/a 37 goal scorer, or the one with James Sheppard? Val d'or, while they also have a ton of scoring options, seems to rely a bit more on a couple of select players, namely Marchand and Letang. On the other hand, no CB players have been scoring at the crazy paces that those two have been thus far in the playoffs. If they can continue scoring at such torrid rates, the Eagles may be in trouble. You can expect the Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon line to see a lot of ice against the line with Marchand and Roy.

It's extremely close, but I think I'd give an ever-so-slight edge to Cape Breton on offense.


Cape Breton has a very uniform "top four" that can be tossed over the boards all game long and shut down opponents. It consists of pairings of Sawyer/Bourdon and Bartulis/Prokopetz. In this, the Eagles essentially have two legitimate "top pairings". As #'s 5-6, Swit and Corcoran have been steady and reliable, although whether or not they receive quite as much ice in this series as they did in the last two remains to be seen. #7 (or 6-B) Etienne Breton is ready to return from his broken jaw, but I don't know how easy it would be to work him back into the lineup at this stage of the playoffs.

Val d'or relies a ton on their twin superstar two-way defencemen, Letang and Bisaillon. Letang has cleanly established himself as the best overall defender in the league, and possibly even the best overall player in the Q at any position this season. He's good enough to turn a series around by himself. After that, Vdo's #3-4 are serviceable defensive defencemen Louis-Etienne Leblanc and Samuel Richard. I honestly don't know too much about #'s 5-6-7-8 Jason Legault, Cedric Archambault, Patrice Daneau, and Shawn Morton-Boutin. Legault was the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 midget draft (same draft where James Sheppard went #1 overall), but has far from lived up to expectations at the major junior level.

Overall, while the Foreurs have the best defenceman on either team in Letang, Cape Breton's D corps looks a fair bit deeper than Val d'or's. After the top two, there seems to be a bit of a dropoff on the Foreur blueline to the rest of the pack, while Cape Breton can throw out two real #1 units.

Give Cape Breton the edge on overall defensive depth, but is Letang good enough to make up for that spread?


Ondrej Pavelec of the Eagles vs Jeremy Duchesne of the Foreurs............ that's a goaltending battle if there ever was one, and I see very little to choose between the two goalies. Both are among the top three in the league as far as I'm concerned. A battle between these two over a long series would probably be a stalemate for quite a long time, and it would basically be a situation of who ends up blinking first. Having said all of that, whichever team receives better goaltending in this round is likely to win the series. Pavelec needs to remain on top of his game and outduel the technically sound and playoff-proven Duchesne. Fans may remember Duchesne from his extended stay with the Halifax Mooseheads, where he became a very familiar foe to the Screaming Eagles.

Sadly, Duchesne will not be available to start the series as he has taken a leave of absence from the Foreurs due to the passing of his father, Gaetan Duchesne. Raffael D'Orso will be given the nod between the pipes for Val d'or for the time being, and will start Game 1 tomorrow night. He'll continue to start until if/when Jeremy is ready to return. D'Orso is 17 years old, but isn't just any rookie; he was good enough to make Canada's U-18 team this past summer, and is considered to be a solid NHL draft prospect. While he is raw and doesn't quite have the veteran experience Duchesne has, he'll be no pushover in the Val d'or net. He was first star in a 4-1 Val d'or win in his only start against the Eagles this year.

Whether it's Duchesne or D'Orso in the Val d'or net, Pavelec will have to be on top of his game like he's been since Christmas in order to give our team the goaltending edge it needs in this series.


Both teams have absolutely lethal powerplays. Cape Breton ranks 1st in the postseason at 38.0%, while Val d'or is 4th at 24.6%. The two powerplays are a lot closer than those numbers indicate. Cape Breton has finally seemed to find two really good PP units that can both realistically threaten to score, and powerplay success has been a huge part of their playoffs so far. This HAS to continue vs Val d'or. The Foreurs, if I'm not mistaken, use one powerplay unit a lot more than they use the other, as they really only have two defencemen on the team that can play the point on the PP. Their main PP unit is a fully loaded one; Roy-Marchand-Samson up front with Bisaillon-Letang on the points. Take dumb penalties, and you know that stacked unit makes you pay big time.

On the penalty kill, Cape Breton is 1st in the playoffs at 86.0%, while Val d'or is 3rd at 82.5%. The Eagles' three main forward units on the PK are Culligan-Sheppard, Ouellet-Fergus, and Slaney-Laberge. All have done a tremendous job, as have all six defencemen and goaltender Pavelec.

Cape Breton also leads the playoffs with six shorthanded goals.


- Cape Breton and Val d'or have never before met in a playoff series.

- The full circle that is the Luc Bourdon trade(s). Val d'or traded Bourdon to Moncton last season as part of their building for a run this year. They ended up getting superstars Marchand and Samson from the Wildcats in that deal. Now, Bourdon ends up on an Eagle team that they are facing in the league semifinal in their "go for it" year. Very ironic.

Who will win out? Bourdon, or the guys he was traded for?

What's also weird is:

Why do the Eagles have Bourdon? Because Val d'or let him go.

Why do the Eagles have to contend with Marchand/Samson in this round? Because Val d'or let Bourdon go.

I'm not quite sure I've seen a situation quite like this in the Q!

- Bourdon and Letang played together on two consecutive Canadian WJC gold medal winning teams, and actually paired up on defense at the latest championship. Marchand was also on this year's Canadian team.

- Sheppard and Marchand were linemates in midget for the Dartmouth Subways.

- Roy was a big part of the Bathurst Titan team that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

- Justin Saulnier of the Foreurs was always a big rival of the Eagles when he played 3.5 seasons for the Halifax Mooseheads. He particularly seems to have a rivalry with Sheppard.

- Both coaches, Pascal Vincent of the Eagles and Eric Lavigne of the Foreurs, are looking for their first trip to the Q final.

- The two teams haven't met since October.

All in all, this one is about as closely matched up as they come, and could go either way depending on "the bounces". Unlike their first two series, where they were favoured against Bathurst and heavily favoured against St. John's, there is no real favourite going into this best-of-seven. Cape Breton goes into this series knowing that if they don't come up with one of their best stretches of hockey of the season, they will lose.

That said, this blogger is confident that the Eagles are a bit deeper offensively and especially defensively, and that they are on a mission and have what it takes to beat this extremely difficult opponent. Keys to success for Cape Breton will be to do whatever it can to shut down Marchand and slow down Letang, to receive the same excellent goaltending from Pavelec it has since Xmas, and for the powerplay to continue to play the excellent hockey it has thus far in the playoffs.

There's no looking back now.......... no overthinking anything............ no room for fear. It's full steam ahead from here on in; the easy part of this playoff journey is over. This whirlwind of a series starts tomorrow, may fans on both sides be treated to classic hockey, and may the best team win.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Great news; Games 1 and 2 in Val d'or to be televised on Eastlink TV

Fans eager to see their Cape Breton Screaming Eagles kick off Round Three of the playoffs for just the second time in team history got some great news Wednesday.

Instead of having to settle for audio only of the start of this highly-anticipated semifinal playoff series, diehard Eagle supporters will be able to see the action unfold for themselves from the comfort of their homes. Eastlink Television announced today that it will be picking up the video feed from a Quebec TV station (my apologies, I don't know its name yet!) and will air Games 1 and 2 LIVE from the Centre Air Creebec in Val d'or.

Game 1 is scheduled for an 8:30 PM AST start this coming Friday, while Saturday's rematch will get underway at 8:00 PM AST. Please note the different starting times between the two nights.

Get together with some friends, order up some food, crack open a few cold ones (if you're of legal age of course!), and watch Eagles playoff history happen live and in colour!!!!!


For those wondering about the extremely long distance between the two cities in this playoff round and what effect it may have on the Eagles, the team will not be bussing to Val d'or; they will be leaving the Sydney Airport at 3:00 PM Thursday on a charter flight, and will fly throughout the series. Obviously this eliminates a huge portion of the travel weariness that would have otherwise worn down our team in this playoff round between two of the most remote teams in the league.

Fans are invited and encouraged to drop by the airport and give the team a sendoff.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Round 3 opponent confirmed

Hey guys,

Just briefly logging in to confirm that our Eagles will indeed face the Val d'or Foreurs in the third round of this year's QMJHL playoffs.

