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.