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!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Eagles close out season on a pretty good note

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles entered today's regular season finale against the Halifax Mooseheads having lost their previous three games. It would have made for a really sour note on which to enter the playoffs if they lost again today and made it four in a row to close out the season, but thankfully that didn't end up happening, as Cape Breton scored a convincing 5-1 win over the Mooseheads in front of a loud and enthusiastic sold out crowd at C200.

Today's win doesn't totally make up for the three losses that preceded it, but it at least sends Cape Breton and its fans into the playoffs on a positive note and in a generally good mood, and allows the team and its followers to enter the first round with at least a little bit of confidence. On the whole, the Eagles finish the season having gone 7-3 in their final ten games, which isn't too bad.

Dean Ouellet paced the Eagle attack today with a pair of goals, allowing him to finish the season with 40. Dean worked extremely hard all year and showed great patience and hand-eye coordination tipping pucks in in front of that net throughout the season, and a 40-goal year is a great reward for the man that many consider to be among the hardest-working players in the Q. Ouellet's 40 goals this season are a huge improvement from the 17 he scored last season. As well, this is the first Eagle team ever to possess two players with 40 or more goals on the season (Cam Fergus obviously being the other one, having finished the season with 53 tallies).

Also scoring for Cape Breton were Chris Culligan, Scott Brannon, and JC Sawyer. Culligan's goal was his 30th of the season, and it was just as nice to see "Culli" hit 30 as it was to see Dean Ouellet hit 40. Chris scored his 30 goals despite seeing virtually no time on the #1 powerplay unit all season. It should also be noted that he was the team's second-leading scorer at even strength this season. With Culligan hitting 30 goals, the team finishes the season with FIVE guys who scored 30 or more on the season, also a new Eagle high. Previous high was four 30-goal scorers, in 2000-2001.

In other milestones, Ondrej Pavelec played 25 minutes of shutout hockey today to ensure that he will win the Jacques Plante Trophy for the lowest GAA, and Paul McIlveen had two assists to establish a new team record for points in a season by a right winger. Pavelec was pulled after 25 minutes to protect his goals-against average......... whether or not you agree with such a tactic is totally up to the individual I guess! As well, I can't help but point out that McIlveen's second assist was kind of "fabricated" so as to give him the record.......... he was the third-last guy to touch that puck before Sawyer put it in. Not at all taking away from the excellent seasons that either McIlveen or Pavelec had, but I couldn't help but point out the small "asterisks" that maybe should go along with those records. It's my duty as an objective and impartial blog type guy!

One achievement that can't be disputed at all is the Eagles' finishing with the highest goals scored total in the QMJHL this season and thereby securing the Luc Robitaille Trophy. Cape Breton's five goals today put them at 308 for the season, while runner-up Baie-Comeau scored three to finish at 304. This is a great team accomplishment, especially in a league where offense is usually what wins championships. It's also a great offensive turnaround for a team that, despite boasting above-.500 records, had trouble scoring goals in each of its previous two seasons. It is nice that the Eagles were able to get this trophy honestly, unlike last year's Quebec Remparts, who required running up the score 16-3 (yes, you read that correctly!) on the Rimouski Oceanic in their final game of the regular season last year to secure the same award.

JC Sawyer scored three points in today's season finale to finish the year out with 77, the most of any QMJHL blueliner this year. It is the first time the Eagles have ever had a league-leading scorer at any position.

In the plus-minus category, the Screaming Eagles can be proud to finish the season boasting the top three plus-minus men in the entire league. Chris Culligan led the way with a +45 rating this year, while JC Sawyer was second at +40, and James Sheppard third at +39. This is a real testament to what great two-way players these three guys have become, and the fact that the Eagles had the top three +/- guys in the league says something about the way they dominated their opposition over the course of the season.

Cape Breton finishes with a 46-22-2 record, for 94 points, second overall in the league. Their 46 wins and 94 points are the second-highest for the team all-time in each category, behind only 2003-2004's 49 wins and 103 points. As well, this year's +108 goals for/against differential was just shy of 03-04's team record of +109. However, with a good playoff showing, this year's team would easily be considered to be far superior an Eagles team to the 03-04 edition! It was a fun season to watch, especially from home ice where the team boasted a 28-7 record and filled the net like no Eagles team has ever done before.

Anyhow, enough of season-ending stats and stuff. It was important to get one last win so as not to enter the playoffs on a four-game losing streak, and thankfully the Eagles were able to pull it out. The sold-out crowd was also nice to see, although it would be even nicer to see such a crowd show up for, oh you know, a playoff game that actually matters (today's game was meaningless in the standings)!

