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.

No comments: