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!