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!