Val d'or salted away their series with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with a 4-3 victory tonight, taking the set in five games.

Game One will most likely be Friday, April 20, from the Centre-Air Creebec in Val d'or, PQ.

What a challenge this will be for our Screaming Eagles.

Pre-series breakdown to follow.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Five years later.......... we're all the way back

Five years ago, in April 2002, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan ended the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' hopes of a league title by taking them down in five games in the third round of the QMJHL playoffs. It was a heartbreaking end to a playoff run that the Eagles and their fans truly believed would end in championship glory.

Five years later, in April 2007, Cape Breton has knocked off those same Titan (in the same five games), to reach the league semifinal for the first time since, and only the second time ever in the team's ten-year existence on the island.

The series win was clinched last night at C200, with a wholly convincing 6-0 win. After a tentative first five minutes or so, the Eagles absolutely dominated the rest of the game in every way imaginable. The real key point to take away from last night's clincher was the absolutely blitzing Eagle powerplay. Cape Breton managed to score on each of its first four powerplay opportunities of the game, and on most of those chances with the man advantage, it didn't take them long to find the back of the net. Each of the team's two powerplay units contributed two goals, and both powerplay units were consistent factors all series. It's GREAT to see the team finally find two powerplay units that are almost equally strong and that can threaten pretty much equally to score, after spending much of the season honestly relying in large part on just one stacked powerplay unit.

The powerplay units that had so much success in this series were:


JC Sawyer-Oskars Bartulis on the points
Dean Ouellet, Jonathan Laberge, and Cam Fergus up front


Paul McIlveen and Luc Bourdon on the points
Chris Culligan, James Sheppard, and Scott Brannon or Nick MacNeil up front

I've said it countless times before and I'll continue to say it; for us to achieve our full playoff potential, our powerplay has GOT to be rocking. It was the team's Achilles Heel for so many years prior to this one, and it's really appreciated by the fans to finally see a team that can really threaten on every powerplay chance they get. The Eagles have scored at least one powerplay goal in each playoff game they've played thus far, and are far and away in the lead in PP % so far in these playoffs, at 38.2%. The next-closest team still in the postseason is Lewiston, at 27.6%.

Speaking of special teams, the Eagles' PK has also been huge thus far in the playoffs. The team also leads the league in this playoff category, at an 86.0% killing efficiency. To top it off, Cape Breton has scored six shorthanded goals in these playoffs, also a league-leading statistic. Five of those six "shorties" came in the series against the Titan.


A few keys to the five-game series win over le Titan d'Acadie-Bathurst were:

- An extremely strong forecheck. Our forwards were absolutely relentless in pressuring the young and mistake-prone Titan defence, and it resulted in many favourable turnovers. As well, it often prevented Bathurst from setting up out of their zone the way they would have liked to.

- Excellent team defense, forwards included. How else were we able to for the most part keep the #2 and #3 scorers in the league (Beauregard and Perreault) in check throughout the series?

- Our third and fourth lines stepped up and outplayed theirs. This was one concern that this blogger had entering the series, that maybe their "lower" lines were a bit more established than ours. But ours came together great, with guys like Jonathan Laberge and Brad Gallant (for example) stepping up and playing their best hockey to date this season. Laberge especially had his coming out party as an Eagle in the series against the Titan. After disappointing in the second half of the regular season after being acquired from the Saint John Sea Dogs, Laberge missed most of the first round against the St. John's Fog Devils with an injury. He returned against Bathurst with a vengeance, scoring four goals in the five-game series, including a couple of really big ones. He was also probably our best faceoff man in the series. If Jonathan can keep up this excellent play, we'll have finally found that bonafide third line center the team has been wanting all season.

- Our best players have continued to be our best players. It's a tired old cliche, I know, and some of you may want to throw rotten tomatoes at me for using it, but look at the scoring stats so far in the playoffs. Not a single guy on the team is lagging behind what he's capable of doing in terms of point production.


As for our round 3 opponent................

it's looking most likely that it will be the Val d'or Foreurs.

As many of you already know, the third round of the QMJHL playoffs features a crossover between the league's two divisions. Each division will have two teams remaining entering round three. The highest-remaining seed from the East Division will play the lowest-remaining seed from the West, and the highest-remaining seed from the West will play the lowest-remaining seed from the East.

Lewiston and Cape Breton are the two teams to have emerged from the East, while the two West Division playoff series are still taking place.

Cape Breton WILL be the #2 seed from the East, as they finished behind Lewiston in the regular season. Therefore, they will play whoever is the highest-remaining seed from the West once the rd 2 playoff matchups in that division are finished.

That looks like it's probably going to be the Foreurs. They currently sport a 3-1 lead in their series against Baie-Comeau. If they finish that series off (Game 5 goes tonight from Baie-Comeau), they WILL be our opponent in the semifinal round, as they finished first in the West and would be the highest-remaining seed.

If Val d'or somehow blows their 3-1 lead and loses to the Drakkar in 7, then our third round opponent would be the winner between Drummondville and Rouyn-Noranda. The Voltigeurs currently lead that series 3-2.

Anything can happen, but expect us to face Val d'or in round three, barring a near-miracle from the Drakkar. The Foreurs are a stacked hockey club who completely loaded up for this season, and would be an extremely difficult challenge for our Eagles; St. John's and Bathurst would not even come close to the challenge les Foreurs would be. However, I'll wait until they're actually our next opponent before getting into too much detail about Val d'or.

Unfortunately, the Eagles will NOT have home ice advantage in the upcoming third round. Even though Cape Breton finished with more points in the overall standings than did any West Division team, the league simply awards home ice to the "highest seed" in these third round playoff series. It doesn't make much sense at all, especially when you consider that in the league final, the league simply reverts to awarding home ice to the team that had more points in the overall standings. However, we have to play the cards we're dealt, and who knows, considering the 2-3-2 format our series will have no matter who we play (i.e. two games on the road, three games at C200, then two games on the road), perhaps not having home ice advantage could turn out to be an advantage of sorts for the Eagles.

Unless any scheduling snafus come up out of nowhere, expect the Screaming Eagles to kick off Round Three next Friday night (April 20), on the road.

Their first home game of the third round would be Game Three of the series, which would probably take place on Tuesday, April 24.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Eagles head to Bathurst up 2-0; a few notes heading into Game 3

Checking in after a busy Easter weekend prevented me from doing so earlier. This blogger/fan is heading to Northern New Brunswick to cheer on our Eagles tomorrow and Wednesday, so this may be the last time I check in for a little while. A few point form thoughts on Game 2, and heading into Game 3:

- With the exception of an early second period lapse in Game Two, the first two games at C200 couldn't honestly have gone much better for our Eagles. The 2-0 series lead against the Titan marks the first time Cape Breton has ever won two games in a playoff series against Bathurst, and is just the second 2-0 series lead in team history....... the other one obviously coming last round against the St. John's Fog Devils.

- The eight goals scored by the Eagles in Game Two are a team record for a playoff game, although it must be kept in mind that one of those was an empty netter, and the other was an extremely rare "automatic goal", awarded because James Sheppard was interfered with as he skated in alone on a vacant cage. It's the first time I can ever remember the Screaming Eagles being awarded a "gimme" goal like that.

- With a win in Game Three in Bathurst tomorrow night, the Eagles would have seven straight wins to open the playoffs. That would be longer than any win streak the team put together throughout the course of the entire 70-game regular season.

- With a win in either Game Three or Game Four in Bathurst this week, Cape Breton would exorcise one of the biggest demons haunting it over playoff seasons past. The Screaming Eagles are 0-10 all-time in the playoffs at the KC Irving Centre in Bathurst, NB. What a feeling it would be for long-time Eagle fans to finally break that goose egg, and to finally break away from the hold that that building has had on us come playoff time.

Back to the 8-3 win in Game 2 at C200................

- When you draft a player with the #1 overall draft pick, you expect an impact superstar that will wow fans for years and deliver in all clutch situations. You expect a guy who will be able to singlehandedly turn a hockey game around in his team's favour. You expect an ultimate difference-maker.