Stay tuned this week for an analysis of the upcoming Eagles-Fog Devils series, which gets underway Friday and Saturday night from C200. The first season is over, and has to be considered to have been pretty fun and successful, but the second season is now upon us, and it's the second season that is infinitely more important, especially for a franchise starved for playoff success like the Screaming Eagles are.

Is this the year that Cape Breton takes home their first QMJHL title? We start finding out on Friday.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eagles flat in St. Patrick's Day uniforms; drop 2-1 decision to Titan

Apparently the sharp new St. Patrick's Day uniforms weren't enough to fire up the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles last night, as they looked flat and rather emotionless for the most part in a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Bathurst Titan in front of a crowd well over 4000.

The Eagles mustered just 15 shots and very few real scoring chances over the first two periods, as they looked especially flat in period #2. In the third, Cape Breton outshot Bathurst 19-6 in a last ditch effort to tie the contest, and came close when Paul McIlveen was awarded a penalty shot with 1:55 to go, but it was not to be. They really didn't deserve to go to overtime any points last night anyway after the way they played the first two stanzas.

The powerplay was a big reason for the loss last night. It went 0-for-7, including just one shot on goal on the first four powerplay attempts. As well, a six-on-four advantage in the final minute of the game produced few decent scoring chances.

One bright spot in the game is that the Titan dynamic duo of Thomas Beauregard and Mathieu Perreault was held to a combined one assist. A lot of credit for this has to go to the line of Chris Culligan, James Sheppard, and Scott Brannon/Robert Slaney, as that line was matched up against those Titan snipers all game.

Speaking of Culligan, he had the lone Cape Breton goal, and it was a beauty snipe to the top corner glove side on Titan goaltender Brant Miller. Miller stopped everything else that came his way to earn first star honours.

Not much else to say about this one, it was a game to forget from C200. Perhaps the fact that the game was meaningless to the Eagles in the standings had a bit to do with their subpar effort, but you would think that after being thumped 9-5 by their biggest rivals on Tuesday, they would come out fired up in the next game.

Any way you slice it, three losses in a row this close to the playoffs makes fans a bit uneasy.

A better effort to finish off the season in style on Sunday is essential. With the otherwise excellent season the team has had, it would be pretty anticlimactic to finish it off with four straight losses.


With the St. John's Fog Devils' win and the Shawinigan Cataractes' loss last night, it is now official:

The Eagles will be playing the St. John's Fog Devils in the first round of the 2007 QMJHL playoffs.

A preview of the series, and an in-depth look at the Fog Devils, should appear on here sometime this coming week.

The other East Division playoff series were also determined last night.

(1) Lewiston MAINEiacs vs (8) Shawinigan Cataractes

(3) Moncton Wildcats vs (6) Halifax Mooseheads

(4) PEI Rocket vs (5) Acadie-Bathurst Titan

The Telus Division, however, is still one big mumbo-jumbo heading into tomorrow, the final day of the regular season. Anybody could still pretty much play anybody!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fun night at the rink expected this evening as Eagles take on Titan in St. Patrick's Day Game

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles take to the ice for their second-to-last home game of the season tonight, and they're hoping that a bit of the "luck o' the Irish" will be on their side as they take to the ice in special green St. Patrick's Day jerseys to face the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The sweaters, green with black and white trim and adorned with a ring of shamrocks near the bottom, are a very special set created for tonight's game and tonight's game only. The purpose of the jerseys is three-fold:

(1) A celebration of St. Patrick's Day and to create a bit of fun for the fans by playing on the Irish theme.

(2) A tribute to former majority owner Greg Lynch, who passed away in 2004. Mr. Lynch was very proud of the Screaming Eagles and of his Irish roots, so the jerseys (which also include the "PGL" commemmorative patch that the team wore the entire 2004-2005 season in his memory) will pay a nice tribute in this the team's 10th anniversary, to the man who for many years was the real driving force behind the betterment of Screaming Eagles' hockey.

(3) A fundraiser for a great cause.

As said, these uniforms are a one-night deal only, and they will be raffled off to fans following the game. Tickets will be sold (at $5 each I believe) during the game to be entered into a draw for a chance to win one of the 22 jerseys right off of one of the players' backs at game's end. These sweaters are extremely unique and rare, and I'm sure that if a guy like James Sheppard or Ondrej Pavelec ever goes on to a solid NHL career, that his St. Patrick's Day Screaming Eagles jersey would rank as quite the valuable collector's item! All proceeds from the ticket sales will go towards the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Fund.

If nothing else, it should be really different for fans to watch their favourites wearing green as opposed to the usual black and gold. The unique uniforms should make for a bit of an extra fun and lighthearted atmosphere at the rink, and the team could use a night like that with the playoffs right around the corner. To add to this, games against the Titan are always entertaining regardless; year in and year out, games against them rank up there among the most interesting of the season. So don't miss a fun night at the Nest tonight!

