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!