Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lewiston weekend a huge success as Eagles sweep in front of sold out crowd!

The most critical weekend of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' season to date couldn't have gone down much better.

This past weekend's pair of home dates against the division-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs had been circled on fans' calendars for a long time, and the Eagles made sure it was well worth the wait. Cape Breton won both of the crucial divisional matchups, the latter in front of a sold-out crowd, to not only gain four very important points in the standings on the rival MAINEiacs, but to rebound very nicely from a road trip full of struggles the weekend before, where they won only one of four games.

Friday night's contest was a tight-checking goaltender's duel that was hanging in the balances until the final buzzer. Netminders Ondrej Pavelec of the Eagles and Peter Delmas of the MAINEiacs stole the show, each standing on his head in front of a crowd decimated in size by a winter blizzard that rocked the Island. Chris Culligan opened the scoring by blasting a low slapshot past Delmas in the second period, and set Dean Ouellet up at the side of the net with a perfect pass for the eventual game-winner late in the third. Pavelec came up with a number of huge saves to ensure the victory, none bigger than his penalty shot stop on Lewiston forward Stefan Chaput in period three. Defenceman Beau Prokopetz made his home debut as an Eagle in this contest, but fellow newcomer Luc Bourdon sat out with an ankle injury.

On Saturday night, the weather couldn't stop a sold-out crowd from filling C200 pretty much to capacity as the Eagles came up with one of their best 60-minute efforts of the season in a convincing 4-0 victory over the American visitors. Pavelec was unbeatable in this contest, registering his first shutout of the season and cementing his status as the QMJHL's Defensive Player of the Week for the week. Cape Breton got two great goals from somewhat unlikely sources (Jean-Christophe Gauthier and Brad Gallant) early in the game and never looked back; the outcome of this game was never really in much doubt. This game also saw Cam Fergus finally break out of his five-game pointless streak with a pair of goals. Linemate Paul McIlveen also broke a five-game pointless streak with an assist on one of Fergus's markers. New defenceman Prokopetz made a great impression on the C200 crowd by earning third star honours in just his second home game with the team. As well, the packed house got to see Bourdon finally make his much-anticipated home debut with the Eagles, although he was still clearly hurting and could only play at limited capacity.

After losing three of their first four games with the new faces in the lineup, the "new look" Eagles team had something to prove, and prove it they did by taking all four points from the first-overall Lewiston squad this weekend. Although the team's goal scoring may need another game or two to get back into full gear, this weekend's wins were a huge step in the right direction, and in large part make up for the recent disappointing road trip. The most important thing in these two wins was the play of goaltender Pavelec. If the Eagles are going to go anywhere this year, they're going to need Ondrej at the top of his game, and in each of his last four starts, we have seen him at the top of his game. Here's to hoping that this trend can continue.

With the two wins, Cape Breton improves to 33-16-2 for 68 points, and now sit just four points back of Lewiston for first place, and one point back of Moncton for second place. Going into the weekend, the Eagles trailed Lewiston by eight points, and Moncton by three.

The Eagles are now enjoying a few days off before continuing their five-game home stand on Friday against the Rimouski Oceanic and Sunday against the Drummondville Voltigeurs, before finishing it off next Tuesday with a potentially pretty important date with the Moncton Wildcats.

The stretch drive is really heating up, as the Eagles still have about 1/3 of their home schedule remaining for the regular season. Get yourself down to C200 to watch this team gear up for the playoffs!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Additional breaking news on this weekend's games vs Lewiston

The plot has thickened regarding the highly-anticipated weekend series between the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the Lewiston MAINEiacs.

In their 5-4 shootout loss to the Halifax Mooseheads last night at the Halifax Metro Centre, the MAINEiacs lost saw three of their players fall to injury, including both of their goaltenders.

Their star #1 netminder, Jonathan Bernier, had to be helped off the ice with 30 seconds remaining in the contest and did not return.

Their #1 centre, Marc-Andre Cliche of Team Canada WJC fame, was nailed open-ice by Halifax defenceman Jiri Suchy, and left the game with a possible concussion and possible jaw problems.

Finally, their backup goaltender, 16-year-old Peter Delmas, hurt himself during the overtime and stayed down on the ice for several moments. He did however manage to get up and finish off the game, but is still being listed as having a day-to-day injury.

The MAINEiacs have flown in emergency call-up goaltender Marc-Andre Sauve for this weekend's games. Sauve is 18 years old and was an 8th round pick of the MAINEiacs in 2005. He has yet to appear in a QMJHL game. Whether or not Lewiston will start Sauve tonight, or perhaps roll the dice with the "day to day" injured Delmas, I do not know. It seems as though Bernier has little chance of playing this weekend.

For more information, please follow this link to an article by the Lewiston Sun Journal's Justin Pelletier: http://www.sunjournal.com/story/196405-3/LocalSports/Loss_to_Halifax_proves_costly/

Without Bernier and Cliche, Lewiston is not as tough an opponent, and Cape Breton's chances of winning likely increase. However, at this time of year, what is most important it gauging how our team stacks up against the best in the league. For that reason, I was really looking forward to seeing how the Eagles would respond to the challenge of two games against the FULL Lewiston team. The Eagle players now also have the challenge of not letting themselves get too comfortable with the knowledge that Lewiston will likely be missing these players. They can still score without Cliche, and any goaltender they throw at us could stand on his head on any given night and send us tumbling to a demoralizing loss.

Cape Breton will have to focus now more than ever. One thing is for sure: as said in the opening line of this blog, the plot has certainly thickened.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Current issues: upcoming weekend, recent road trip, and support our troops

It's been a few days since the last blog, but there are a number of current issues to talk about, and I decided to wait until they were all pretty much equal in relevance to talk about them.


First and foremost is the upcoming weekend set at C200 vs Lewiston. This is easily the most highly-anticipated weekend of the regular season for the Eagles! Today's Cape Breton Post reported that Saturday's game is already just a few hundred tickets short of a sellout, and that over 3200 tickets have been sold for Friday night's game. There are a great many reasons why:

(1) The games are a battle between two of the best teams in the QMJHL, and pit the Eagles against a Lewiston MAINEiacs team that leads the East Division standings. It's a great opportunity to gauge how the Eagles, an aspiring contender, stack up against possibly the strongest foe in the league.

(2) The games mark the very much-anticipated home ice debut of Luc Bourdon in a Cape Breton uniform. Scores of fans who saw his play at the World Juniors will turn out to see him alone.

(3) Barring a playoff matchup between the two teams, there is a very good chance (unless he returns to the league as a 20 year old next year, but I doubt he will) that the games will be the last two in Cape Breton for Eskasoni native Chad Denny of the MAINEiacs. This should result in a great number of fans from the reservation to make the trek to C200 to see their hometown hero play here for one last time.

(4) Saturday night's game will be Timbit Night at C200, coinciding with the annual Timbit Jamboree the next day. Hundreds of young Timbit hockey players from all around the island will be in attendance.

(5) About sixty seats are spoken for by a couple of busloads of MAINEiac fans making the very long trip up from Lewiston to see their team play. Be sure to treat these folks with the Cape Breton hospitality we are known for; even though they are cheering the enemy, they are our guests!

As for the games themselves:

The Lewiston MAINEiacs play a stifling, defensive style of hockey, and the Screaming Eagles have been having trouble scoring as of late as it is. They will have to come out flying and find a way to penetrate the smothering Lewiston defence. They will need to be first to more pucks than their opponents, and grind them into the ice with hard work. Lewiston also possesses one of the top goalies in the league in Jonathan Bernier, and while they aren't what you'd call an "offensive juggernaut" and don't have any huge offensive superstars, they roll the most balanced four lines in the league; any of their lines can score at any time. They score by committee.

The Eagles will need to regain their scoring touch, both even strength and on the powerplay. They will need to find some real on-ice chemistry that was lacking during their recent four-game road trip. Some key members of the team have been slumping over the past four games, and will need to rebound this weekend in a big way if we are going to beat these guys. Lastly, and most importantly, the team needs Ondrej Pavelec (who I expect to start both games) to come up big in goal. He played fantastic in the two games in Moncton earlier this week, and if he can play anything like he did in those games, Lewiston could be in for some headaches.