As for the importance of the game itself, it honestly has little to no significance to the Eagles in the final standings, but it is important because the team has lost its past two games, and really needs to get back on a winning note heading into the playoffs. Despite the two recent losses, two solid wins in front of good loud crowds in their final two home games should still send the Eagles into the playoffs with some momentum and some positive energy; it would also mean that the team would be entering the playoffs 8-2 in their final ten games, and there's never anything wrong with that.

The team really needs a successful weekend to finish off what has been an excellent season, and it starts with a great effort tonight against the rival Titan.

Be sure to come out and be part of all the St. Patrick's Day fun, and who knows, you could end up taking home a pretty sweet souvenir at game's end!

See you at the rink.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ouch!!! Eagles blown away by rival Mooseheads

It was expected that last night's game against the Halifax Mooseheads at the Halifax Metro Centre would be a tough one, but I don't think anybody saw that kind of a skunking coming.

The Screaming Eagles suffered a thoroughly embarassing 9-5 loss to the younger, less experienced Mooseheads last night, in what was said to be a really entertaining contest played before a packed house in Halifax.

The last time this blogger can recall the Eagles giving up nine goals in a hockey game was back in March 2001, in a 9-3 loss to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Last night's game was therefore the first time in six years that the team gave up that many goals. I guess that statistic is a bit of a double-edged sword; on one hand, it's a testament to the strong team defence the Eagles have played year-in and year-out that they went six years without giving up nine goals in a hockey game. But on the other hand, the fact that the team gave up more goals than they had in any game for the previous six years shows what a truly atrocious defensive performance last night's game was!

One bright spot for the Eagles was the play of Cam Fergus, who scored two goals and an assist, upping him to 53 goals on the season. Dean Ouellet, Chris Culligan, and JC Gauthier also scored for Cape Breton.

For Halifax, Bryce Swan and Peter-James Corsi both scored twice. Swan, a Cape Breton native, always seems to kill the Screaming Eagles when he plays against them, which is obviously frustrating. Justin Pender, Daniel Smith, Ryan Seymour, Garrett Peters, and Ryan Hillier rounded out the balanced Halifax attack.

Incredibly, the Eagles lost the game 9-5 despite outshooting the Mooseheads 43-28 in the contest. How Cape Breton managed to give up 9 goals on 28 shots I truly do not know, but it's safe to say that we are used to seeing better defense and goaltending than that. Starting netminder Ondrej Pavelec was pulled after 4 goals on 14 shots, and obviously had a poor night, but can't be faulted too too much because it's really his first off game in a long time. David Davenport, however, had his second poor outing in a row, which has me wondering if maybe being left on the bench for so long was detrimental to "Double D's" development (please note the alliteration!).

Brendon MacDonald attempted to spark the team by engaging in a great fight with Halifax captain Ryan Seymour, and doing pretty well for himself, but Alex Quesnel's spark and spunk went a little bit too far, as he was ejected early in the game for a check from behind on Moose defender Guillaume Monast. Hopefully he will not end up facing suspension for the unintentional, but unfortunate and reckless, hit.

The Eagles' record on the season against Halifax now drops to 4-5, and their record at the Metro Centre finishes up at an inexplicable and quite frankly unacceptable 1-4. In the team's defense, Halifax is the only club to have a winning record against the Screaming Eagles this season, and is the only team to have defeated Cape Breton more than twice (thanks to Matthew Wuest of the Halifax Daily News for pointing that tidbit out).

It is also especially disappointing that the team would manage to come up with a dud of a game like that after dropping a game to the last place overall Saint John Sea Dogs. You would think that after losing to the Sea Dogs, a team would come out with a huge effort next game, not a shellacking at the hands of their provincial rivals.

Cape Breton now risks entering the playoffs on a sour losing streak, which makes the final two home games of the season this weekend all that much more important. History shows that it is not a very good idea for Eagles teams to enter the playoffs on a losing note. There should be two large, partisan crowds on hand this weekend, and two great efforts would go a long way towards erasing the last two ugly losses.

The nine goals against also really damaged the club's chances of finishing with the league's best defensive record. They entered the game with 188 goals against, three fewer than Lewiston's 191, but now sit at 197 goals against.

Not much else to say about this one; it was a game to forget.

Hopefully the Eagles will find their mojo again starting on Friday night, at home against Bathurst, in those beautiful St. Patrick's Day duds!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eagles finish off road schedule tonight in Halifax against the Mooseheads

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles will play their 35th and final road game of the season tonight, when they pay a visit to the Halifax Metro Centre to take on the Mooseheads. The team heads into tonight's game with an 18-14-2 road record on the season, and will look to finish off the season with a 19th road victory. It is their fifth and final visit to the Metro Centre, where they sport a disappointing 1-3 record thus far on the year.