We've always known that James Sheppard, the Eagles' only first overall pick ever (2004), had most or all of these qualities one expects in a number one draft choice, but I'm not sure if he ever put it all on display like he did in Game Two on Saturday night. With two goals and three assists, including THE goal that turned the game around when the Eagles were losing 3-2 and reeling a little bit, James came up with one of the absolute biggest playoff performances in team history. His solo mission through virtually the entire Bathurst Titan roster to tie the game at 3-3 was something that few junior players in this country are capable of pulling off, and his shorthanded effort to set up Chris Culligan early in the third period for the 6-3 goal was almost equally amazing.

Many fans have said it; in these playoffs, we go as James Sheppard goes. If that's truly the case, I as a fan have all the confidence in the world as we head further down the playoff path.

- Also having a huge night was defenceman Oskars Bartulis. With two powerplay goals and two assists, Oskars really broke out with a huge game at a time when perhaps he needed one. He is most effective on the point when putting low slapshots on goal as opposed to wiring pucks up high, and that was proven when both of his goals were practically right along the ice. Here's hoping that performance goes a long way towards helping his confidence the rest of the way.

- Even though two of them were empty netters, three shorthanded goals in one period (third period, Game 2) has to be an Eagle team record......... regular season or playoffs. Anyone want to look that up for me? ;) As well, the powerplay came through yet again with three big goals........ it's been said for years; playoff success will be achieved when we finally get a powerplay that produces in the playoffs. It's been happening big time so far this year, and it's ever so much appreciated by the fans. Cape Breton has scored at least one powerplay goal in each of its six playoff games so far... let's hope that continues this week!

- A lot of people were disappointed with the play of "hired gun" Luc Bourdon down the regular season stretch, but most of you would have to agree that in these playoffs so far, he's really been showing us why we went out and acquired him. Luc was a gigantic physical and defensive force in those first two gams against the Titan. Kudos as well to JC Sawyer for his excellent work neutralizing the top Bathurst snipers, and to Beau Prokopetz for his top notch physical play and careful defensive awareness. Finally, Jason Swit and Spencer Corcoran have been rock solid as the unheralded third pairing; two of the team's most improved players over the second half of the season.

- How about that time out called by coach Pascal Vincent? Timeouts often evoke a positive change in the team that calls them, but that was one of the biggest improvements in a team from "before" to "after" that I've seen in a while after a coach called a timeout. Kudos to Vincent for recognizing the need and acting accordingly.

For Game 3, we really just need similar efforts to the two excellent ones put forth in the first two games. All four lines and all six defence truly contributed in big ways, and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was there when needed. I honestly can't think of a single player that failed to pull his weight in the first two games of this series. If our boys can continue this strong and honest play, follow the game plan that's worked to date, and remain hungry despite the temptation to relax a bit due to being up 2-0, we should be fine and should continue to enjoy success. Discipline and powerplay production are also "musts".

There will be a decent number of Eagle fans cheering the team on in Bathurst, myself among them, all I have to say to end is GO EAGLES GO!!!!!

Friday, April 6, 2007

A virtually flawless performance; Eagles take Game One 3-0 before sold-out crowd

You couldn't really ask for a more successful playoff game.

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles came out in front of a packed house that had high expectations of the team and was expecting results, and boy did they deliver in Game One of their second round series against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Cape Breton dominated the game almost start-to-finish, holding the high-flying Titan to only a handful of decent scoring chances, and hemming them up in their zone for much of the final two periods. The Eagles also showed excellent discipline, taking just two penalties over the entire course of the hockey game.

The boys got on the scoreboard with a powerplay goal that featured some phenomenal passing, with the play finished off with one of Cam Fergus's patented lasers to the top shelf, glove side. That gave them a 1-0 lead after one. In the second, Chris Culligan was behind the Titan net and caught goaltender Antoine Tardif looking the wrong way. He then feathered a pass out front in the opposite direction to where Scott Brannon was waiting to tap it in for a 2-0 lead. The game's final goal came as a result of some great work by the third line. Brad Gallant did an excellent job forcing a turnover, and then he and Jo Laberge tic-tac-toed it to Brendon MacDonald for his first career QMJHL playoff goal. Brannon's goal was also his first in the Q playoffs.

But the biggest "first" achieved on the night was the shutout. Ondrej Pavelec, and the excellent overall team defense, combined for the first playoff shutout in team history. As well, this is the first time Cape Breton has ever won the first game of a series against Bathurst............. and the first time they have ever led a playoff series against Bathurst, period.

All four lines were excellent and did their jobs fully. The Fergus line provided flash and dash and created tons of scoring chances, including a powerplay goal. The Sheppard line was possibly the best of the night, shutting down the Beauregard/Perreault line and contributing a tally of their own. The Laberge/MacDonald/Gallant line outplayed Bathurst's young third line, and scored a goal. Finally, the JC Gauthier/Quesnel/MacNeil line kept the Titan pinned inside their blueline on many a shift.

All six defencemen were rocks, including lots of big hits from Beau Prokopetz and Luc Bourdon, and goaltender Pavelec made the saves when called upon.

Almost as close as you can get to a perfect performance, and it all came in front of a very enthusiastic and appreciative sold-out crowd.

That's what playoff hockey is all about, and the boys will try to do it all again tomorrow night!

How sweet it would be to head to Bathurst up two games to none; GO EAGLES GO!

GAME DAY! Eagles vs Titan, GAME ONE

After what seemed like an eternity of a wait, we are finally back to C200 tonight for playoff hockey! Game One of the second round of the playoffs against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan kicks off tonight and there should be a sellout or near-sellout crowd on hand to witness it. This is only the third time in team history that the Eagles have had home ice advantage in round 2 and hosted the first two games on their ice.

The key for tonight should be how the Eagles respond to having had nine days off since finishing the St. John's Fog Devils in Game Four last Wednesday in Newfoundland. Throughout this season, Cape Breton honestly didn't respond very well to extended periods without a game; some of the Screaming Eagles' worst performances of the season came on the heels of six or seven-day layoffs. It is CRUCIAL that the team not come out flat tonight despite having been idle for the past nine days. You know that le Titan will hit the ground running, as they're coming right off of the high of an overtime Game 7 win on Tuesday night against PEI.

One good thing about the long layoff was that it allowed Cape Breton to rest any nagging injuries players may have had. As a result, we should be entering tonight's game with pretty much a full lineup, with the exception of Etienne Breton, who is still a little ways away from coming back from that broken jaw. Here is a guess at line combinations and defence pairings for tonight:

Dean Ouellet-Cam Fergus-Paul McIlveen

Pure offensive line that delivered the goods big time against the Fog Devils, and will be asked to outproduce the Titan top line of Bartos-Perreault-Beauregard.

Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon

The Eagles' superb two-way unit that can score goals, play physical, and most importantly, is extremely accountable defensively. These guys will be called upon to chip in offensively, to set the tone physically, and to play a big part in shutting down the Titan top scorers; especially Perreault and Beauregard.

Robert Slaney-Jonathan Laberge-Brendon MacDonald

A gritty checking line with decent offensive skills too, although it's a bit of an unproven entity as a unit. Laberge is just coming off of injury, but it's in this series where he's really going to have to start stepping up and showing us why we went out and traded for him. His performance is a big part of whether or not this line works. The challenge for this line will be to outplay the Titan third line of Joly-Faille-Grenache.......... and that's going to be a tough order.

Alex Quesnel or Nick MacNeil-JC Gauthier-Brad Gallant

A plucky energy line with very good offensive skills for a fourth line, and JC Gauthier is really counted on for his faceoff prowess. However, like line 3, this trio hasn't played much together as a unit, and will have to gel quickly to match the Titan fourth line of Jezegou-Morneau-Labelle.


JC Sawyer-Luc Bourdon

Two of the top defencemen in the league pair together as a fearsome duo. JC is the offensive defenceman, Luc the mean and physical shutdown guy. These two guys seem to have pretty good on-ice chemistry together, and I'm sure they'll be given the assignment of making life miserable for the flashier Titan forwards........ and I think they can't wait to take on this assignment. Bourdon's play in this series, like Laberge's, could go a long way in determining his true value to this team after being picked up in a trade.

Oskars Bartulis-Beau Prokopetz

A skilled but safe duo that will be playing a simple defensive game and chipping pucks in and out. Beau can also punish you physically. Oskars is one of the league's top defencemen, but has been hot and cold since about Xmas now......... he needs to be on top of his game night-in, night-out from here on in.