How do the new-look Eagles stack up against a top contender? Find out this weekend by making the trip down to C200 and being part of two packed houses.


I'd like to briefly comment on the recent road trip. Obviously, it was quite disappointing for the Eagles. They lost three out of four games. In three of the four games, they scored just one goal or less. The powerplay struggled mightily. The team looked lost and seemed to have little on-ice chemistry. An entire scoring line went completely dry. The new additions did not overly impress. It was a bad road trip, there is no denying it. The team looked awful.

As bad as things were this past road trip, it was still just four games, and it was still just one road trip. Over the course of a 70-game season, that isn't the end of the world. Most importantly, it is essential to keep in mind that there is almost always an awkward "adjusting period" for the first few games after a team brings a few key new bodies into the lineup. It takes a while for everybody to get used to one another, and for new additions to get used to the team's systems. It takes a while for the guys to know what each other will do out there on the ice. Timing and chemistry need to be re-established. Some players have to adjust to new roles. While three losses in four games is still a disappointing and poor result, such an awkward period of adjustment was to be expected. The hope is that four games should be about enough time for players to work some of the kinks out, and that the few days off between games that the team is enjoying right now should be enough time for coaching staff and players alike to sit back and think about what was done wrong on the road trip and what can be done to correct the problems. When you play four games in five nights, there isn't really much time for such reflection. Before anybody panics and suggests that the moves made were a mistake, let's wait and see how the team comes out at home against a real strong opponent this weekend.

The last thing I'll say about this topic is this: In 2001-2002, the Eagles had a strong team and made a few deadline deals to add players such as David Cloutier and JF Dufort. Just like this year, the new additions didn't just seamlessly fit into our lineup. There were struggles in the first few games after they arrived. In fact, the team went winless in their first five games after making those trades, including three losses in a row. People were questioning the trades and wondering if the team had actually gotten worse. But after those first five games, the team went on a tear. They finished the season out on an eleven-game unbeaten streak, and then embarked on the club's best playoff run to date.

The recent road trip sucked, no doubt about it, but give this team a little bit of time to gel.


Finally, Friday night will be an important night at C200 for reasons other than just the hockey game. The Eagles organization has declared Friday night's game to be Support The Troops night, and asks fans to wear red to show support for our troops over in Afghanistan. This was done last Friday night in Prince Edward Island at the Rocket-Eagles game, and was a resounding success. Tons of people turned out, and the vast majority were decked out in red to show the brave young men and women overseas that we care. Let us follow Charlottetown's lead and turn the C200 seating area into a sea of red on Friday night.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eagles rebound on the road with shootout win over Wildcats

It may not have been pretty or convincing, but the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles managed to earn two badly-needed points today at a packed Moncton Coliseum against the very gritty and tough Wildcats courtesy of a 2-1 shootout win.

Regulation time seemed tentative and tight-checking, with the first powerplay unit coming through with Cape Breton's only goal; Dean Ouellet finishing off a pretty passing play to notch his 30th of the season, giving the Eagles their third 30 goal scorer on the year so far. Matt Marquardt scored for Moncton less than a minute later to tie things up. Both teams killed off late penalties, including the Eagles doing a great job of killing off a double minor to Scott Brannon. Goaltenders Nicola Riopel of the Wildcats and Ondrej Pavelec of the Screaming Eagles were solid in goal as the 1-1 stalemate stood throughout regulation time and the five minute overtime period.

On to the shootout, the Eagles' first of the season; hard to believe that it took 48 games for the team to participate in one. James Sheppard, Cam Fergus, and Paul McIlveen, in that order, were selected as the three shooters for Cape Breton. Marc-Andre Labelle, Phil Mangan, and Matt Marquardt were selected for Moncton. Fergus scored on a great deke, and Pavelec stopped Labelle and Mangan, leading to a scenario where Marquardt had to score to keep Moncton alive.

He did, blowing a hard shot by Pavelec, and we went into a sudden death extra session. JC Sawyer was chosen to shoot for the Eagles, and he made it look easy, moving a bit wide to the outside, cutting back in to the inside, and quickly snapping one low blocker side for a 2-1 Eagle lead. However, the Wildcats' Maxime Lincourt scored on his attempt to keep the game alive.

Up next for Cape Breton was Chris Culligan, and he made a great deke to score what would eventually be the game winner. He had gotten in awfully close to goaltender Riopel, and it didn't look like he had any room left to do anything, but he somehow managed to find a hole and roof it in, and it was then up to Matt Eagles to keep the Wildcats alive for a third straight time. This time, however, it was not to be, as Pavelec stayed with him the whole way and ended up forcing him to shoot wide.

With the shootout win, Cape Breton improves to 31-15-2 on the season, for a total of 64 points. They sit one point behind the Wildcats (who earned a point despite the shootout loss) for second place in the division, and seven back of Lewiston for first.

The Eagles still have obviously have a way to go in finding the proper combinations and that right chemistry with the new additions, as evidenced by the fact that they scored just one goal for the second game this weekend, but the way this road trip has gone, the team will just take the two points any way they can get them.

The Eagles are next in action on Tuesday night, when they face the Wildcats once again from the Moncton Coliseum. Game time is at 7:00. With a win, Cape Breton could salvage a split of their four-game road trip, which would look pretty good considering the way it started out.

Disappointing 7-5 loss in Bathurst

The "new look" Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are now 0-2.

An adjustment period of sorts was expected as newcomers Luc Bourdon, Beau Prokopetz, and Jonathan Laberge got used to their new teammates, and vice-versa, and as the team worked out all the kinks of making changes to the lineup during the trading period. Still, that doesn't excuse a third period collapse like the one seen in last night's 7-5 loss to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Not counting the empty net goal, Cape Breton was outscored 4-2 in the final frame, and succeeded in squandering a 3-2 lead after two periods, as well as two separate two goal leads held earlier in the game.

One of the few positives to be taken from last night's contest was the play of the Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon line. That line combined for three of the team's five goals, and was a combined +8 on the night. Conversely, the unit of Dean Ouellet-Cam Fergus-Paul McIlveen was held scoreless for the second game in a row, and was a ghastly -8 for the hockey game.

The new-look powerplay, with Luc Bourdon replacing McIlveen on the point on the first unit and McIlveen dropping back to PP unit #2, was 1/4 for the second night in a row.

David Davenport appeared to have a tough night in the Cape Breton crease, allowing six goals on 23 shots. Antoine Tardif picked up the win in goal for Bathurst.

The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Culligan set up Sheppard for his 22nd goal of the season for the first goal, and Luc Bourdon made a brilliant end-to-end rush on the powerplay for his first goal as a Screaming Eagle to double the Cape Breton lead. Thomas Beaurgard of the Titan would notch his league-leading 58th of the season to cut the lead to 2-1 heading into the intermission.

Cape Breton started the second off with a bang, taking a 3-1 lead as a result of a great passing play between Scott Brannon, Sheppard, and Culligan, finished off by the latter for his first of two on the night. Dany Masse would score for the Titan to put them within striking distance at 3-2 heading into the final period.

That's when the bottom fell out for the Screaming Eagles. A pair of Martin Bartos markers gave Bathurst a 4-3 lead, and Mathieu Perreault's 31st of the season made it 5-3 Titan. Cape Breton then got goals from Robert Slaney and Culligan to tie things up at five, only to lose the game with 2:56 left on Beauregard's second of the game and 59th of the season. Charles Bergeron was hauled down on a breakaway on an empty net, and the referee awarded the Titan overager with a rare automatic goal for a 7-5 final.

With the loss, the Eagles fall to 30-15-2 on the season, nine points behind the Lewiston MAINEiacs for first in the division as a result of their win against Saint John last night, and two points behind the Moncton Wildcats for second in the East Division.