Tonight's game won't be easy, as the Mooseheads are red hot as of late - winners of five of their past six hockey games. You know as well that they're going to come out extra motivated tonight, as it is their final home game of the regular season, and they are expecting a sold-out crowd to be on hand. Momentum and other such intangibles should be in the Mooseheads' favour tonight, so Cape Breton will really have to dig deep to find a victory, even if they are the more veteran and more talented team.

One thing that is for sure in the Eagles' favour is that Halifax's top defenceman, Andrew Bodnarchuk, is out for 7-10 days with a bruised shoulder. Bodnarchuk has 11 points against the Screaming Eagles this season, more than any other player in the QMJHL. However, Cape Breton will still have to contend with red-hot players such as Jakub Voracek and Logan MacMillan, who stand a good chance at hitting the scoresheet tonight. Alder Point native Bryce Swan also has a history of performing very well against the Screaming Eagles.

From the Cape Breton side of the ice, the Eagles should enter the game icing pretty much a full lineup with the exception of defenceman Etienne Breton. Word has it that Etienne suffered a broken jaw in his Saturday night scrap with Saint John's Brett Gallant. Etienne is a great kid with a ton of guts and it's really too bad to hear that he may have suffered this injury; we wish him a speedy recovery and an eventual return to the lineup. A broken jaw is certainly not a fun injury, but Breton is a tough customer and I'm sure he'll be OK.

Starting goaltenders tonight will be Ondrej Pavelec for Cape Breton and Mark Yetman for the Mooseheads. Halifax's other goaltender, Roger Kennedy, is still out of the lineup after having to undergo and emergency appendectomy, although he has recently resumed practicing with the club. Yetman has been playing quite well as of late between the pipes for the Mooseheads.

Cape Breton will look for continued success from the newly-formed powerplay units of Laberge, Ouellet, and Fergus with Sawyer and Bourdon on the points, and Sheppard, Culligan, and Slaney with McIlveen and Bartulis quarterbacking. The powerplay has gone 4/13 in the two games played since these new combinations were installed.

These final three games of the regular season are now meaningless to the Eagles in terms of where they finish in the standings, so among the main focal points of these games are (1) to gear up for playoffs and give line combinations and powerplay units a workout (2) to try to avoid any devastating injuries that would cause players to miss any playoff time (3) to try and enter the playoffs on a good note and with some momentum, with a couple of late season wins, unlike a couple of other seasons where the team lost their final few regular season games and ended up disappointing in the playoffs. #2 is especially paramount!

Game time is 7:00 PM, and the game is available on internet video webcast for your viewing pleasure. Simply navigate to, and you will see a large link on the right side of the page to the video webcast. Kenny MacNeil gets the pre-game show kicked off on CJCB AM 1270 at 6:30 PM.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Eagles officially to enter playoffs as 2nd seed in East Division

The chase for first place is finally over.

Hopes of catching the Lewiston MAINEiacs have realistically been slim for the past few weeks, but they officially came to an end on Sunday with the combination of the Eagles' 4-3 loss in Saint John and Lewiston's 4-3 home ice win over the PEI Rocket. Congratulations to Lewiston on very well-earned division and regular season titles. Both teams had excellent seasons, with Lewiston perhaps being just that little bit much more consistent. Late season stumbles against lower-echelon teams like Rimouski, Saint John, and St. John's really hurt Cape Breton's chances at finishing first, although that is not at all to say that a 45-20-2 record and second place in the overall standings is by any means anything to be ashamed of! Also, we all know that although the regular season title is something to be proud of, the real prize isn't handed out until sometime in May. That being said, Lewiston was just a little bit better over the course of the 70-game schedule than were the Eagles.......... now let's see how things shake down in the playoffs.


Cape Breton now knows for sure that they will enter the playoffs as the 2nd seed in the East, and has three final regular season games to use as last-minute playoff preparation (fine-tuning of lines and powerplay units, etc). The games may now be meaningless in the standings, but if history is any indication, you really want to do well in your last few games of the season heading into the playoffs. Both the 03-04 and 05-06 Eagles lost their last three regular season games, and neither really lived up to playoff expectations.

The remaining week of the regular season will also determine who the Eagles' first round playoff opponent will be. As the 2nd seed, Cape Breton will face seed #7 for the East Division playoffs, which will either be the St. John's Fog Devils or the Shawinigan Cataractes. The Cape Breton Post ran an article today from a Saint John, NB newspaper that erroneously reported that the Eagles are guaranteed to face St. John's in the first round. This is not true, as this paper seems to have forgotten that Shawinigan (the 9th seed in the West that will cross over into the East playoffs) is just two points back of the Fog Devils, and could overtake them for the 7th seed in the East.