Jason Swit-Spencer Corcoran

No frills here, these guys will be asked to outplay the 4-5-6 Titan defencemen like Desnoyers, Pomerleau, Tesink. Both guys were pretty much near the top of their game against St. John's and need to keep bringing it if we're to have true defensive depth 1-thru-6.

And of course, in goal, the Czech Wall- Ondrej Pavelec.

This guy has been absolutely on top of his game since January, and all I can say is keep it up kid. If Ondrej is on top of his game in this series, the Titan tandem of Tardif and Miller will eventually wear out trying to match him save for save.

Good Friday has been good to the Eagles, and it's been very bad. In 2002, Pierre-Luc Laprise scored the OT winner to give Cape Breton a thrilling 5-4 win over Baie-Comeau to finish off the Drakkar in five games before a jubilant sold-out C200 crowd. But in 2004, Good Friday saw the Chicoutimi Sagueneens finish off the gigantic five-game upset of the Eagles that remains the team's darkest moment to date. Extreme joy in 2002 and crushing sorrow in 2004........ what will Good Friday bring in 2007?

It's playoff hockey, breathe it in, feel the electricity, and prepare to get wild as part of a potentially sold out C200 crowd tonight! A long-time foe comes for yet another challenge, and it may very well indeed finally be time to slay the demon that's haunted pretty much our entire playoff existence- the Bathurst Titan.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A pre-series look at our 2nd round opponent: the Acadie-Bathurst Titan

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan finished the regular season with a 35-28-2-5 record for 77 points and a .500 winning percentage. This record was good for a fifth place finish in the East Division standings. Of course, that is nothing more than background information. You know the cliche; once the playoffs start, regular season statistics go out the window. Bathurst faced the fourth place PEI Rocket in the first round of the playoffs, and snuck by them thanks to an overtime win in Game 7.

I'll now take a line-by-line, position-by-position look at our hated adversary, le Titan:



LW Martin Bartos C Mathieu Perreault RW Thomas Beauregard

This trio of players needs very little introduction. Perreault last night was named League MVP at the QMJHL's Golden Puck Awards, and finished third in league scoring with 41 goals and 119 points. Perreault was also named to the QMJHL's First All-Star Team. He is one of the most shifty, smart, creative, and dynamic players in the league. Add to all of that that he's also a proven clutch playoff performer. In my opinion he is THE most dangerous force the Titan have.

Then there is Thomas Beauregard, sniper extraordinaire, who led the league with 71 goals and finished second in the points scoring race with 124. He too was named to the first all-star team, and it can be argued that there is no player in the league as dangerous around the net.

The line is topped off by Martin Bartos, who while not quite the superstar Perreault or Beauregard is, is no slouch himself with 24 goals and 81 points, including a lot of success against the Screaming Eagles.

This is one of the premier offensive units in the entire QMJHL, and the Eagles will have to defend strongly against it.


LW Dany Masse C Charles Bergeron RW Jordan Clendenning

A very solid two-way line that offers decent scoring punch and a lot of other intangibles. Masse is probably the best pure offensive threat on the line, with 26 goals and 56 points on the season. Clendenning had a bit of a sub-par season offensively (16 G 51 PTS), but this guy is a warrior and is a clutch playoff performer, and he's showing it so far in this postseason, as he leads Bathurst in playoff points so far with eight. Jordan does a little bit of everything, and like I said, he's built for the playoffs and will be one for the Eagles to keep an eye on.

Finally, we have Charles Bergeron. If he has his way, he could really change the landscape of the series, and could be the most talked-about name in the C200 stands, even ahead of the superstars on line 1. Bergeron is a hulking and physical power forward who is a pure pest and agitator. He'll do whatever it takes to get under the skin of Eagles players, and to change the momentum of games in his Titans' favour. The big challenge for Cape Breton here is to not buy into this clown's antics, and to not let him get into their heads. Keep an eye on him folks; I guarantee he'll stir up trouble.


LW Tomy Joly C Eric Faille RW Samuel Grenache

On the surface, this looks like a fairly harmless trio, consisting of two rookies and a sophomore, none of whom had very big regular season stats.

Look beneath the surface, and this line could be as important as any for the Bathurst Titan, and could really change the direction of the series if it outplays Cape Breton's third and fourth lines.

This is a bunch of guys who maybe spent most of the season going through typical rookie ups and downs, but really started to come into their own near the end of the season, and have started the playoffs with a big bang. In the first round against PEI, Grenache had 3G 5 PTS, Faille 1 G 5 PTS, and Joly 1 G 4 PTS. DO NOT overlook these guys, they could be a key catalyst for le Titan! I truly believe a big factor in this series will be whether or not one or both of our third and fourth lines will be able to step up and outplay these guys. If they can't, give the edge on forward depth to the Titan.


LW Spencer Jezegou C Samuel Morneau RW Lucas Labelle/Jean-Simon Legros

Kind of a grab bag of players, but they've been an effective unit so far in the playoffs. Jezegou, for starters, is not just a fourth line player....... he's there only because they don't want to disrupt the other three well-established trios. Jezegou scored the series winner in OT of Game 7 against PEI, and believe it or not, also scored the OT winner in Game 2 of that series. This is a hidden threat living on the fourth line in Bathurst.

Morneau is a solid 16 year old player who fits the same mold as the three guys on line 3. You may remember Lucas Labelle from his brief stint with the Screaming Eagles in fall 2005, and if so, you'll recall that he's a scrappy agitator who I'm sure would love to prove to the Eagles that it was a mistake to let him go. Legros is honestly a one-dimensional fighter who may not play too much in the series.


The Titan have six regular defencemen that we'll see a ton of in this series. They are:

Mathieu Labrie
Zack Firlotte
Nicolas Sigouin
Marc-Antoine Desnoyers
Brad Tesink
Maxime Pomerleau

This is a pretty young overall defence crew, with Sigouin/Desnoyers/Tesink being just 17 years old. That said, all three were first round QMJHL Midget draft picks, so there is no doubt some talent there, it's just unrefined. However, all three stepped up into major roles in the PEI series, and if they can continue that strong play, Bathurst will bring a decently deep if unspectacular defence corps to Cape Breton.

There isn't really a JC Sawyer or Luc Bourdon calibre star defenceman on this roster. Their best overall D is probably Labrie, a 19-year-old veteran who's always been a bit of a thorn in the Eagles' side.

Defence could also honestly be a weakness for le Titan, if those young guys I mentioned become overwhelmed against a veteran offensive force like the Eagles. Labrie and Firlotte, you know what you're going to get, but it's those four other younger guys who will make or break this Bathurst D in this series.


All season, goaltending has been THE question mark for this otherwise pretty balanced hockey club. The Titan have been relying on a 19-year-old journeyman free agent named Brant Miller, and 16-year-old rookie Antoine Tardif, who while quite talented, is still pretty inexperienced and raw.

Miller played the first six games of the PEI series, before coach John Chabot rolled the dice and started Tardif in Game Seven. The young Tardif responded with a sparkling 45-save performance in a 4-3 OT win, and after that, you'd have to think he will get the start tomorrow in Game One against Cape Breton.

Goaltending may have been a weakness for Bathurst all season, but all they would need in this series would be for Tardif (or Miller, if he ends up playing) to have a few hot games. If the talented youngster can play like he did in Game 7 in PEI, an extremely high-pressure situation, Bathurst might not be in such bad shape in goal.

Coach John Chabot rolls all four lines and six defencemen. This enemy has four quality lines, including two of the top stars in the league, and a defence that can either be hit or miss. Their goaltending is a question mark, but Tardif wouldn't be the first goaltender to catch lightning in a bottle when unexpectedly thrust into the heat of playoff battle. Look no further than Cam Ward and what he did for the Carolina Hurricanes last year.

All in all, this is a solid opponent; much tougher than the St. John's Fog Devils. That said, Cape Breton could use a really good challenge. They will be sure to get it when Game One kicks off tomorrow in front of a potentially sold out crowd at C200.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Eagles to face long-time nemesis Bathurst Titan in second round

Thanks to some ridiculous Game 7 OT drama last night at both the Charlottetown Civic Centre and the Moncton Coliseum, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' second round adversary will be none other than the team that sent them packing last year; the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The Titan squeaked out a 4-3 OT win over the PEI Rocket in Game 7 of that series in Charlottetown, and then no doubt gathered around a TV to watch as Halifax defeated Moncton 3-2 in 2 OT in a thriller of a Game 7 from Moncton.