Cape Breton takes its slumping act to Moncton today for a 4:00 meeting with the Wildcats, the first of two straight games in the Hub City. These games are obviously very important to the battle in the standings between the Eagles and the Wildcats. These games are also interesting as the newly-acquired Eagle Bourdon makes his return to Moncton, and the Eagles will face former teammate Mark Barberio of the Wildcats.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

One to forget as Eagles drop 3-1 decision to PEI Rocket

It was definitely a night to forget for the new-look Cape Breton Screaming Eagles last night in Charlottetown, as they couldn't seem to get anything going for any real sustained period of time, and ended up dropping a surprise 3-1 decision to the PEI Rocket. The loss spoiled the debuts of new additions Luc Bourdon and Beau Prokopetz on the blueline.

The game was scoreless until about midway through the second period, when Rocket forward Brett Morrison made a great pass to point man Benoit Gervais. Gervais fired a shot through a maze of traffic that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec never did end up seeing. The shot deflected off of the skate of Rocket forward Matthew Lachaine for a 1-0 Rocket lead.

Cape Breton tied things up in the late going of the second frame, on the powerplay, as Jonathan Laberge's attempt at a cross-crease pass ended up deflecting off of the stick of Rocket defender Luciano Lommano and in. The goal was Laberge's first as a Screaming Eagle.

The game winner occurred while the Eagles were enjoying a powerplay in the third period. After some sustained pressure in the PEI end, the Rocket broke out on a two-on-two shorthanded rush, and suddenly PEI defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani found himself with all the room and all the time in the world to place his shot right inside the post, glove side on Pavelec for a 2-1 Rocket lead that they would not relinquish. Morrison would add an empty netter with seconds remaining to ice the game, a largely dull affair played on poor ice conditions.

Cape Breton seemed flat, and perhaps it had a lot to do with the lineup changes made to accomoate the new additions. In particular, there were changes made to the powerplay units. Paul McIlveen was replaced on the point on the 1st PP unit by Luc Bourdon, and was dropped back to the point on the 2nd PP unit with Oskars Bartulis. It is too early to make any real judgements on whether or not the new powerplay units are better or worse than the old ones, but last night obviously wasn't a great start.

Goaltender Pavelec seemed to be fighting the puck a bit; giving up fat rebounds on relatively routine shots, and letting a few pucks squeeze through him (although they didn't go in). If the Eagles are going to go anywhere in this year's playoffs, they really need Pavelec to regain the consistency that he showed last year, and they really need him playing with 100% confidence.

All in all, a flat game for Cape Breton, and one to forget. If any solace can be taken in last night's results, it is in the fact that the Lewiston MAINEiacs lost in overtime at home to Shawinigan. The club now sits seven points behind Lewiston in the battle for first place. On the minus side, the Moncton Wildcats defeated the St. John's Fog Devils, vaulting them two points ahead of the Eagles in the battle for third in the East Division.

It may take a little while for the team to really get used to the new faces in the lineup (and vice versa), but hopefully the result tonight in Bathurst is much better. If it isn't, however, there is no need to panic just yet. Teams often go through little slumps after "trading up", as it usualy takes a few games to find the right chemistry. Conversely, another weird trend in this league is that teams who "trade down" (trading veteran stars for younger players) often get hot for a few games after doing so; they go through a bit of a "honeymoon" period just because a few changes were made to a lineup that was struggling. For an example, witness the Saint John Sea Dogs right now. Anyhow, my point was that the first few games after trades are made often don't really make much sense. It may take a few games for our new additions to get used to their new teammates and the team's systems, and it may take a while for the coaching staff to find the correct combinations and chemistry with this new lineup. If things don't look any better a month from now, THEN feel free to worry that the trades the team made were not good trades.


The Eagles travel to Bathurst today to try and rebound against the reeling Titan. I mention the fact that they are reeling (3-8 in their last 11 hockey games) because it is exactly what makes them a dangerous opponent tonight. They are coming off of a very embarassing 6-2 loss to the last-place Saint John Sea Dogs last night, and will likely come out very fired up to turn things around against a Cape Breton squad that handed them two defeats last weekend. Bathurst could be playing desperate hockey tonight, and the Eagles will have to match that desperation and intensity. The Titan played last night without Thomas Beauregard and Mathieu Perreault, the latter being out of the lineup for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, but they will both be back on board for Bathurst tonight.

My best guess at a starting goaltender for Bathurst is 16-year-old Antoine Tardif, as he mopped up in relief of Brant Miller last night in Saint John. For Cape Breton, maybe tonight would be a good night to go back to David Davenport.

Game time is 7:00 PM, and as always, you can listen in on AM 1270 CJCB, where Ken MacNeil will have all the play-by-play.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bourdon makes Screaming Eagle debut as Cape Breton visits the PEI Rocket

It's been over ten days since the blockbuster news of the trade for Luc Bourdon has been announced, and it has created quite a buzz around the hockey community. Fans have been eagerly awaiting big Luc's debut in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' black, white, and gold colours, but had to be patient while the defenceman rested up at home after helping Canada win gold at the World Junior Championship in Sweden.

Tomorrow night, for those fans who will be watching the Eastlink TV broadcast of the CB-PEI game, THE WAIT IS OVER. Bourdon will be in the lineup for the first time ever as a Screaming Eagle as the Eagles take on the Rocket at the Charlottetown Civic Centre for their first game of a four-game road trip that also takes the team to Bathurst for a Saturday night tilt, and to Moncton for Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night dates.

For the first time, fans will get to see that "big three" on the blueline of Bourdon, JC Sawyer, and Oskars Bartulis. Fans should also anticipate seeing new powerplay units, as Bourdon will certainly fit into the powerplay mix somewhere.

Bourdon may not be the only player making his Eagle debut tomorrow night. I can't honestly say I am 100% sure, but I've heard that it's a possibility that Beau Prokopetz may be ready to go for tomorrow night's game. The last I had heard, he was only day-to-day with his "upper body injury", and there have been rumblings that he may be ready by tomorrow. If not, I am sure that we will see him sometime pretty soon.

As exciting as it is to see these guys finally suiting up for the Screaming Eagles, fans must remember that it has been a while since either has played in a game, and that it may take a period or two at least for these guys to get their timing back and to get comfortable. Also, there will most likely be that inevitable period of adjustment to new systems and new teammates. Maybe it will take a couple of games for our new additions to become fully integrated into the Eagle lineup, so do not expect miracles from either of them tomorrow night! But it's still quite exciting just to see the new additions, especially Bourdon, wearing the jersey.

Cape Breton enters tomorrow night's contest on a three-game winning streak, and boasting a record of 30-13-2, good for second overall in the Quebec League, six points back of Lewiston for first in the division and in the league. PEI enters the game coming off of a pretty strong four-game road trip, where they had a 2-2 split against four tough teams. The Eagles are 5-1 against the Rocket so far this season, and have won the last five matchups. Could PEI be "due" to surprise us tomorrow night? We will have to be ready.

Ondrej Pavelec should get the start in goal for Cape Breton after his clutch play in helping the Eagles defeat Bathurst this past Saturday night. Antoine Lafleur will certainly get the start for the Rocket.

Rumours are abound that star PEI defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani has been sent home to get his head together after an alleged incident on their most recent road trip, and that he may not be in the lineup tomorrow night as a result. However, at this point this is nothing more than a rumour; it has not been backed up by any real reliable sources yet. I still figured it was worth mentioning; we'll find out for real when it's time to drop the puck. Not that the presence or absence of this player affects the way the Eagles approach this game.

Once again, this game IS being broadcast live on Eastlink TV, so be sure to tune in to get your first look at Luc Bourdon (and perhaps Beau Prokopetz as well) in a Screaming Eagles' uniform. Was this guy worth giving up Mark Barberio? We begin the process of finding out tomorrow night.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Eagles come from behind to nudge Titan 5-4 in Saturday night thriller

In what could safely be considered the most exciting game of the season to date from C200, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles used a wild comeback to erase a 4-2 third period deficit and score a 5-4 win over the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to sweep the weekend series in front of approximately 3600 loud and boisterous fans.

In the most dramatic finish yet this season, hats rained from the stands when Cam Fergus's hat trick goal tied the game with exactly 3:00 remaining on the clock, and with just 45 seconds left in regulation, captain James Sheppard came through with an awesome individual effort for the winner to send C200 fans into a state of pandemonium.