St. John's sits in 7th spot with 58 points, and has two home games remaining, both against the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Shawinigan currently holds the 8th playoff seed in the East with 56 points, and has three games remaining. They include road games against Drummondville and Rimouski, and a home date vs Gatineau.

As you can see, the odds are in favour of our facing the Fog Devils, although fans may perhaps want to see Shawinigan in the first round instead of St. John's simply for the sake of seeing something different. We have already played the Fog Devils eight times this season, and we faced them in the first round last year.

In any event, our first round playoff opponent will be either of those two teams, and the next week will determine which one it will be.


A couple of team records were broken during Saturday night's 8-1 win at Harbour Station over the Sea Dogs.

Congratulations go out to JC Sawyer on setting a new team record for points in a season by a defenceman. His second assist of the night, on a Chris Culligan goal at 0:18 of the third period, gave him his 70th point of the season, surpassing Mathieu Dumas' old record of 69 points, set back in 2001-2002. In a very nice twist, Sawyer was able to accomplish this feat in his hometown in front of friends and family.

Sawyer finished the evening with three assists, and added another assist on Sunday, sitting now at 72 points on the season and adding to that new record. JC's 72 points put him in the league lead in points among defencemen, three ahead of Gatineau's Martin Frechette (69 pts) and four ahead of Victoriaville's Maxime Noreau (68).

The Eagles' first goal of the game on Saturday night, also scored by Chris Culligan, was historic as well. That goal was the club's 287th of the season, breaking the old team record of 286 goals in a season set by the 01-02 squad (not the 03-04 team, as reported in today's CB Post). Cape Breton now sits at 297 goals on the season, and will almost certainly hit the 300-goal plateau for the first time in team history.


As reported in today's CB Post, the Eagles head into the final three games of the season with a chance to finish as both the top offensive and the top defensive team in the league.

Cape Breton currently leads the league in goals scored at 297, but right on their tails are the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (296) and the Gatineau Olympiques (293). All three teams have three games remaining. The team with the most goals for at the end of the regular season is awarded with the Luc Robitaille Trophy. Should the Eagles win this award, it would be their first time in team history.

As well, the Screaming Eagles currently have the fewest goals against in the QMJHL, at 188. The only team threatening Cape Breton in this category is Lewiston, who have 191 goals against. Again, both teams have three games remaining. Cape Breton has once before allowed the fewest goals against, back in the 2003-2004 season.

Finally, as long as he does not falter over these final three games, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is in good position to pick up his second consecutive Jacques Plante Trophy for the lowest GAA among starting netminders in the league. He currently sports a 2.48 GAA, while nearest competitor Jonathan Bernier (2.59 GAA, which probably would have improved had he stayed healthy) has been able to do nothing but watch from the sidelines since a late January injury.


A hat trick is when a player scores three goals in a game.

A natural hat trick is when a player scores three consecutive goals (uninterrupted by either team) in a game.

A perfect hat trick is when the requirements for a natural hat trick are met, except that the three goals are scored in the same period.

James Sheppard pulled off the rare feat of the "perfect hat trick" in Saturday night's win in Saint John, as he scored three consecutive goals in the third period.

What's more, each of his goals came in a different manpower situation. One was even strength, one was on the powerplay, and the third was shorthanded.

Rare stuff indeed, and yet another testament to what kind of a well-rounded player our captain really is!


Tomorrow night's game against the Halifax Mooseheads, the Eagles' final road game of the regular season, could be a tough one. Even though Cape Breton sits much higher in the standings than does Halifax, the Mooseheads are red hot as of late, and are winners of five of their last six hockey games. As well, Halifax owns a 3-1 record against the Eagles from the Halifax Metro Centre this season. Finally, it is the Mooseheads' final home game of the regular season, so you know they're going to have a huge crowd and are going to come out flying. Most teams do not lose their final home game of the season (as Saint John showed us on Sunday), so the Eagles will have to be ready.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Couple of games in Saint John this weekend

After an entire week without any games, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles return to action tonight and tomorrow with back-to-back dates with the Saint John Sea Dogs from Harbour Station in Saint John, NB. The Eagles enter tonight's game (7:00 PM, CJCB AM 1270) sporting a record of 44-19-2 for 90 points, and riding a five-game winning streak, their fourth win streak of such length this season. If history is any indication, the Eagles will have to be on their guard tonight, because each of their three previous five-game win streaks was halted in game #6. Conversely, a win tonight in Saint John would give the Screaming Eagles their longest winning streak of the season.

