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.