It was stated in a recent blog that after a disappointing home stand which saw the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles drop two of three games, what the team could really use was a stiff challenge to right the ship.
They certainly got that on their road trip to Newfoundland this week, in the form of a flu bug that nailed a large chunk of the team.
Captain James Sheppard didn't make the trip due to the flu, and rookies Etienne Breton and JC Gauthier were affected badly enough by their illness that they couldn't suit up for the second game on Friday. Chris Culligan, Brendon MacDonald, Paul McIlveen, and Ondrej Pavelec are among the players said to also be suffering from the effects, but suited up and played through it anyway. To top it off, assistant coaches Mario Durocher and Blair Joseph were also hit so hard by the bug that they stayed in their hotel rooms during Friday night's game.
Add this flu issue to the injuries already trimming down the Eagles' roster (Oskars Bartulis, Jonathan Laberge, and Scott Brannon all missed both games due to injury), and Cape Breton barely had enough healthy bodies to ice a team on Friday night. That, however, did not stop the determined Eagles from taking both games from their Newfoundland rivals, the St. John's Fog Devils. The Eagles held on for a 2-1 win on Thursday night, with rookies Nick MacNeil and Alex Quesnel providing the offence, and scored a 4-1 win on Friday night, with Paul McIlveen leading the way with two goals and an assist despite being under the weather. Cam Fergus also scored in this game, his first goal since returning from a back injury that had kept him out of seven hockey games.
Team defense was great, limiting the Fog Devils to very few scoring chances over the two games. As St. John's-based reporter Robin Short reported in the local newspaper, Ondrej Pavelec "hardly broke a sweat."
With the win, Cape Breton takes seven out of a possible eight points from Mile One Stadium on the season, a huge improvement from the mere one point they picked up in the Fog Devils' barn last year. The Eagles also win the season series 5-3 against the pesky Fog Devils. Their record improves to 41-19-2 overall, and they have won five in a row on the road, a real nice statement by a team whose play away from home had been questioned earlier in the season.
Some more good news last night was that Lewiston lost 8-3 to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, so the Eagles' win brings them to within just two points of the MAINEiacs once again. Lewiston, however, holds two games in hand.
The Eagles are currently stuck in St. John's due to the massive snowfall that area has received of late, and aren't scheduled to get home until later tonight. They'll then have tonight and tomorrow to rest up for their next home game, Monday night against the PEI Rocket. Hopefully that will be enough time for at least some players' flu symptoms to improve, and most importantly, let's hope that the bug doesn't spread any further throughout the team.
Real gutsy win, and the team can for sure head home with their heads held high.