As far the impact of tonight's game on the final standings is concerned, the Eagles would pretty much have to win in order to keep their very slim hopes of catching the Lewiston MAINEiacs alive. Lewiston won both games they played this week while Cape Breton was idle, meaning they now sit eight points ahead of the Screaming Eagles, with just four games left for Lewiston and five for Cape Breton. Do the math- chances are extremely slim of catching the MAINEiacs now, but if the Eagles are to have any chance at all, they would have to win tonight.

The Sea Dogs are in last place overall in the QMJHL, and are already guaranteed to miss the playoffs. However, that certainly doesn't mean that this weekend's games will be easy. For a reminder of this, look no further than last month, when Saint John visited C200 for a pair of games and gave the Screaming Eagles fits. The Sea Dogs upset the Eagles 2-1 in the first game and almost beat them again the second time around before finally running out of gas in the third period. They seemed to have down pat a really stifling, "dump it out" style of play that badly neutralized the talent on the Cape Breton roster. The Eagles will have to be prepared for a similar Saint John game plan tonight, although it's possible that the Sea Dogs would not play quite as stifling a style in front of their hometown fans. Cape Breton will also have to be ready with answers for goaltender Travis Fullerton, who stood on his head in those two games last month at C200, and who has a history of stealing games from the Screaming Eagles.

Jonathan Laberge should return to the lineup this weekend after sitting out the past few weeks with injury. One would also assume that Paul McIlveen would be in uniform once again after missing the two home games last weekend with the flu. Ondrej Pavelec is your likely starter in goal, as he's been given almost all of the starts down the home stretch to try and really keep him in a groove for the playoffs. However, the team could very well start David Davenport in the rematch tomorrow afternoon.

One final item of interest is that JC Sawyer has a chance this weekend to tie or even break the team record for points in a season by a defenceman (Mathieu Dumas, 69 pts, 01-02), in front of family and friends in his hometown of Saint John. He currently sits at 68 points, one shy of tying the record. It would surely be a special moment for him to be able to establish a new standard in his native city.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Record-setting weekend in Eagle land!!

Talk about doing it in style!!!!!

As if breaking Ryan Walsh's long-standing team record of 47 goals in a season wasn't enough, Cam Fergus made for one of the most memorable nights in Eagles' history by notching a hat trick to become in the same night the first Eagle to ever notch 50 goals in a single season. To pull off both historic feats in the same game, in front of one of the biggest crowds of the season........ it was a script almost Hollywood-worthy!

Fergus entered last night's 5-3 win over the Quebec Remparts knotted with Walsh at 47 goals on the season, having tied the record the night before with a goal in a 4-1 win over Shawinigan. That Eagle standard had stood since March of 1998, back when the movie Titanic was tearing up the box office, the Nagano Winter Olympics had just concluded, and a lot of the younger Eagle fans you see at the rink every game this season weren't even born yet. It finally came crashing down last night.

Early in the game against the Remparts, with the Eagles on a powerplay, Dean Ouellet was banging away at a loose puck at the side of the goal, and it popped back out to Fergus. The 20-year-old sniper was pretty much on the goal line, standing at a very acute angle to the net, but managed to snipe it in off of goaltender Kevin Desfosses' back for his 48th of the season, establishing a new team record. The C200 crowd responded with a huge standing ovation, and that moment guaranteed early on that this would be a memorable night.

But little did Fergus, or fans, know how memorable it would end up being! Later in the period, Cam took advantage of a brutal turnover in the offensive zone by Quebec defender Andrew Andricopolous. He stole the puck, and led the Eagles back up-ice on a three-on-one. Using his two linemates as a decoy, he held onto the puck, almost to the point where it looked like he had held onto it too long and had perhaps run out of room. Finally, #14 snapped one through the five hole; Desfosses got a big piece of it, but the puck rolled through as if it had a mind of its own. Second of the night, 49th of the season, and fans were now sensing that perhaps we would get to see the new standard of 50 set that very night!

In period two, it happened! Quebec's Roman Bashkirov was leading a rush into the Cape Breton zone, but was absolutely HAMMERED by the Eagles' Oskars Bartulis. Bartulis then led a two-on-one the other way, feathered a perfect pass over to a streaking Fergus, and Cam one-timed it home with authority for the hat trick and #50! Fergus received his second standing ovation of the night, and certainly showed that he has a flair for the dramatic, by not only eclipsing Ryan Walsh's record, but shattering it.

All in all, it was one of the more memorable individual performances in Eagles' history, definitely one of the most historically significant, and I'm thinking that fans won't forget last night for a long time.


