|With 17 goals, Cape Breton forward Dean Ouellet is one of the reasons why the
Screaming Eagles have netted 102 goals
in just 26 games to lead the QMJHL.
If one sign of a championship team is winning games you shouldn’t – road games, the second night of a back-to-back set, come-from-behind victories, the ones when the breaks don’t go your way – then the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles just might be sitting pretty come playoff time.
Despite sitting atop the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings and the MOSAIK Mastercard Top 10 Rankings, the Canadian Hockey League’s weekly poll of all CHL-member teams, the Screaming Eagles aren’t making their success easy on their coaches or their fans – or themselves, for that matter.
Half of the Screaming Eagles’ 26 games so far have been one-goal affairs. But they've been a dangerous team to play in those close games, boasting an 8-2-2-1 record for 19 of a possible 26 points. That’s a .730 winning percentage, which is much higher than their season winning percentage to date, .654.
Five of their last eight games have gone to overtime and four of those have required a shootout. Still, the Screaming Eagles are chugging along, with a 4-1-1-2 record over that stretch, to the tune of a .686 winning percentage, which also is a shade higher than their season winning percentage.
With only a plus-20 goals for/goals against differential in 26 games, the Screaming Eagles aren’t leaving themselves much margin for error. But they’ve been finding ways to win.
Led by a high-octane attack that boasts two of the league’s top seven scorers – Dean Ouellet with 17 goals and 35 points in 26 games and Jonathan Laberge with 12 goals and 32 points in 26 games – the Screaming Eagles have scored a league-best 102 goals in 26 games. But they also have allowed 82 against, the seventh-worst total in the league.
But the goaltending corps of Marek Benda, Olivier Bellavance-Roy, and Paul Dorsey have performed well – even admirably well, at times – especially considering that there isn’t a veteran among them. Each of the three is in his first full season in the QMJHL
Bellavance-Roy in particular has shined in his rookie season. He already boasts the fourth-longest shutout streak in QMJHL history. Earlier this season he went 167:51 without allowing a goal, shutting out the Moncton Wildcats on Oct. 2 and the Acadie-Bathurst Titans Oct. 5 before surrendering a goal to the Titans the following night.
For the season, Bellavance-Roy sits at 12-5 in 19 starts, with a 2.52 GAA (third-best in the league) and a .904 save percentage (ninth-best).
What is most surprising about the success of the Screaming Eagles is that they have accomplished all of this with an incredibly young team. Thirteen of their 24 skaters are rookies (including all three goaltenders). To make matters even more difficult, their leader and arguably their best player, James Sheppard, a first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2006, has begun the year skating with the NHL club. You can bet the Eagles would like to have Sheppard’s 33 goals and 96 points back in their lineup, but they’re finding ways to get it done without him.
With some built-in excuses, it would be easy for the team to accept a little mediocrity. But these Eagles aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. And they just might be getting stronger with every close game they play.
With 17 of their first 26 games already in the win column, they’ve learned more about close games in a third of a season than most teams do in two or three years. And that only can help come playoff time.
Around the QMJHL --Halifax Mooseheads forward Peter-James Corsi was awarded the TELUS Offensive Player of the Week for the period extending Nov. 5 to 11. In four games, Corsi scored nine goals, including three game-winners, and added an assist. The Mooseheads, who won all four games, now sit second in the league standings with 34 points in 22 games, and boast a league-best .682 winning percentage. … St. John’s Fog Devils defenseman T.J. Brennan was awarded the TELUS Defensive Player of the Week for the same period after collecting a goal and four assists in two games while maintaining a plus-2 rating. … For the first time this season, Gatineau Olympiques forward Claude Giroux sits atop the QMJHL scoring race. A 2006 first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Giroux had five goals and eight points the past week to increase his totals to 18 goals and 39 points in only 21 games. His Olympiques currently sit third in the league with 33 points in 26 games, five behind the league-leading Screaming Eagles. … Team QMJHL will play the first two games of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge on Nov. 19 in Chicoutimi and Nov. 20 in Gatineau. … The CHL has announced the NAPA Draft Prospects of the Month for October 2007. Each month the CHL and NAPA Auto Parts will recognize the top draft-eligible players in each of the three leagues. For the QMJHL, the award went to Tomas Knotek of the Halifax Mooseheads, who scored five goals and 14 points in 10 games. Knotek, a native of Kladno, Czech Republic, is the QMJHL’s leading rookie scorer so far in 2007-08, with 17 points in his first 18 games.