I just wanted to quickly sign in to establish for those who may not yet have read the paper that it will indeed be Bathurst in the second round. Stay tuned soon for a detailed pre-series rundown, as well as lots of information on the playoff history between these two teams........ as you will see, Cape Breton has a lot to draw from in terms of motivation to beat these guys.

Games 1 and 2 go Friday and Saturday, both 7:00 starts, from C200. This series could well be a barnburner.

Monday, April 2, 2007

My, how the plot has thickened - second round opponent to be determined in "Games 7" Tuesday night

In my previous blog, I noted that of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' three potential second round playoff opponents (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Moncton Wildcats, and PEI Rocket), the Wildcats and Rocket were on the brink of elimination, and that therefore Cape Breton's most likely upcoming adversary would be the Bathurst Titan.

My how things have changed since then. This blogger will freely admit that he was maybe a little too quick to count out the Rocket and the Wildcats. At the time, PEI trailed Bathurst 3-1 in games, but they have since come back to tie the series at 3-3, forcing a Game 7 tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Charlottetown Civic Centre. Moncton also looked like they were on their last legs. They trailed their series 3-2 against the Halifax Mooseheads, and had gotten crushed 5-0 at home in Game 5 of the series. However, Moncton has been surprising QMJHL fans all season, and proved that they had at least one more surprise left in their bag of tricks when they pulled out a 4-3 win at the Halifax Metro Centre in Game 6 to force a seventh game at the Moncton Coliseum tomorrow night.

What all of this means to the Screaming Eagles is that their second round playoff opponent is still very much yet to be determined, and that there is now pretty much an equal chance of it being any of those three possible opponents. Come Friday night, we could be facing Moncton, PEI, or Bathurst, and it will all be decided by the two Game 7's tomorrow night.

I'll try to put it as simply as possible:

- If Moncton defeats Halifax in the 7th game of that series, MONCTON WILL BE OUR OPPONENT. It will not matter what happens between Bathurst and PEI.

- If Halifax defeats Moncton in the 7th game of that series, then our opponent will be THE WINNER OF GAME 7 BETWEEN PEI AND BATHURST.

Fans may be interested to know that Game 7 between Moncton and Halifax is being carried LIVE on Eastlink Television tomorrow night at 7:30 PM from the Moncton Coliseum. Therefore, interested Eagle supporters can tune in and watch the team's second round fate become at least in part (if not fully) determined by the result of that game. The Eastlink broadcast will surely provide many updates on what's going on in Charlottetown, as well.

It's a tangled web we weave, but I for one wouldn't have it any other way. It's exciting when things go down to the wire like this, and furthermore, it's gotta be a good thing for our Eagles that whomever our second round challenger ends up being, they've already been through a gruelling seven-game series, and will hopefully have been worn down a bit.


Speaking of second round playoff matchups, those in the Telus Division are now finalized.

In Round One............

(1) Val d'or swept (8) Chicoutimi 4-0
(7) Baie-Comeau knocked off (2) Victoriaville 4-2
(6) Rouyn-Noranda shocked (3) Gatineau 4-1
(4) Drummondville dispatched (5) Quebec 4-1

That gives us second round pairings of...................

(1) Val d'or vs (7) Baie-Comeau
(4) Drummondville vs (6) Rouyn-Noranda

Look for Val d'or vs Baie-Comeau to be a potentially high-scoring dandy between two teams with absolutely potent offences.

Also note Gatineau's very surprising early exit. This is proof that playoff failure can happen to absolutely anyone, as nobody has a richer playoff history than the fabled Olympiques.

I'll check in after tomorrow night's Game 7s are played out, by which time we'll know our second round opponent and can all start dissecting how the series may go down!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Break out the brooms- Eagles complete first-ever series sweep

For the first time since moving to Sydney in 1997, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have swept a playoff opponent in four straight games.

Cape Breton put the finishing touches on the series win with a 6-2 win over the St. John's Fog Devils at Mile One Centre last night, becoming the first of Cape Breton's "main" hockey teams to sweep a best-of-seven series since the 1993 Cape Breton Oilers dispatched (note the irony coming up here) the St. John's Maple Leafs in four straight in the second round en route to winning the Calder Cup as AHL champions. The Eagles are hoping that there is something about sweeping St. John's in the playoffs that correlates with winning league titles!

It was the usual suspects hitting the scoresheet for Cape Breton last night, as the team's "best players continue to be their best players", as the old cliche goes. Cam Fergus led the way with a brace of goals (one on the powerplay, and a shorthanded laser beam to the top shelf), while Dean Ouellet, Paul McIlveen, Robert Slaney, and James Sheppard added singles. Ondrej Pavelec played the first two periods of the win before giving way to David Davenport for period three, apparently at his own request.

The Eagles outscored St. John's 18-6 over the course of the four-game series, and their powerplay clicked for 10 goals on 30 opportunities, or a 33.3% success ratio. Everyone stepped up and contributed to the victory in some way, and no serious injuries were sustained in the series. As long as the sweep doesn't make the boys overconfident, we can't possibly have asked for a much better outcome from this opening round series.

The team will now enjoy nine days to rest before Round 2 opens on Friday, April 6 against a yet-to-be-determined opponents. This will be great for any guys who may have nagging injuries. Nine days off can be dangerous, as it can allow a team to get stale and lose momentum, and it's up to the guys and the coaching staff to remain intense and ready in practice so as to hit the ground running in the next playoff series.

As for their rd 2 opponent, there are still three possibilities as to who it will be (Moncton, PEI, and Acadie-Bathurst), but it's really starting to look like it is going to be the Bathurst Titan. Moncton currently trails Halifax 3-2 in their series, and lost Game 5 by a score of 5-0. As for the Rocket, they currently trail the Bathurst Titan 3-1 in games in their series, leaving themselves with an uphill battle. Stranger things have happened, but I for one am preparing to see the Eagles face the Titan.

As many of you diehard fans know, there is a bit of a playoff history between the Eagles and the Titan. In fact, this series would be the fifth playoff meeting between the two teams in Cape Breton's ten-year existence, if it were to happen. But I'll get into all that history in my next blog........... maybe when it's 100% certain that Acadie-Bathurst will be our next opponent.

Until then, players and fans alike, soak up a first round that couldn't really have gone much better!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eagles going for the sweep tonight!

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles couldn't have asked for a much better outcome from last night's Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the St. John's Fog Devils, played from Mile One Centre in the Newfoundland capital.

Cape Breton was able to play a very sound and effective road game for pretty much the entire 60 minutes, en route to a 4-2 victory over the Fog Devils and a commanding 3-0 series lead. This is the first time in the team's ten-year history that they have led a playoff series by a count of three games to none. It's a pretty tight stranglehold on a series, and to be quite honest, it's extremely unlikely that the Fog Devils will get back into the series now.

Chris Culligan, Paul McIlveen, and Dean Ouellet all scored powerplay goals for the Eagles, while JC Sawyer scored at even strength and had two powerplay assists. The Eagles' three powerplay goals in Game Three gives them eight powerplay goals in the series thus far, which is just great news for a Cape Breton team that saw its efficiency with the man advantage become a little bit inconsistent at times during the second half of the regular season. It's been said for years and years, that for an Eagles team to have playoff success, it needs to have a proficient powerplay, and that's exactly what we've been getting in the first three games of this playoff series. If this powerplay success can continue, it only improves our chances at advancing deep into the postseason.

As well, the old worn-out cliche says that for a team to have success, "its best players have to be its best players." That has definitely been the case for the Screaming Eagles thus far in this series. After last night's game, each of the team's top six scorers from the regular season (Culligan, McIlveen, Ouellet, Sawyer, James Sheppard, and Cam Fergus) has at least one playoff goal already, and each has been on the scoresheet many times so far in this series. As well, kingpin acquisition Luc Bourdon has elevated his play from where it was at the end of the regular season, and we need him to keep that up. Our best players have indeed stepped up and been our best players so far in this young postseason run, and that's great news for a franchise that too often in the past has seen its best players struggle to hit the scoresheet come playoff time.