The much-celebrated Fergus was not the only record-setting Eagle this past weekend. Defenceman Jean-Claude Sawyer's two helpers in Friday night's win over Shawinigan set a new team standard for assists by a defenceman in a season. Mathieu Dumas had established the old record of 52 assists by a defender back in the 2001-2002 season, but JC Sawyer's 53rd assist came when his point shot took a perfect carom off of the end boards and bounced back in front, giving Jean-Christophe Gauthier a wide open net.

Sawyer is also now just one point shy of tying Dumas' record of 69 points in a season by a defenceman, also set in 01-02. It was actually thought at last night's game against the Remparts that he had tied it on Cam Fergus's 50th goal, as he was originally announced as having earned an assist on the play, but upon later review, that helper was awarded instead to James Sheppard.

As well, after last night's game the Screaming Eagles sit at 286 goals scored on the season. That ties the previous team record, set (surprise, surprise) back in the 01-02 campaign. The next Cape Breton goal will establish a new team benchmark for goals in a single season. The Eagles also have an excellent chance of hitting the 300-goal plateau for the first time in team history.

Finally, last night's victory earned the Eagles their 90th standings point of the season, making this the third season that the Eagles have reached 90 or more points. The team record is 103 points, set in the 2003-2004 season.


What else is there to say about both weekend games? Both were excellent team efforts, in all three zones of the ice, and the final shot totals (48-20 against Shawinigan, 45-19 against Quebec) indicate the extents to which the Screaming Eagles dominated the two games. Aside from a bit of a third period let down against the Remparts on Saturday night, the Eagles played fantastic hockey. The team looks like they're back, after that frustrating home stand where they lost two of three games to the expansion teams and couldn't seem to buy a goal.

The Quebec game was a particularly nice success, as it was played before a big crowd of almost 4400, and not only did the Eagles win rather convincingly, but it was an extremely entertaining hockey game to boot. The crowd was really into the game, fans were very very loud, and it was just a fun night to be at the rink........... the kind of night that makes a new fan want to come back.

Two great wins, the team rolled on all cylinders for most of the weekend, and most importantly, the team really seems to be improving a lot over these last ten hockey games of the season, and using them to really get ready for the playoffs. It's starting to remind me of the final stretch of the 01-02 season, where the Eagles went unbeaten in their final 11 games, outshooting and vastly outplaying their opponents in most of them. And as you no doubt recall, that year saw by far the Eagles' most successful playoff run to date. Here's hoping that the team keeps up the great work over these final five games of the season.


The Eagles did all they could in the battle for first place with the Lewiston MAINEiacs by winning their two weekend games. However, the MAINEiacs did not cooperate with us in the LEAST!

Lewiston had just an incredible three-game road trip, stopping in Gatineau/Rouyn-Noranda/Val do'r, and winning all three hockey games. This is widely considered to be the toughest road trip in the QMJHL, and even top teams often come out of it with just one win out of three. Lewiston deserves a gigantic hunk of credit for their gutsy performance in taking all six points, and they really made a statement that they're not likely to let anybody take first place away from them.

It's still possible, of course, for the Eagles to catch the MAINEiacs for first, but it's now pretty unlikely. They're four points back, and Lewiston holds a game in hand, and we're almost out of schedule with which to catch them. That said, as much as it's a nice goal to try and strive for down the stretch, it's far from the end of the world if Lewiston finishes first, as long as Cape Breton is truly properly prepared for the playoffs when they start up, likely on March the 23rd.


I'd like to close by perhaps clarifying a little bit what this blog is supposed to be.

It's not supposed to be a robotic system that simply previews and recaps the games one-by-one. With all due respect, that's what a newspaper is for. This blog is supposed to offer something a little different than the standard goals/assists/shots on goal you can find by simply picking up the sports section in the AM. Sure, there are times when this blog simply recaps a game and leaves it at that, but usually those are cases where there really isn't much else to talk about.

This weekend, I figured that there wasn't really much to talk about from the Shawinigan game, and also realized that the Quebec game had tons of potential for discussion, especially with the possibility that records would fall that night. Therefore, I felt it would be best to wait until the end of the weekend and talk about it all in a bit of a broader context, instead of writing a stale recap of a Shawinigan game that didn't really leave too much to run down.

I'm writing this because a couple of people (or maybe just one person, writing multiple times) seemed a bit annoyed that there weren't game recaps immediately after the games this weekend, and were maybe under the impression that the purpose of this blog was just to recap each game one-by-one, instead of maybe stepping back and looking at the big picture sometimes......... which in my opinion makes for better writing.