Ontario Hockey League
It’s said that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. That’s a phrase Brampton Battalion defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti likely is very familiar with.
With an astounding 10 points, including six goals, in only thee games last week, Sanguinetti, the New York Rangers’ 2006 first-round draft pick, was named the Boston Pizza Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday, Nov. 11.
Sanguinetti’s remarkable point total was highlighted with a record-setting four-goal, five-point outing Nov. 11 in a 7-1 win over the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. It was the first time in Battalion history that a defenseman scored four times in one game.
The Battalion won two of three games over the week. They defeated Owen Sound, 7-2, on Thursday; dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Sudbury Saturday; and rebounded to defeat Mississauga, 7-1, on Sunday afternoon.
Sanguinetti leads all OHL defensemen in scoring with 15 goals and 34 points in 20 games. He is tied for seventh in the league in goals and sixth in points while he and his Battalion teammates sit atop the Central Division with an 11-6-1-2 record through 20 games.
Around the OHL -- Sanguinetti was not the only OHL skater to reach the four-goal mark, as Detroit Red Wings prospect Cory Emmerton scored four goals on Nov. 7 in a 7-2 defeat of the Belleville Bulls. Emmerton, captain of the Kingston Frontenacs, has 11 goals and 13 assists in 19 games, and rides a six-game point streak with six goals and seven assists over that stretch. … Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Steve Mason, goaltender for the London Knights, continued his dominant 2007-08 with three straight wins over the past week. Mason now boasts an incredible 12-2 record, with the OHL’s fifth-best save percentage (.926) and the fourth-best goals-against average (2.49). In addition, Mason’s fine play has pushed the Knights to an 8-2 record in their past 10 games, almost keeping pace with the Midwest Division- and league-leading Kitchener Rangers, who have gone 9-1 over their last 10 games. … NAPA Draft Prospect of the Month for the OHL was Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting. Stamkos led his team with 13 goals and 11 assists in 13 October games, including a six-game point-scoring streak, four three-point games and two game-winning goals.
Western Hockey League
It was a shake-up week in the wild Western Hockey League, as 11 players and two draft choices changed hands. Role players, rookies, stars and leaders exchanged jerseys, even a 2007 first-round NHL Entry Draft selection.
In likely the biggest move of the week, the Moose Jaw Warriors acquired Florida Panthers first-round pick Keaton Ellerby from the Kamloops Blazers for forward Brady Calla. Ellerby, a member of Team Canada from this summer’s Canada/Russia Super Series and a favorite to earn a spot on with Team Canada for the 2008 World Junior Championship, was plus-1 with two penalty minutes in his first two games with the Warriors.
Elsewhere, it was the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Portland Winter Hawks involved in a seven-player deal, with the Hurricanes acquiring 18-year olds Colton Sceviour and Lucas Alexiuk, and over-ager Nick Hotson, while the Winter Hawks picked up 17-year-old Travis Bobbee, 18-year-olds Ryan Kerr and Nick Dietrich, and Nick’s brother, over-ager Jacob Dietrich.
Lethbridge also made more headlines over the week, sending 19-year-old defenseman Paul McDonald to the Kootenay Ice for a 2009 seventh-round pick.
The Ice weren’t finished there, as they acquired forward Kris Foucault from the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for a 2008 sixth-round pick.