Another positive to take from last night's game is that it sounded pretty clean, a nice change from the flat-out dangerous final few minutes of Game Two. A key to this series will be getting out of it without any further injury, and although the series isn't over, last night's tamer affair is hopefully a postive sign.

Another note from last night is that St. John's tried to change the momentum a bit by making a goaltending change. Despite his 40+ save effort in Game Two, netminder Ilia Ejov was replaced by backup goaltender Pierre-Alexandre Marion to start last night's contest. Marion played admirably, stopping 36 of 40 shots, but it didn't end up making any real difference for the Fog Devils in terms of the end result.

Game Four goes tonight at Mile One, and is slated for a 6:30 PM start our time (CJCB AM 1270). Last night's game started a half hour late because of inclement weather in the St. John's area. Tonight's game is a chance for the Eagles to finish off the series, and buy themselves the maximum amount of possible rest time before the start of Round Two, to help heal any nagging injuries that a few players surely have. It would also be the first series sweep in Eagles' history, and pulling it off would surely give the team a little extra swagger heading into the second round.

Not much more to say, let's just hope for the team to keep doing what it's been doing and finish things off tonight.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Huge news for Eagles as no less than FOUR players named to league all-star teams!!!!!

The QMJHL named its first and second league all-star teams today, along with its all-rookie team.

On each team, one goaltender, two defencemen, one left winger, one center, and one right winger are selected.

The QMJHL First All-Star Team is as follows:


Defence - Kristopher Letang, Val d'or
Defence- Andrew MacDonald, Moncton

Left Wing- Slava Trukhno, Gatineau
Center- Mathieu Perreault, Acadie-Bathurst
Right Wing- Thomas Beauregard, Acadie-Bathurst

The QMJHL Second All-Star Team is as follows:

Goal- Jonathan Bernier, Lewiston


Left Wing- Benoit Doucet, Victoriaville
Right Wing- Francois Bouchard, Baie-Comeau

The QMJHL All-Rookie Team is as follows:

Goal- Peter Delmas, Lewiston

Defence- Simon Lacroix, Shawinigan
Defence- MARK BARBERIO, MONCTON (FORMER EAGLE, of whom we're all still quite proud)

Left Wing- Michael Frolik, Rimouski
Center- Christopher DiDomenico, Saint John
Right Wing- Jakub Voracek, Halifax

This is HUGE for the Screaming Eagles. I remember the days when the idea of having just one player on a league all-star team seemed absolutely unfathomable. When it finally happened in 2001-2002 with Mathieu Dumas's selection to the second all-star team and David Cloutier's selection to the first team, I remember thinking it was a pretty big deal. So to have four guys so honoured this season really says a lot about what a year it was for our squad. We not only had a great finish in the standings, but we have impact players too............ all-star team selection calibre guys are usually guys who can singlehandedly turn a game around. And don't forget that aside from all of these league all-star selections, we still have a 53 goal scorer, a 40 goal scorer, a 37 goal scorer, and a 30 goal scorer besides!

I personally don't entirely agree with all of those all-star selections, and I feel that a few very deserving players around the league were curiously omitted, but it's still great to see four Screaming Eagles there. I also really don't see how Andrew MacDonald made the first all-star team ahead of JC Sawyer (or a guy like Maxime Noreau of Victoriaville, for that matter). MacDonald had an awesome season, and was a huge reason why Moncton was such a pleasant surprise. However, his 58 points and +5 don't seem to compare to JC's 77 points and +40. I'm not sure how a guy leads all defencemen in both points and plus-minus and doesn't get selected to the first all-star team. I know that stats aren't everything, and I know that it may seem petty to point this out when we have four guys selected to league all-star teams, but I still don't quite understand it.

That small quibble aside, this is pretty sweet news for Cape Breton, and will hopefully give those players that much more confidence heading into the upcoming playoff games. All of those all-star selections are well and good, and look pretty on a guy's resume, but I'm sure any of them would trade such personal honours in a heartbeat for the chance to lift that President's Cup.

Ryan Graham suspended two games for hit on Bartulis

Read all about it here folks:

This is great news for us. Not only was justice served for an extremely dangerous play, but the Fog Devils will now be missing their leading goal scorer (Graham had 37 goals this season) for the next two games of the series.

If the Eagles were to finish the series off in the following two games, Graham's season could end thanks to that hit.

It is not yet known for sure who St. John's plans to place on that top line to replace Graham alongside Wes Welcher and Nicolas Bachand.

Game Three goes tomorrow, at 6:30 PM our time at Mile One Centre. Catch it all on CJCB AM 1270.

Eagles sweep at home to take first 2-0 series lead in team history; head to Rock hopefully healthy

Sorry for the lateness of this blog guys n gals, it was a busy Sunday yesterday.

Well you guys have already run down a lot of the Eagles' second 4-1 win in as many nights to assume a 2-0 series lead over the St. John's Fog Devils, so I won't get into too much detail about it.

The game was still in doubt after two periods, with the score tied 1-1 despite the Eagles holding a 33-17 shots on goal advantage. Cam Fergus and TJ Brennan had exchanged powerplay goals, and Cape Breton was stymied on quite a few second period chances by Fog Devil goaltender Ilia Ejov. It felt like it might end up being the type of game where we might never end up getting any bounces around the opposing net, where the enemy goaltender could possibly be in our shooters' heads, and all it would take in the third period would be one St. John's goal to send us to a surprising defeat. We saw a few such games in the regular season.

Thankfully, that didn't happen in Game Two. Just past the midway point of the period, the game's turning point occurred. James Sheppard lost an offensive zone faceoff, but linemate Chris Culligan forechecked hard and stripped the puck from Fog Devil defender (and former Eagle) Luke Gallant. He then threw the puck back out front, right on Sheppard's tape, and the captain wasted no time putting it into the top shelf for the icebreaking goal. Many fans around the rink had been saying to me that if we wanted to beat Ejov we were going to have to shoot high, and that's exactly where Sheppard went. It ended up being his second game-winning goal in as many games to open the 2007 playoffs.

Minutes later, Cape Breton scored the backbreaker. After successfully killing a penalty to defenceman Beau Prokopetz, the puck came back to the point to the Fog Devils' Wes Welcher. Welcher was a bit nonchalant with the puck and took his time with it, not noticing Prokopetz coming out of the box and sneaking up behind him. Beau picked his pocket and sent our forwards up-ice, where a nice passing play immediately resulted in Robert Slaney putting one five-hole on Ejov to give Cape Breton some breathing room in the form of a 3-1 lead.

As soon as the Eagles took a 3-1 lead, St. John's spent the rest of the game trying to send some sort of message through goon tactics, the worst of which easily being Ryan Graham's dangerous hit from behind on Oskars Bartulis that earned him a 5:00 match penalty and an automatic suspension for Game Three of the series Tuesday night in St. John's. I won't talk too much more about the Fog Devils' antics in the final five minutes, as they have already been run down quite enough in the responses to the last blog. The final minutes of the game were nasty, to say the least! Amongst all the craziness, Dean Ouellet added a powerplay goal (his sixth point of the playoffs in just two games) to give us our final score of 4-1.

The win gives Cape Breton a 2-0 series lead, which as said in the title, is actually the first such series lead in the Eagles' entire playoff history. It was pretty important to win those two home games going into potentially three straight at Mile One starting tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to today's Cape Breton Post, Bartulis is OK despite the vicious hit from behind, and centre Jonathan Laberge should also play in Game Three after sitting out the second game thanks to a collision that happened in Game One. However, Scott Brannon took a high hit from the Fog Devils' Nicolas Bachand late in the game and didn't play another shift. Hopefully he is OK, as he has been a really effective physical force so far in the series.

As said, Game Three goes tomorrow night, at 6:30 PM our time. Kenny MacNeil will get his always-informative pre-game show up and running at 6:00.


I'd also like to run down what has been happening in other playoff series to date!


(1) Lewiston vs (8) Shawinigan

Lewiston leads series 2-0

The MAINEiacs may lead this series 2-0 after back-to-back wins at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, ME, but it certainly wasn't easy. In Game One, Lewiston trailed 2-1 late in the game, and needed two powerplay goals from David Perron to narrowly escape with the win. In the second game, Shawinigan led 3-2 after the first period, but Simon Courcelles scored the winner in period three to five the MAINEiacs a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead.