So yes, sometimes there will be cases where there isn't a game report right away after a game, because it's felt that it would be better to wait until the material is a little bit meatier to cover. For example, there are two games in Saint John next weekend, and they'll probably just be briefly discussed as one, along with whatever other relevant topics are at hand, at the end of the weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that clears things up a bit.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Sheppard Offensive Player of Month/full lineup expected for weekend games/all-time team voting underway

First of all, a nice win on Monday night at C200 over the PEI Rocket. Good teams find a way to win in the face of adversity, and it was a job well done by the Eagles to find a way to win despite a very low overall team energy level due to that flu bug that was still lingering throughout the team.

The key to this win was the play of Ondrej Pavelec, especially in the second period, heading into which the Eagles were leading by a score of 2-1. The visitors dominated the frame, outshooting their hosts to a staggering tune of 19-2. This may have been Pavelec's single finest period, on home ice at least, of the entire season to date. Of their 19 shots, PEI probably had a good 10-12 real quality scoring chances, and I doubt that there are too many other goaltenders in junior hockey who could have gotten us out of that period alive. Pavelec was just sensational, not seeming to mind the onslaught at all, looking like he was quite enjoying himself more than anything. His best stop was likely on a Brett Morrison-to-Marin Latal one-timer, where Ondrej read the play perfectly, and dove across the crease just in time to get a left pad on Latal's blast.

After the Eagles weathered this second period storm, they came up with a much more controlled third period, and Cam Fergus's beautiful goal to make the score 3-1 was the backbreaker. His 46th of the season was a nifty effort where he made several moves in tight before tucking the puck back out in front and in from behind the goal line; a real goal scorer's goal. Fergus is now just one goal away from tying the team record for goals in a season, so the record could conceivably be matched or broken during this coming weekend's two home games.

The game was a good opportunity to see how the Eagles matched up against the hottest team in the league, and they passed the test, albeit by the skin of their teeth. PEI showed that they will be a formidable playoff foe, and that in the event of a second round series between the two teams, the Eagles had better be ready.


This just in from the Q head office.

The QMJHL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Month for the month of February have been released, and it was a great month for Screaming Eagle players.

James Sheppard has been named QMJHL Offensive Player of the Month for February. He scored 23 points in the ten games he played during the month.

Ondrej Pavelec and JC Sawyer were both runners-up for the Defensive Player of the Month award for February. They were both slightly nudged out by Val d'or's superstar defenceman Kristopher Letang.

To have three players in the running for Player of the Month awards at this time of year, the stretch drive, speaks well for the impact players this year's edition of the Eagles possesses.


This upcoming weekend is one for fans to look forward to, as two rare Quebec-based teams will visit C200, a nice break from the same old East Division foes. The Shawinigan Cataractes visit on Friday night, and Patrick Roy and his Quebec Remparts are in town on Saturday. Both teams are making their first visits to C200 since November 2005, a good sixteen months ago.

The Shawinigan game is interesting because there is an outside chance that the Cataractes could be the Eagles' first round playoff opponent. The Quebec game is a draw in and of itself, as the Remparts are one of the more entertaining teams in the league, and their coach Roy always draws a crowd thanks to his celebrity alone. There should be a very good crowd on hand at C200 for the Quebec game. It will be nice to see the more wide-open style that the Quebec-based teams generally tend to bring (well maybe not so much Shawinigan, but most likely the Remparts will); many fans agree that a large proportion of the most entertaining games at C200 to date this season have been against the Quebec teams.

As well, as mentioned earlier, team history could be made this weekend, as Cam Fergus is just one goal away from tying, and two away from breaking, Ryan Walsh's record for goals in a season.

The really good news for the Eagles' faithful this weekend, and yet another reason for fans to want to come out to the rink, is that the club expects that they could very well ice a full lineup for the first time in who knows how long. It's being speculated that Oskars Bartulis and Jonathan Laberge could be good to go for the weekend's games, after sitting out the last few each with injuries. It is also hoped that the few days of rest the team is enjoying will be enough to kill that flu bug that has crippled our squad over the past while. The Eagles have been playing for at least the last month with at least one or two key players out of the lineup, so it would be nice to see the team play at full strength for once. The team definitely needs to play a few games with the full squad before heading into the playoffs.


Finally, do not forget to cut out the ballot in Wednesday's edition of the Cape Breton Post, and cast your votes for the 10th anniversary all-time Cape Breton Screaming Eagles team! Fans are asked to choose two goalies, four defencemen, six forwards, and two tough guys to help make up a first and second all-time Screaming Eagles team for the past ten seasons.

Ballots can be brought to C200 over the two upcoming weekend games, and dropped off in ballot boxes located inside the arena. Have fun voting, and don't forget to use your write-in option if you feel that a deserving player has been left off of the ballot!