Things weren't looking good for Cape Breton in the early going. The Eagles trailed 2-0 after the first period, were being outshot 14-7 by the visitors, and in general didn't quite look like themselves. Credit has to go to the Titan, who were able to put Friday night's whipping behind them and come out very strong in Saturday night's contest despite having only 15 skaters (three Bathurst players were suspended as a result of Friday night's incidents). Bathurst also got a couple of lucky breaks in period one, as their first goal stood despite appearing to have been kicked in, and a Cape Breton goal was waved off due to a quick whistle by referee Thane Arseneault. However, perhaps it was for the better that the Eagles got those two bad breaks in period one. Without them, maybe the game is tied 1-1 after the first period, and maybe the urgency that came with the 2-0 deficit would not have been there to make the changes necessary in their game that saw them play so much better in periods two and three.

Cape Breton came out with much more jump in period two, but still trailed 3-2 at period's end, the third goal against coming as a result of the team getting into some penalty trouble. Fergus had both Eagle goals in the middle frame, his second being a bit of a milestone - his 40th goal of the season. Fergus became just the fourth Eagle to score 40 goals in a season, joining Ryan Walsh, Dominic Noel, and Kevin Asselin. Despite the fact that the Eagles were still trailing, you could feel the tide turning, and many fans were optimistic during the second intermission that the team was going to get it done in period three.

The final stanza got off to a rough start, however, as a James Sheppard hooking penalty saw Titan sniper Thomas Beauregard pot a powerplay goal to restore Bathurst's two goal advantage. The Eagles responded right away, however, as Dean Ouellet's 29th goal of the season kind of came out of nowhere to pull Cape Breton right back to within one, with plenty of time (16:17) left to notch the equalizer.

In the next ten minutes, the Eagles had two powerplays as golden opportunities to tie things up. They had many glorious chances on these powerplays, but just couldn't bury one. On the second powerplay, TWICE the puck squirted out of the zone and gave Beauregard, the league's leading scorer, shorthanded breakaways. Both times, Cape Breton goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (making his first start since returning from the WJC) came up absolutely huge, robbing the 57-goal man. Those saves would turn out to be the difference in the hockey game, as without them, it would almost certainly have been lights out for the Screaming Eagles.

Those clutch stops set the stage for Fergus's game-tying goal, and for Sheppard's dramatic winner, and as I said, C200 was absolutely rocking. It was probably the most jubilant atmosphere seen at the Nest yet this season. A real gutsy, character victory, the kind the Eagles needed to show that they were capable of pulling off after scoring so many relatively easy wins at home this year.

The top line of Ouellet-Fergus-McIlveen had a huge night, as the three members of that trio finished with four points each.

With the win, Cape Breton swept the weekend series against a very good Bathurst Titan hockey club, and improved their overall record to 30-13-2 for 62 points. They now sit six points back of the Lewiston MAINEiacs, with neither team holding any games in hand. The Eagles went into the weekend nine points back of Lewiston, so leaving the weekend six points behind is pretty good.

After the news of the big deadline trades, I am sure that quite a few curious fans checked out an Eagles game for the first time this season, and it's great that the team gave a big reason to come back with this thrilling win. Next up for Cape Breton is a four-game road trip through the Maritimes, which will feature the Eagle debut of the much-hyped Luc Bourdon. The first game of this trip (and the first game for Bourdon) will be on Friday night at PEI, and the game will be televised live on Eastlink; be sure to tune in to catch this guy's first game as a Screaming Eagle!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Eagles use potent PP to whip Titan 7-2 in wild affair from C200!

One of the main complaints from fans this season has been a real lack of rough stuff in games at C200 so far this season. People have been generally very happy with the team's performance, but some felt that there was something missing from most of the games this season.......... the general complaint was that too many games resembled a tea party more than they resembled a hockey game.

Maybe all that had to be done to correct this problem was to bring in the Eagles' long-time blood rivals, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Fans were treated to a wild and wooly affair last night, featuring four fights, and seeing three different Titan players given major penalties and game ejections for things OTHER than fighting. Defenceman Brad Tesink received an aggressor major and game misconduct for jumping Cape Breton's Alex Quesnel in the second period. Defenceman Nicolas Sigouin received a match penalty for attempt to injure after the very bizarre move of kneeing Eagle blueliner Spencer Corcoran during a third period fight. And Titan captain Jordan Clendenning received an aggressor major and game ejection of his own for a brutal sucker punch on young Quesnel, who had a rough go of things last night it seemed!

The game also featured two heavyweight bouts between Cape Breton's Brad Gallant and the Titan's Charles Bergeron.

Add it all up, and the Eagles ended up with 15 powerplays on the night, while Bathurst enjoyed just two. That considered, it should not be surprising that Cape Breton walked away with an easy 7-2 victory over what is usually a very tough team to take the two points from. The Eagles scored five of those seven goals on the powerplay.

Dean Ouellet had two powerplay goals for Cape Breton, while Chris Culligan and Cam Fergus had a pair each as well, including one each on the powerplay. Paul McIlveen scored the other Eagle PP goal. James Sheppard was first star of the night, finishing with four assists to continue to be red hot. Newcomer Jonathan Laberge had a successful debut with the Eagles, recording an assist and going an incredible 16-4 on faceoffs!

Speaking of Sheppard, there was a scary moment early in the third, as Sheppard was nailed seemingly shoulder-first into an open bench door, and looked to be in a lot of pain as he crawled on all fours into the bench. Props to Brad Gallant for coming out and fighting the culprit right away, although I didn't think it was an intentionally dirty hit.

Speaking of players sticking up for teammates, huge credit also has to go to Robert Slaney, who showed exemplary leadership (to quote someone else I was talking to) in immediately dropping the gloves with Clendenning for his sucker punch on Quesnel. In fact, the Eagles as a team did a great job of sticking up for each other last night, proving that there's more to them than just fancy goals and a great powerplay. In a night where the team put on another great offensive show, the most rewarding part may have been to see the boys stand up for each other and show some real heart and gumption.

All in all, a very entertaining night at the rink. The fans were loud, proud, and raucous, and C200 had an atmosphere like it hasn't had all year. With all of the recent excitement and buzz about the team in light of the recent trades, it was a great time for a really entertaining game to occur.

With the win, the Eagles improve to 29-13-2 on the season, including an impressive 18-3 record on home ice. Lewiston lost in overtime to the St. John's Fog Devils last night, so Cape Breton gained a point on them, moving to within eight points of the division leaders while still holding a game in hand.

The two rivals go at it again tonight......... same time, same place. We're entering the stretch drive, people, the time of year where contending teams really start to hit their stride and fine-tune their game for the playoffs, so come one come all out to the rink and catch this very entertaining and high-tempo Eagle hockey club as they surge towards the playoffs!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Newcomer Laberge joins the fold as Eagles host Titan for first of two on Friday night

It should be the first of two dandies tonight at C200, as the Acadie-Bathurst Titan make their first visit of the year to C200 for a two-game weekend mini-series against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

This will be a really good challenge for the Eagles, who have been playing a lot of games against weaker and mid-pack teams over the past month or so. The Titan aren't far behind Cape Breton in the standings, and always seem to match up well against us and give us tough games. The two teams met for two very intense games in Bathurst back in October, with the Titan taking the first game 5-4 in OT and Cape Breton winning the rematch 8-2. Ever since those two games, I have been looking forward to a chance to see this team at C200. Over the years, the rivalry between these two has been great.

Tonight's game is the first chance for fans to see newcomer Jonathan Laberge, acquired from the Saint John Sea Dogs in exchange for prospect Matthew Stoddard. Laberge is a versatile, two-way center who is good on faceoffs and can score a bit, and should start tonight centering the third line, as long as everyone else is healthy. As for the other two newcomers, Beau Prokopetz won't be in the lineup tonight due to a minor "upper body injury", and fans will have to wait to see the much-hyped Luc Bourdon make his Eagles debut, as he is still home in Shippigan, NB, resting after helping Canada win a gold medal at the World Juniors. He joins the team on Monday.

Tonight's game also marks the return of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, whose last game with the team was back on December 1st. Pavelec was also away at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He has been back practicing with the team since Tuesday, so I would guess that he will get the start tonight.

The Bathurst Titan boast a couple of very exciting stars that will be a real treat for fans to watch this weekend, in the unbelievable duo of Thomas Beauregard and Mathieu Perreault. Beauregard leads the league in scoring with 94 points, including an absolutely amazing 55 goals. I'm not sure I can ever remember a player in this league over the past ten years or so having 55 goals at this point of the season. This is a guy who, if he keeps it up at his current pace, could become the first QMJHLer since the 1980s to hit 80 goals in a season. Perreault is no slouch either; he is possibly the smartest player in the league, and is one of the very best playmakers. He sits third in league scoring, and was the leader before going away to the Canadian WJC tryout camp, where he missed a few games and fell back a little bit. These guys are possibly the best one-two punch in the league, and they can defeat teams all by themselves. The Eagles will not be able to completely hold them off of the scoresheet this weekend, but if they can keep them reasonably in check, their chances are pretty good, as the rest of the Titan team is just average.

As well, although he is not a superstar like Perreault or Beauregard, it should also be noted that the Titan recently picked up former Eagle Lucas Labelle, and he should be in the lineup for them tonight.

Cape Breton enters this game with a record of 28-13-2 for 58 points, tied for second overall in the league. They sit nine points back of the league and division-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs, but now hold a game in hand on their American rivals. Lewiston plays tonight in St. John's, NL. The Titan are 25-16-1-2 for 53 points, fourth in the East Division.

One concern for the Eagles could be a shortage in bodies on the blueline. With Mark Barberio gone and with Bourdon and Prokopetz not ready to play yet, the Eagles go into this weekend's games with only five natural defencemen. Whether or not they'll just go with the five defencemen they have or maybe drop Robert Slaney back on the blueline as they've done earlier in the year, I don't know. Hopefully this doesn't pose too huge a problem against the very high-flying Titan.

All in all, with the traditional rivalry and intensity between the Eagles and Bathurst, the debut of Jonathan Laberge, the return of Ondrej Pavelec, and the opportunity to see two of the league's most exciting players in Thomas Beauregard and Mathieu Perreault, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited about tonight's game.

A reminder to fans that tickets to both games this weekend are being offered as a special reduced rate package if they are bought together. Save some money and see a great weekend series between two long-time rivals!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Let's not forget where this team came from

Amongst all the hype and craziness, I'm hoping that fans don't forget where this team came from.

This team's roots were grown in the ashes of the 2004 disaster. Remember the 2004-2005 team that so many predicted to finish dead last in the league? Thanks to excellent team chemistry and extremely hard work, that scrappy bunch led by the likes of Adam Pardy, Guillaume Demers, and Neil Smith overcame a 1-7-3 start to give us a great season, finishing 32-27-8-3; a solid above-.500 record despite being in the first year of rebuilding.

There was a very nice bond formed between the team and the regular fans that year, and never have I seen an Eagles team whose hard work was so appreciated by the fans as that year's team. I still remember the team doing a lap of the rink after the final regular season game, raising their sticks to the fans; that doesn't happen every year.

We had a few great rookies that we wisely gave a ton of ice time and used in all situations (PP, PK, final minute while down a goal or up a goal, etc) even though they were only 16 and 17, allowing their development to really accelerate, and allowing these guys to really become "clutch" type hockey players. We know these guys now as impact veterans named James Sheppard, Dean Ouellet, and Chris Culligan. It was clear that the next contending Eagles team would be built around these gems found in the 04 draft.

We now have a very deep and talented veteran roster, a big-name hired gun superstar in Bourdon, and there's a lot of excitement and buzz about the team. It kind of feels like 2004 all over again. There are going to be a lot of casual observers who are going to treat it like 2004 all over again. It shouldn't be, but that's how some people are going to treat it.

I just wanted to talk about the 2004-2005 team to remind everyone where this team really came from. Hard work on the ice, humble beginnings in the wake of a disastrous attempt at a run, team chemistry, and a great core that still remains with the team. Not big stars or bright lights or crazy expectations, which you're going to hear a lot of over the next couple of months.

It might be easy to forget what got the team in the position to make such a run this year in the first place, now that we have such a pile of riches on paper, that's all.

Just wanted to keep things in perspective for when you hear the wild predictions and expectations that are bound to be heard all over the CBRM over the next couple little while.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Blockbuster day for Eagles and their fans; a look at what exactly was done

Today was certainly the most exciting day for the Eagles and their fans in quite some time. Players, fans, family, billets, and staff went into today's trading deadline expecting to see moves made to improve this year's edition of the Screaming Eagles, and boy did they get what they bargained for. Without any further preamble, let's look a little more in-depth at each of the three trades made by GM Pascal Vincent this morning.


Trade #1

To Moncton: Mark Barberio (D, 16 years old), Cape Breton's 1st round pick in 2007.

To Cape Breton: Luc Bourdon (D, 19 years old).

This was obviously the "main event", the big blockbuster that was anticipated for weeks and weeks. It sent shockwaves throughout the local hockey community when it was announced, and it was the talk of many an office in Sydney today.

Luc Bourdon needs little introduction to most of you who are reading this blog, but I'll give one anyway. Luc was the #3 overall pick in the 2003 Q Midget Draft by the Val d'or Foreurs, and was the #10 overall pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He spent two and a half seasons with the Foreurs before going away to the 2005-2006 World Junior Hockey Championship, where he not only helped Team Canada win a gold medal, but also was named to the tournament all-star team. During his time away with Team Canada, he was traded to the Memorial Cup host Moncton Wildcats in a blockbuster deal that sent Brad Marchand (among others) the other way. He was a member of the Wildcats' 2006 President's Cup champion and played for the Cats at the Memorial Cup, although his effectiveness was limited by the fact that he was just coming back from a broken fibula or ankle (I can't quite remember which).

Luc started off this season in the NHL with the Canucks, but after a handful of games was sent back to junior for one final season. He absolutely dominated during his short time in Moncton this year. To illustrate, his +17 was tops on the Wildcats by 10, and was achieved in only 13 games! To me, that is a staggering indication of just how much this guy can dominate at this level. After his brief return to Moncton, Luc was off to the WJC again, and once again helped Canada win a gold medal at the event.

Bourdon is a physical, mean, hard-hitting defenceman who is a very good skater, very mobile, moves the puck well, has a very good shot, and can play both ends of the ice (including powerplay and penalty kill). In short, there isn't much that this guy can't do when he's healthy. He has championship experience (two WJC gold medals and a President's Cup ring), Memorial Cup experience, World Junior experience, and NHL experience. He will be counted upon to use this experience to be a calming leadership force on the Eagle blueline and in the Eagle dressing room. He will be counted upon to be that dominant defenseman that we needed to take the pressure off of JC Sawyer and Oskars Bartulis. In short, Luc Bourdon was possibly THE most coveted player available in the Christmas trading period........... certainly the most coveted defenceman.............. and the Eagles went out and got him. He is almost certainly the most high-profile acquisition the Eagles have ever made.


The Eagles paid a very high price.

Perhaps not as high a price as some of the rumours were suggesting might be required to land Bourdon, but losing Barberio, our first round pick in the 2006 Q midget draft, definitely stings. We have all seen Mark Barberio and we all know how good he is now and that the sky is the limit in terms of how good he may be. He is a real blue-chipper and has the potential to be one of the very best defencemen in the league someday, if not THE best. If the Eagles fail to reach their playoff potential this year, or if Bourdon is a disappointment in any way, it will be very painful for fans to have to watch Barberio develop into likely a superstar in a division rival's colours. However, that is the price that you have to pay if you want to acquire someone of Bourdon's calibre. Obviously, the Eagles decided that such a risky move was worth it. We will know come playoff time whether or not they were right.

Bourdon could be the final piece of the puzzle for Cape Breton this season, or this huge blockbuster deal could end up being something the Eagles regret in the long term. However, right now, there is no denying that the acquisition of Bourdon is just cause for great excitement among Eagles fans and the Cape Breton hockey community in general, and it should create quite a buzz around the team for the remainder of the season. On paper, we now have a defence that may be second to none in the league. Whether or not that translates into having the best defence in the league on the ice remains to be seen.