It was expected that Maine would win both games at home, but Shawinigan gave them everything they could handle. The series now shifts back to the Jacques Plante Arena in Shawinigan for a pair of games.

(3) Moncton vs (6) Halifax

Moncton leads series 2-1

In a series that has a rare format where the venue alternates with each game, Moncton took the opener at the Moncton Coliseum 6-4, while Halifax responded with a convincing 5-1 win at the Halifax Metro Centre in Game Two to even the series. Yesterday afternoon, back in Moncton, the Wildcats erupted for four goals early in the second period to take a 5-1 lead, and then barely hung on for dear life as the Mooseheads roared back to cut the lead to 5-4. That was the final score, and the Cats lead the series 2-1 with Game Four set to take place in Halifax tonight.

(4) PEI vs (5) Bathurst

Series tied 1-1.

This one was expected to be a tight series, and it certainly delivered on that promise in the first two games at the Charlottetown Civic Centre. Game One saw the Rocket erase a 2-0 first period deficit and 3-2 early third period deficit to score a thrilling 5-3 win.

In Game Two, Bathurst once again jumped out to a quick first period lead, this time taking a commanding 4-0 lead into the dressing room after the first frame. However, PEI would storm all the way back and tie the game at 4-4, forcing overtime. Brett Morrison led the comeback charge for the Rocket, notching two goals and two assists.

In overtime, however, the Titan made up for the blown lead when rookie Spencer Jezegou scored the sudden death winner for a 5-4 Bathurst victory to even the series. It was Jezegou's fourth point of the game.

The series shifts back to the KC Irving Regional Center in Bathurst, NB, and is expected to continue to be neck-and-neck.


(1) Val d'or vs (8) Chicoutimi

Val d'or leads series 2-0.

In a series viewed by some as having some serious upset potential, the Val d'or Foreurs did what they could to silence their critics by taking both games at the Centre Air Creebec. Game One was an 8-2 blowout win for the Foreurs, with Kristopher Letang leading the way with a spectacular two goal, three assist performance.

Game Two was a heartbreaker for les Sagueneens. They led the game 4-3 in its late stages, but Letang struck again, scoring the game-tying goal with just over five minutes to play, and then notching the OT winner on the powerplay to put Val d'or up two games as the series shifts back to the always-raucous Centre Georges Vezina in Chicoutimi for the next three games. Obviously, the Sags have to take the next one at home if they are to have any chance of crawling back into this series.

(2) Victoriaville vs (7) Baie-Comeau

Series tied 1-1.

In another series expected to be close, Baie-Comeau netminder Michael Dupont was the first star as the Drakkar stole the first game 3-1 on the road, while Tigres cage cop JC Blanchard was first star in the rematch, leading les Tigres to a 4-1 win in Game Two. The next two games take place at the Centre Henry-Leonard in Baie-Comeau.

(3) Gatineau vs (6) Rouyn-Noranda

Series tied 1-1.

The Huskies shocked the Olympiques by waltzing into Centre Robert Guertin on Saturday night and roaring out to a 6-0 lead, hanging on for a 6-3 Game One victory. Yannick Riendeau was sensational for Rouyn in this game, scoring four goals and an assist. In Game Two, Paul Byron led the way for Gatineau with a hat trick, and goaltender Ryan Mior made up for a shaky Game One by being named first star in the rematch, as the 'Piques won 5-2 to even the series. The two teams shift to the Dave Keon Arena in Rouyn-Noranda for Games Three and Four.

(4) Drummondville vs (5) Quebec

Series tied 1-1

In possibly the tightest series of them all so far, les Remparts drew first blood in Game One with a 4-3 overtime win, thanks to sudden death heroics from 16-year-old rookie Kelsey Tessier. Kevin Desfosses was huge in the Quebec net in this game, making 49 saves for the win. However, Game Two saw Drummondville win a wild seesaw affair in which the lead changed hands many times, as Steven Cacciotti scored with less than two minutes remaining to give les Voltigeurs a 6-5 win. Superstar Derick Brassard was huge in this game, coming up with a goal and two assists and being named first star. These two teams head to a no doubt sold out Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City for Game Three tonight, and I really think this series is going to go the 7-game distance.

That's a look at how the rest of the playoffs have been going down thus far around the Q!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eagles take 1-0 series lead

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles survived a few first period jitters and delivered very solid second and third period performances en route to a pretty nice 4-1 win over the St. John's Fog Devils in Game One of their opening round best-of-seven series, last night at C200.

The win occurred in front of a boisterous playoff crowd of just under 4000, many of them clad in their white playoff t-shirts. Fans deserve a lot of credit for really bringing it for the first playoff game and creating a pretty good atmosphere. The intensity in the rink was clearly stepped up a notch from the regular season.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start when the Fog Devils scored a shorthanded goal very early on in the game to open the scoring. The goal came as a result of an unnecessary icing on an Eagle powerplay, a cleanly lost ensuing draw in the defensive zone, and very poor defensive zone coverage on the Fog Devil possession (not to mention a really juicy rebound given up). But in what may have been the most important play of the game, Cape Breton got the goal back IMMEDIATELY, on the same powerplay in fact (Oskars Bartulis low wrister from the point tipped in by Dean Ouellet). Making amends right away for that ugly shorthanded goal against really helped avoid any early-game panic setting in, for either the players or the fans.

Those two goals were the only ones of the first period, meaning the Eagles escaped with a 1-1 tie in a period where they showed typical "first period of the playoffs" jitters. In period two, Cape Breton started to really carry the play and take it to the Fog Devils with confidence; a number of consecutive powerplays didn't hurt either. At the very end of one powerplay, James Sheppard's off-wing blast found the top corner glove side on Fog Devil netminder Ilja Ejov for a 2-1 Eagle lead. Later in the period, on a five-on-three advantage, some patience and fine passing by the Eagles' #1 powerplay unit saw Paul McIlveen move in really deep from his point position and bury a Cam Fergus pass top shelf for a 3-1 Cape Breton lead after two stanzas.

It was a very relaxed and confident Eagle team in period three, as they wore down the clock with smart passing and solid defensive play. St. John's never really did threaten to get back in the game. McIlveen added his second of the game to round out the scoring, when he pumped home his own rebound after being robbed by Ejov on a one-time attempt in the slot. McIlveen's two goals are a great start to the playoffs for a guy who had a very good playoff showing for Cape Breton last year. Hopefully this guy can keep on delivering clutch playoff points!

The Eagles also scored three powerplay goals in the game, an encouraging stat for fans who were a bit worried about the powerplay heading into the postseason. Granted, one or two of the PP goals weren't exactly your typical powerplay goal (sustained pressure, lots of passing, etc), and there were several powerplays where the team didn't really get anything going, but at the end of the day, you have to be happy with 3/8 on the powerplay. Cape Breton was also excellent on the penalty kill, killing off all eight Fog Devil powerplays, including a 4:00 penalty to Brad Gallant and a two man disadvantage late in the second period. Many players deserve a lot of credit for their fine work on the PK, too many to really start listing.

Also key was the Eagles' physical play and grit. Going into the series, most agreed that Cape Breton had St. John's outmatched in most categories related to pure talent, and that the Devils would have to even the score by outdoing t Eagles in terms of physical play and grit. However, the Eagles may have surprised the Fog Devils last night, as it was actually the home team that dictated the play in terms of physicality and grit. At the very least, we matched them in this aspect of the game, and in my opinion we actually set the tone, instead of the other way around. This of course has to continue tonight, and throughout the series.

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec wasn't tested overly often in the final two periods, but was solid when he had to be in getting his playoff off to a good start. And Luc Bourdon, who had a lot of people watching for a more intense performance from him than he had delivered in most regular season games, brought that intensity that we need to see from him. He was physical and involved, and ended up picking up second star honours. After an underwhelming second half of the regular season with the Eagles, it's time for Bourdon to really show us why we acquired him here in the playoffs, and he got off on the right foot last night by visibly stepping up the intensity.