Rounding out the deals made over the past week, Monday the Everett Silvertips announced they had acquired left wing Clayton Bauer and the Red Deer Rebels’ sixth-round pick in 2008 for right wing Brennan Sonne and defenseman Matt Strong.
Not to be left out of the mix, the Edmonton Oil Kings strengthened their roster with the signing of NCAA Division I forward Jeff Lee out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
With all the movement around the league, the coming weeks will be interesting as players become accustomed to new teammates and surroundings.
Around the WHL -- WHL second-leading scorer Oscar Moller continued a stretch that has seen him record a point in 11 straight games. He had two goals and two assists in three games over the past week. During his scoring streak, Moller has totaled 17 goals and seven assists for 24 points in the 11 games. His 33 overall points sit four behind teammate Mark Santorelli for the WHL lead. … WHL Boston Pizza Player of the Week honors went to Vancouver Giants forward Spencer Machacek for the period ending Monday, November 12. Machacek picked up seven points in three games, scoring four goals while maintaining a plus-4 rating. The Giants went 3-0 over that span. Machacek was a third-round selection of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. … The Lethbridge Hurricanes, who were involved in the roster shakeups over the past week, are undefeated in regulation in 10 straight games. The Hurricanes beat Everett, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw this week by a combined 13-4. … The WHL formally has established a WHL Alumni Association, headed by former NHL and WHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey. Hrudey, who played three seasons for the Medicine Hat Tigers (1978-81), will serve as the Association’s first President. … NAPA Draft Prospect of the Month for the WHL was Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats. Eberle recorded 16 goals and 10 assists in the first 10 games of the season, and also was named the WHL’s Player of the Month for October. His 26-point October included a pair of four-game point-scoring streaks, and he was named a three-star selection in seven of the Pats’ 16 games.
United States Hockey League
This week at the World Junior A Challenge in Trail, British Columbia, Team USA defeated Team Russia, 9-6, and claimed third place in the tournament.
Comprised almost entirely of USHL players and coached by Waterloo’s P.K. O’Handley, Team USA went 3-1 in the tournament, defeating Team Belarus, 7-6 in overtime, and Team Canada East, 3-2 in overtime, before being defeated by Canada West, 5-1.
Omaha Lancer Barry Almeida scored the game-winner in each of the first two games. Team USA then defeated the Russians to seal third place.
For an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at the World Junior A Challenge, visit the tournament blog of Team USA and Des Moines Buccaneers defenseman Ben Blood, with entries spanning the entire eight-day tournament.
Around the USHL -- The RBK Hockey Offensive Player of the week for the period ending Nov. 12 was Lincoln Stars forward Rick Carden. Carden scored four goals and added an assist in helping his team split their weekend games. … CCM Defensive Player of the Week Honors were awarded to Aaron Schmidt Schmidt had two assists and two shots on goal as his Chicago Steel split weekend games at Sioux City (5-4 OT loss) and at Sioux Falls (6-2 win). … Stauber’s Goalcrease Goaltender of the Week went to Indiana Ice goalie Scott Darling over the past week, as he went 2-0 with a shutout, a .966 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA in the two games. … Omaha Lancers forward Chris Connolly officially committed to Boston University this past week. The USHL’s leading scorer has eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in 13 games this year. … Indiana Ice forward Paul Carey saw his league-high point-scoring streak snapped at nine games over the weekend after he failed to register a point against the Tri-City Storm on Friday night. He promptly picked up where he left off, picking up two assists in his next game. Carey now has 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points in only 11 games. … Two USHL coaches are racing toward the USHL 500-win club, a club currently with a total membership of one. Dave Siciliano (499 wins) of the Sioux City Musketeers and Mike Hastings (496) of the Omaha Lancers are closing in on the milestone. Bob Ferguson, who won 517 games behind the bench in his USHL career, is the only coach in league history to have reached the plateau.