All we can do is sit back now and watch how everything unfolds. At the very least, the Bourdon acquisition signals that the Eagles are undoubtedly GOING FOR IT this season, and that in itself is very exciting.


Trade #2

To the Saint John Sea Dogs: Matthew Stoddard (winger, 16 years old).

To the Eagles: Jonathan Laberge (center, 19 years old).

In this trade, the Eagles get a versatile centreman who has been playing his trade with the Saint John Sea Dogs for the past year and a half. Laberge has 16 goals and 33 points in 39 games to date for the Sea Dogs this season. He is a hard-working, intense, two-way player who can play both the powerplay and the penalty kill. He is gritty and is tough to play against. He is also good on faceoffs (52.50% to date this season, on 1021 draws, the most on the Sea Dogs).

Laberge will likely start out as an upgrade at the third line centre position, although he is good enough to play on the second line as well in the event of any tinkering with line combinations. With his grit, attention to defense, intensity, and decent scoring ability, he really fits the type of player we were looking for. Most importantly, our team was very much in need of another strong faceoff man. With all of the hype about Bourdon, do not forget about this pretty solid acquisition.

We are giving up Matthew Stoddard, who was our 2nd round pick (35th overall) in the 2006 Q midget draft. As you may recall, we had actually traded up (traded a 3rd and a 4th rounder) to acquire the pick used to select Stoddard, but he had a disappointing training camp and surprisingly did not make this year's team. Matthew is still a very solid Q league prospect, scoring at a clip of almost two points per game with Cole Harbour Major Midget, but it was felt that he was a price we were willing to pay to acquire Laberge. The Eagles have now given up both of their top two picks from the 06 draft (Barberio and Stoddard).

In all, the Eagles add some depth at forward at the sacrifice of a prospect.


Trade #3

To the Drummondville Voltigeurs: Cape Breton's 3rd round pick in the 2007 midget draft.

To the Eagles: Beau Prokopetz (D, 19 years old).

In this trade, the Eagles (1) add further depth to their defensive corps (2) address a need for physicality on the blueline.

Beau Prokopetz is a stay-at-home defenseman who is reliable in his own end and is VERY physical. The league keeps track of hits on their statistics page, and Beau ranks #11 overall in the league with 103 "good hits" (whatever their definition of a "good hit" is!) in 33 games played.

He is not flashy, is not so much a "star player", and will not be counted upon to produce offense or play the powerplay, but he is steady, reliable, can play the PK, and adds a dimension to our defence that perhaps we were a little bit lacking in before; a real punisher along the boards, in open ice (apparently his specialty), and in front of the net. The Eagles lost three very physical defencemen from last season (Vincent Zaore, Charlie Fontaine, David Victor), and while this year's team possesses very good defencemen of all different kinds, they were kind of lacking that one real bruiser. With this trade, Vincent believes that they now have him.

A third round pick is a quality draft pick, but in this blogger's opinion, it will be worth it if Prokopetz delivers as advertised, especially considering that the Eagles do have another third round pick to fall back on (acquired for Vincent Zaore back in June from the Victoriaville Tigres).

It should also be noted that Beau played last season for the Bathurst Titan club that eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs in round two. It will be nice to have him on our side this time around.


All in all, Cape Breton used the final day of the trade period to address depth at forward, and to BIG TIME address depth on defence. No longer do fans have to worry about Sawyer and Bartulis wearing down due to being overworked come playoff time. The team now has many more options for point men on the powerplay (Sawyer, Bourdon, Bartulis, McIlveen, Swit). The team now has four pretty good faceoff men (Fergus, Sheppard, Laberge, JC Gauthier). The team is now extremely deep and talented........... on paper.

The key will be for all of this "awesomeness" on paper to actually translate into a great team on the ice. Fans remember full well in 2004, how a great team on paper totally flopped on the ice come playoff time. The team had no chemistry, and that's the biggest challenge laid out before the players and especially the coaching staff for the rest of this season; to make sure that this new-look edition of the Eagles finds and maintains the right chemistry, and to make sure that nobody gets overconfident, which is easy to do with such a talented lineup.

Whether or not Pascal Vincent, his staff, and his team are up to this challenge over the next number of months, once again, only time will tell.

But for now, even if fans are (rightfully) wary about losing a player of Barberio's calibre, it is pretty much impossible for fans not to be excited about the rest of this season.

The floor is open, as always, to thoughts and opinions.


Two more official trades to announce:

The Eagles acquire 19 year old forward JONATHAN LABERGE from the Saint John Sea Dogs in exchange for 16-year-old prospect MATTHEW STODDARD.

The Eagles acquire 19 year old defenceman BEAU PROKOPETZ from Drummondville in exchange for their 3rd round pick in the 2007 draft.

ANALYSIS OF ALL TRADES TO COME LATER ON THIS EVENING. This blogger is presently at work!


According to RDS.ca:


The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have acquired 19-year-old defenceman Luc Bourdon from the Moncton Wildcats in exchange for 16-year-old defenceman Mark Barberio and their 2007 1st round pick.



As someone said to me earlier, today might be the most anticipated day in Eagles' hockey in a long time. Fans, players, and management alike are all quite eager to find out what exactly the final edition of our hockey club is going to look like, and I'm sure most have now grown tired of rumours and speculation and are interested only in learning the facts. We have to wait just a few more hours. Will that big trade with Moncton go down, in any form? Will we make a trade nobody saw coming? Will there be no trades at all? STAY TUNED.


In their last game before the trade period, Saturday night at the Moncton Coliseum, the Screaming Eagles rebounded from their loss in Halifax with a gutsy 6-5 overtime win over the Moncton Wildcats. This was a back-and-forth game in which the lead changed hands a number of times, and things weren't looking good for Cape Breton when they trailed 5-4 late in the third period, but former Wildcat Oskars Bartluis managed to burn his former team with both the tying goal and the game winner in overtime to give the Eagles a much-needed victory after their upsetting loss the night before. Bartulis's overtime winner was a bit of a lucky one. His shot looked to be going over the net, but Moncton defenceman Nick Emanuele stuck a hand out to try and glove it down and ended up gloving it into his own net.

James Sheppard continued to be absolutely scorching hot for the Eagles, as he notched a hat trick in this game, his third hat trick of the season. He now has an absolutely unbelievable 11 goals in his last five hockey games. As well, a lot of credit has to go to Scott Brannon and Chris Culligan. Despite most likely playing with trade rumours on their minds (both have been frequent subjects of rumours), Brannon ended up notching three assists, and Culligan scored a goal and helped out on another. Dave Davenport earned the win in goal, improving his record to 8-2 in his role as #1 in the absence of Ondrej Pavelec.

The Eagles go into the trade period with a record of 28-13-2 for 58 points, tied for 2nd overall in the division and in the league, but seven points behind the league-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs. The Eagles sit at 1st overall in goals scored, and 2nd overall in Goals Against Average. Their powerplay ranks 2nd in the league, while their penalty kill is tied for 4th. All of these figures suggest a team that is contending for a league title, and today we will find out just how much (or how little) the Eagles improve their chances, and just how much the team gives up (or doesn't) to get a deal done.

As already said, today is one of the biggest days in years for the Eagles and their fans. In the event of any Eagle trades today, they will be announced on here immediately after they become official.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Eagles blow 3-0 lead in discouraging 6-4 loss to Mooseheads

Last night at the Halifax Metro Centre was one to forget for our Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

The team built up a commanding 3-0 lead after 6:47 of play on goals by Paul McIlveen, James Sheppard (on a ridiculous individual effort), and Nick MacNeil (as he continues his march towards a 20 goal rookie year).

After that, however, the Eagles seemed to let up and fall asleep a bit, and matters weren't helped by some serious penalty troubles the team got itself into. By the end of the second period, Halifax had clawed its way back into the game and tied it 3-3, and they had Cape Breton on their heels.

Sheppard scored his second of the game on the powerplay early in the third period (giving him nine goals in his last five games, making him easily the hottest Eagle right now) to regain the lead for Cape Breton, but the wheels completely fell off in the final ten minutes. Goals by Andrew Bodnarchuk and Ryan Hillier on harmless-looking point shots that either went through crowds or were deflected put the Mooseheads ahead for the first time, and for good. An empty netter in the final seconds sealed the deal, and the comeback was complete in front of a raucous crowd of over 9400 Halifax Metro Centre fans.

The turning point in this game seemed to be a series of fights, mostly instigated by Cape Breton, shortly after the Eagles had built up their 3-0 lead. These fights were damaging to the Eagles for two reasons. #1, the fights sparked the Mooseheads and gave them some energy, after they had looked VERY lifeless in falling behind 3-0 in the first seven minutes of the game. #2, and perhaps more importantly, the Eagles lost two forwards (Scott Brannon and Brendon MacDonald) to game misconducts as a result of these fights. The consequence of this was that the team's forward lines were quite messed up for the rest of the game, as head coach Pascal Vincent never did seem to find the proper combinations to make up for the losses of those two players. The rest of the game, the forward lines the Eagles were throwing out there clearly lacked chemistry, and that lack of chemistry more than made up for the difference in raw talent between the Eagles and the Mooseheads.

In essence, those fights (perhaps unnecessary when the team was up 3-0) seemed to turn the game around for the Mooseheads last night.

Why were the Eagle players so eager to engage in these fights? The team has hardly fought all season. Perhaps it was a reaction to the previous game, when coach Vincent publicly punished defenceman Jason Swit for failing to fight Halifax's PJ Corsi after he had hit Brendon MacDonald from behind. It is quite possible that the players that fought for the Eagles last night overreacted to the message being sent, and fought when it was probably not a good idea to fight.

Fighting-related theories aside, the fact remains that the Mooseheads were simply the better team in the second and third periods, and that alone made the Screaming Eagles deserving of the loss last night. Late first period penalty problems (again resulting in part from a fight) did not help Cape Breton's cause either, as going on the penalty kill for so long killed the momentum the team had built up in mounting a 3-0 lead.

All in all, it is quite discouraging to once again manage to lose to a Halifax team much lower than us in the standings after defeating them so easily in the previous matchup of the home-and-home set. Sadly, this has been a trend all year in two-game sets between the two teams. Cape Breton wins one game easily, and then somehow manages to lose the other. It happened again this time around.

The most important thing now is how the team reacts to last night's loss, possibly the most frustrating and demoralizing to date this season. Cape Breton has to remember everything it has done right lately in going 10-1-1 in the twelve games prior to last night's result. Hard as it may be to forget a game like last night's, they simply have to put it behind themselves and move forward, as an important matchup with the Moncton Wildcats looms tonight. This matchup is made so important by the fact that the Wildcats actually passed Cape Breton in the East Division standings last night, by virtue of their 4-3 win over the St. John's Fog Devils.

Moncton is a team with average talent that is very scrappy, has great team chemistry, and is extremely well-coached. Cape Breton has defeated the Wildcats in both matchups so far this season, but neither of them was in the confines of the Moncton Coliseum, where the Cats have been so difficult to beat for the past three or four years.

Almost every team has a few demoralizing losses during the season. But the best teams find a way to bounce back. Let's see what our Eagles' team is made of tonight. Let's see how the players and coaching staff bounce back in the face of a stiff challenge from the Wildcats. It's about turning a negative into a positive. Last night's game was a negative, but embracing the challenge of showing a lot of character and rebounding could be a very rewarding positive.

That's all I'll say going into tonight's game.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Eagles @ Moose on Eastlink TV tonight

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, 10-1-1 in their last 12 hockey games, take to the ice in Halifax tonight in their first of two weekend road games (the Eagles play in Moncton tomorrow night against the Wildcats). The game also serves as the back end of a post-holiday home-and-home stand with the Mooseheads, with the Eagles having won the first matchup 7-2 at C200 on Wednesday night. Cape Breton enters this game with a record of 27-12-2 for 56 points, good for second place overall and second in the East Division. The club continues to trail the league-leading Lewiston MAINEiacs by five points. Lewiston is at home to the Rimouski Oceanic tonight.

Tonight should be a closer game than the last meeting between the two teams, as the Mooseheads will certainly want to come out strong in front of their home fans after being dominated so thoroughly on C200 ice on Wednesday night. Having said that, this is still a team that the Eagles should beat. Each of the three two-game sets between the two teams this season has resulted in a split, and given where the two teams are in the standings and in the building cycle, it's high time that the Eagles take both games of a two-game set from the Mooseheads.

Lineups should be pretty much the same as they were on Wednesday night, including starting goaltenders David Davenport and Roger Kennedy. The only major lineup difference on either team is that Halifax will see the debut of newly-acquired overager Jean-Sebastien Cote, picked up yesterday in a trade with the Chicoutimi Sagueneends. Cote is an energetic two-way player and effective third liner, and should add some spark to the Mooseheads' lineup. He centered the third line on the 2005 President's Cup champion and Memorial Cup finalist Rimouski Oceanic.

The most important thing to note about tonight's game is that it is being broadcast live on Eastlink Television. This is a rare opportunity for fans to watch the Eagles play on the road from the comfort of their homes. Eastlink does an excellent job of broadcasting QMJHL hockey games, so be sure to tune in, you will enjoy it!

Once again, the main thing for the Eagles tonight is to avoid getting too overconfident after the easy win on Wednesday night, and to be ready to match the intensity that Halifax is likely to come out with after getting embarassed so badly.


It has been announced by the team that defenceman Charlie Pens will be out four to six weeks at the very least with that concussion sustained on Dec. 28 against the Saint John Sea Dogs. It is very much up in the air as to whether or not Pens will return to hockey at all this season. We wish him the best of luck in his recovery.

As well, it should be noted that rookies Stephen Ceccanese and Mickey MacDonald have sat out three consecutive hockey games apiece as healthy scratches, an interesting fact considering that the trading and roster deadlines are fast approaching.


Three more times this season, the Eagles will play back-to-back home games against the same team (Jan 12/13 against the Bathurst Titan, Jan 26/27 against the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Feb 15/16 against the Saint John Sea Dogs). For each of these two-game sets, the Eagles plan to offer fans a special discount ticket package. You will be able to buy both games as a package, receiving a discount of $2.25 on each ticket, or $4.50 in total. This will especially come in handy when Bathurst and Lewiston come to town, as these games will be key divisional matchups for the Screaming Eagles.

That's all for now. Of course, the trade rumour mill is swirling faster and faster with each day, and we will know in just a few short days what exactly the final edition of the 2006-2007 Eagles will look like. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Electrifying first period sends Eagles to another victory

It was all about the first period last night at C200, as the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles took a 5-0 lead after the opening frame en route to an easy 7-2 win over their divisional counterparts, the Halifax Mooseheads. The opening stanza featured some of the most dominant play fans have seen from the Eagles all season, which is saying something given the team's 17-3 record on home ice. Included among these first period thrills were two of the prettiest goals of the season at C200 thus far; we'll get to those in a bit.

Etienne Breton opened the scoring when he took advantage of a key faceoff win by JC Gauthier and stepped into one from the point. His laserbeam shot picked the top left-hand corner for the Eagles' first goal of 2007. It's kind of interesting that, on a team with snipers like Cam Fergus and Paul McIlveen, the team's first goal of the season was scored by Charlie Pens and their first goal of 2007 was scored by Etienne Breton; two of the most unlikely of sources possible!

Cape Breton went ahead 2-0 a very short time later when, on a delayed penalty, the puck came back to JC Sawyer at the point, and his wrister from the point found its way through a screen, through Mooseheads goaltender Roger Kennedy, and in.

Soon afterwards, the Screaming Eagles found themselves on the penalty kill, and after goaltender David Davenport came up with a couple of big saves, we got to see one of the best individual efforts of the season from captain James Sheppard. Sheppard stole the puck around the Halifax blueline and walked in shorthanded against two or three Mooseheads. Two defenders were draped all over him, but he still couldn't be stopped. He took a slash and a high stick, and still didn't break stride. With a pair of Mooseheads almost quite literally hanging off of his back, Sheppard drove to the net and deked Kennedy silly for a shorthanded goal and a 3-0 lead. We have seen a lot of highlights at C200 so far this season, but in my humble opinion, this was the best individual effort we have seen all year. It's only too bad that TSN wasn't in attendance to put this one on its highlight reels!