The only glaring minus on the night is that Jonathan Laberge left the game in the second period following a mid-ice collision and never did return. He left the ice seeming to favour his left leg. I have yet to hear an injury report, but we obviously hope he won't be out for too long a time. He had been getting his playoffs off to a fine start as the third line center, almost scoring on a couple of great chances, and winning four or five pretty important faceoffs in his period and a half of action. Here's hoping this kid is OK; after all, he lost all that long hair in favour of the mohawk to play some playoff hockey!

Very positive start to the playoffs last night at C200, and as said a very fun playoff type atmosphere in the stands, but the team and its fans can't get too too high; they have to do it all over again tonight in Game Two at the Centre. I don't have much to say entering Game Two; as long as the Eagles keep up the intensity they showed in Game One, and keep doing the little things right, things should be OK in the long run.

I'm pumped for Game Two tonight, let's keep the momentum rolling, and see you all at the rink!!!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Eagles-Fog Devils series preview, and a few other notes

With the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles kicking off their first round playoff series against the St. John's Fog Devils this weekend with Games 1 and 2 Friday and Saturday night from C200, it's high time for a little series preview here at Inside The Nest.

Most everyone around the league has the Eagles as heavy favourites in this series, and it's hard to argue with that general consensus when looking at the two teams on paper and what they've accomplished this season. Cape Breton seems to have the advantage in most of the "traditional" categories; on offense, on defence, in goal, and on special teams. To boot, Cape Breton finished 32 points ahead of the Fog Devils in the final standings. Yes, the Eagles are the heavy favourite in this series, a role the team actually hasn't handled overly well over the course of this season, but you have to play the cards you're dealt.

The Fog Devils have shown Cape Breton this season that they are not a team to take lightly. While they finished fourth-last in the Q this season, they seemed to save some of their best hockey for the Screaming Eagles, and seem to match up better against them than against many other foes around the league. St. John's was actually the only team in the division to manage to beat the Eagles twice on C200 ice this season. On both occasions, goaltender Ilja Ejov stole the show for the Devils, and their forwards were opportunistic enough to make the most of some third period opportunities.

The Foggies are just a second year club and are still in the process of building, but they aren't short on heart or grit, which could take them a long way in a series where they honestly have nothing to lose, another fact that could make them dangerous.

Still, the Eagles have it all over them in terms of depth and talent. Looking at the regular season results between the two teams, Cape Breton vastly outshot St. John's in most contests. Ejov and Co managed to steal a couple of those, but if the Eagles can manage to outshoot and outplay the Fog Devils like they did in the regular season, St. John's will not be able to keep up over the course of a best-of-seven series. They may put up a fight for much of the series, but eventually would succumb. Of course, this is all contingent on Cape Breton playing to their potential; if they don't, the series could be an entirely different story.

All in all, the synopsis of this opening round best-of-seven is that Cape Breton is the heavy favourite, but can't at all take St. John's lightly. Eagle fans need only to look back a few years in team history to find the ultimate example that no team can be taken lightly, no matter how big of an underdog they may be.


Having gotten all of that out of the way, let's take a look at the opponent, the St. John's Fog Devils:

In goal, the Newfoundlanders will be relying on Ejov, who started seven of eight games against the Eagles in the regular season and played extremely well in the vast majority of them. Backup goaltender Pierre-Alexandre Marion is also an option, but I'm guessing that coach Real Paiement will give Ejov the nod. Ilja struggled at times this year, posting a 4.15 GAA and .876 save %, but as stated many times already, he's played some excellent hockey against the Eagles and showed that he's capable of stealing games when he's on.

On the blueline, St. John's is led by two very good offensive defencemen in TJ Brennan and former Eagle Luke Gallant. Both put up a solid 41 points from the blueline, and both are very capable powerplay quarterbacks with great shots from the point. Veteran defenceman Pat O'Keefe is a stay-at-home guy who works extremely hard, and young defender Maxime Dubuc has developed well with increased ice time over the second half. Overall, however, St. John's doesn't really have a true shutdown guy, and gave up 310 goals, second-most in the league.

Up front, St. John's has two pretty good lines.

One includes their top two scorers, Wesley Welcher (21 G 55 A 76 PTS) and Ryan Graham (37 G 37 A 74 PTS). Be sure that these two guys will have an impact on the upcoming series, especially Graham, one of the fiestier players in the league, who has a knack for scoring the big goal. The Eagles' success in this series will have a lot to do with how well they can contain these two guys. I am not entirely sure as to who will start the series as the third man on this unit.

Their second scoring line revolves around sophomore Jean-Simon Allard (12 G 38 A 50 PTS) and Swedish speedster Mario Kempe (23 G 19 A 42 PTS). If most of the attention is on checking Welcher and Graham, these guys can step up and do some damage. This line is completed by Nick Layton, a rookie who surprised with 21 goals this year, including a league-leading six against the Screaming Eagles. Every year, there are one or two surprise playoff producers, and Layton fits the bill as having the potential to be that type of guy.

The Devils' forward corps also has a lot of grit, with Graham and 20-year-old bruisers Nicolas Bachand and Tim Spencer leading the way. Captain Matt Fillier is also an intense and physical player who can also put the puck in the net the odd time. He's a heart and soul kind of guy that I can totally see taking his game to a new level in the playoffs. Even if the Eagles come out on top in this series, there is the potential that they could be a bit banged up, as the Fog Devils are physical and take few prisoners.

The catalyst for this Fog Devil hockey club is coach Real Paiement. Paiement is one of the real veteran coaches of the league, and has a long and successful history behind QMJHL benches. He's a crafty old tactician who knows virtually every trick in the book, and has a particular knack for getting the most out of teams that are a bit short on talent. Screaming Eagles' coach Pascal Vincent will have to be on his toes when up against this wily vet.


The Eagles-Fog Devils series will follow the somewhat rare 2-3-2 playoff format, due to the large distance between the two cities.

This means that the first two games will be at C200 (Fri, Mar 23 and Sat, Mar 24), the next three will be played from Mile One Stadium in St. John's (Tues Mar 27, Wed Mar 28, and Fri Mar 30, the latter only if necessary), and the final two (again if necessary) would be played from C200, on Monday April 2 and Tues April 3.

This format puts a bit of a different twist on the "home ice advantage" aspect of the series, as many would argue that if the home team loses either or both of the first two games, that the lower-seeded team kind of has a bit of an advantage going home for three straight. However, who knows if home ice really means much of anything to either side in this series; the two teams met in the playoffs last year, and the road team won four of the five games. In the regular season this year (not that this has any real bearing on what happens in the playoffs), St. John's managed to win two out of four games at C200, while the Eagles garnered seven out of a possible eight points from Mile One. Does home ice advantage really mean anything? There isn't really any conclusive evidence either way.


The Screaming Eagles are putting on a promotion of sorts for Game One of the series tomorrow night. The first 4000 fans to arrive will receive a free playoff t-shirt, in an attempt to create a bit of a playoff atmosphere at the rink.


Finally, I'd like to throw a question out to you the readers and I'm looking for as much feedback (positive or negative) as possible.

The organization is thinking about the possibility of a fan bus trip happening sometime during these playoffs. For obvious geographical reasons, it couldn't happen during this St. John's series, but if the Eagles were to advance to round 2, they would probably be playing against an opponent that wouldn't be too far of a bus ride away.

Depending on what days of the week the team's away games fall on in such a series, the possibility is there of organizing a bus road trip of fans to cheer the team on in the playoffs in a visiting rink. It would obviously be much more likely to happen for weekend road games than for games during the week, as it would be hard to get too many fans who could make a trip on a weeknight.

I'm bringing this up to try and gauge fan interest in such a road trip, so respond away if you would be interested, and feel free to specify what conditions would best suit your interests (days of the week, going up the night before the game vs. the day of, things like that). Of course, if you want to respond but do not want your feedback publicly published on this blog, just say the word.

Once again, at this point this is still just an idea, but if there is enough SERIOUS interest, and if some road games fall on the right days of the week, it is something that could well become a reality.


After a lengthy training camp, and a tiring 70-game regular season schedule, the real season starts tomorrow night. Our Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have been impressive for most of the year, but now begins the real test; the playoffs. Does this team have what it takes to have success in the postseason? We begin finding out tomorrow night at C200. See you at the rink this weekend!