With fans still in awe of Sheppard's incredible goal, Paul McIlveen scored one almost as pretty to make it 4-0 Cape Breton. After taking a long drop pass from Cam Fergus, McIlveen dipped and dove through the offensive zone, in and around defenders like a waterbug, before firing a laser right along the ice, off the post blocker side, and in. If Sheppard's goal was the best we've seen all year, this one was at least top ten in its own right!

After this goal, Halifax shook things up by replacing Kennedy with rookie Mark Yetman, who was making his first appearance in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Eagles tested him early and often, and finally were able to make it 5-0, as some sustained pressure by the third line resulted in Robert Slaney scoring in a scramble. Cape Breton could have even led by more after the first period, as Dean Ouellet had a couple of near-misses on a late powerplay when parked in front of the net deflecting pucks.

The first period also featured a fight between the Eagles' Spencer Corcoran and Halifax's Bryce Swan. Corcoran went after Swan for a questionable hit on Eagle rookie Nick MacNeil.

Period two was rather uneventful, which is often the case after one team takes a 5-0 lead after the first, although it did see the teams trade goals. Cam Fergus snapped one home from the slot, like he's been doing all year, to make it 6-0, before Halifax newcomer Peter-James Corsi slid one home in a scramble to get the Mooseheads on the board. 6-1 Cape Breton after two.

In period three, Halifax made it 6-2 when Bryce Swan scored off of a Ryan Hillier pass on a two-on-one that was created when JC Sawyer was thought to have been interfered with at the offensive blueline, much to the ire of Screaming Eagles' coach Pascal Vincent. Cape Breton had one more thrill for the fans up their sleeves before they headed for the exits, as Brad Gallant would be awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a partial breakaway. With an opportunity to show how soft his hands are when they aren't a fist, Gallant did just that, scoring on a sensational deke to give the fans one last thing to cheer about before heading home with the two points. The crowd (and bench!) reaction for this goal was great, with much of the building hitting their feet in celebration, a somewhat rare occurrence at C200. Everyone appreciated the chance to see Brad Gallant look like Cam Fergus or Paul McIlveen if only for a moment! Who knows, maybe we have a secret weapon on our hands for the shootout. :P

Although the game was kind of over in the first period, it was still a fun night at the rink and a pretty good-sized crowd went home happy with a convincing victory over their historic rivals. For the third straight game, the Eagles put forth a complete, dominating effort. It was also nice to see the third and fourth lines get a lot of ice time and powerplay after the team went up 5-0, and young guys like JC Gauthier and Alex Quesnel looked great with this opportunity to play.

With the win, the Eagles improve to 27-12-2, including a mark of 10-1-1 in their last 12 hockey games. Their 56 points remain second overall in the league and in the East Division, five points behind the first place Lewiston MAINEiacs.

The Eagles next take to the ice in Halifax to complete this home-and-home stand on Friday night at 7:00 PM from the Halifax Metro Centre. This game will be televised live on Eastlink Television, so be sure to take advantage of a rare opportunity to see the Eagles play on the road.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Eagles host Mooseheads tonight in first game of 2007

After a brief and well-deserved New Year's break, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are back in action tonight at C200 against their historical rival, the Halifax Mooseheads. Cape Breton enters the game with a record of 9-1-1 in their last eleven games, as well a 26-12-2 record overall, and looks to remain hot tonight in their first game of the year 2007.

The Eagles should enter tonight's game with pretty much the same lineup that earned them a 5-2 win over the PEI Rocket in their final game of 2006, with the only real question mark being whether or not third line right winger Brad Gallant will be back after sitting out the last game with some damage to his hand. Defenceman Charlie Pens remains out indefinitely with what looks to have been a concussion after being nailed by Brad's brother Brett Gallant of the Saint John Sea Dogs back on December 28. David Davenport should once again start in goal.

From the other side of the ice, the Halifax Mooseheads are a different squad than the one the Eagles faced six times in the first half, splitting the games 3-3. Halifax has made a number of trades over the past couple of weeks. To summarize...........

Out: Forwards Justin Saulnier and Kirk Forrest, defencemen Luciano Lommano and Philippe Poirier, and goaltender Jeremy Duchesne.

In: Forward Peter-James Corsi, defencemen Stephen Lund and Guillaume Monast, goaltender Mark Yetman.

The most significant of those roster moves is the departure of star goaltender Duchesne to the Val d'or Foreurs. This leaves career backup Roger Kennedy as the new #1 in Moose Country, and I expect him to start tonight. Lund and Monast add depth to the Moosehead defensive corps, which was that team's glaring weakness in the first half of the season. Corsi is a talented player who wasn't fitting in in Val d'or and so far seems to have been rejeuvenated a bit in Halifax.

Cape Breton will counter with the same effective units they have been using of late. A powerful scoring line of Ouellet-Fergus-McIlveen, a versatile two-way line of Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon, a gritty shutdown line of B MacDonald-Slaney-Gallant (or Quesnel if Gallant is unable to play), and a young energy unit composed of JC Gauthier, Nick MacNeil, and either Quesnel or a player like Mickey MacDonald/Stephen Ceccanese as a fourth line. Defensive pairings last game were JC Sawyer-Mark Barberio, Oskars Bartulis-Jason Swit, and Spencer Corcoran-Etienne Breton, with Daniel Fazzalari as the seventh D; they should be fairly similar tonight.

This lineup has been fairly constant all year, but with this being the last home game before the end of the Christmas trading period, tonight could be the last night that C200 fans see this lineup as is; the next time that the Eagles take to home ice, there could be a new face or two in the lineup, and there could be a player or two gone elsewhere.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, it is somewhat disappointing that the Eagles have only managed a split of the six games against the relatively weak Mooseheads so far this season. Therefore, a top performance is expected tonight from the Eagles. With the opposition tonight being a historic rival, and with some people still not having yet finished their holiday break, we could anticipate a decent crowd at the rink tonight, although certainly nothing like the packed house that watched last week's win over the Sea Dogs. To be quite blunt, most games between these two teams this year have been disappointingly dull affairs, with very little hatred or animosity of any kind. One staggering statistic is that there has been just one fight in the six meetings thus far. I for one really challenge the two teams to change all of this in tonight's game.


In other news, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and his Czech teammates were eliminated in the quarterfinals yesterday at the World Junior Championships, due to a 4-1 loss at the hands of Team Sweden. The loss ends what was somewhat of a disappointing tournament for Pavelec, and as Eagle fans, we have to hope that this does not damage too badly the confidence of our #1 goaltender. We all remember 2004, when goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury never really recovered from a World Junior disappointment, and come playoff time, was a shell of his true self. Let us hope that history does not repeat itself with Ondrej Pavelec. He needs to have a great second half here in Cape Breton and really get into a long-term groove for the first time this season. I am not totally sure at the moment when he will be back with the hockey club but it will certainly be posted in this blog the second that information is known.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

A minor news item

A small news item relating to the Eagles today:

Free agent defenceman Collin Carwardine, who was brought in from Ontario on a practice tryout basis, has decided to return home after not having yet been offered a spot on the Screaming Eagles. This puts an end to speculation that this player was going to fill the void on the Eagle blueline that could occur should Charlie Pens be out for an extended period of time.

In other news, the Eagles host the Halifax Mooseheads tomorrow night in the seventh matchup of the season between the two teams. The season series is tied at 3-3, which is a mildly disappointing result for Cape Breton so far considering where these two teams are in the standings. For that reason, nothing short of a win should be expected for tomorrow night.

There are only six days remaining in the midseason trade period, and the Eagles have yet to make any moves of major significance. Speculation should be very high over these last six days, as fans expect to see one or two new impact additions, guys who are not only good players but also good fits, into Screaming Eagle uniforms.

Up next will be a preview of tomorrow night's game against the Mooseheads.