Declan Smith played the hero in one of the most emotional moments in Screaming Eagles history on Friday night as the Eagles topped the visiting Acadie-Bathurst Titan 4-2.
The Eagles were forced to rally from behind after trailing following the first period, and then going through a scoreless middle stanza. A heavy shot from the top of the left circle by Bathurst’s Michal Ivan opened the scoring for the visitors, and then it was time for the respective power plays to take over.
First the Eagles tied the game as Brooklyn Kalmikov ripped a one timer on the Cape Breton power play to knot the score at one. But the the Titan would leave the opening period with the lead as Noah Dobson blasted a shot through screen on a Titan man advantage past William Grimard.
The second period wouldn’t see any goals, but would see fisticuffs as Cape Breton’s Kyle Havlena and Bathurst’s Liam Leonard went toe to toe. Havlena landed the bulk of the shots despite Léonard earning the instigator penalty. Despite outshooting the Titan 15-4 in the middle stanza, the Eagles still trailed 2-1 heading into the final period
Some lineup juggling would get the Eagles back into the game. In the third period Eagles coach Marc-André Dumont elected to move forward Gabriel Proulx back on defense while Ian Smallwood would jump up to forward. Just before the 13 minute mark, Smallwood tipped a shot from Adam McCormick that would even the score at 2.
That set the stage for Declan Smith. Smith, who missed the last two games following the loss of his mother Rachel to cancer, took advantage of an opportunity in front of the net and put the puck by Mark Grametbauer. Smith pointed to the sky following the goal and was mobbed by all of his teammates. As his picture was shown on the bench on the big screen, many fans at Centre 200 rose to their feet and cheered.
Mario Durocher, coaching his first game against Cape Breton this season after replacing Titan coach Bryan Lizotte earlier this year, elected to lift Grametbauer in the final two minutes for an extra attacker. There was no tying goal to be found, and Isiah Campbell was able to hit the empty net to seal the victory for the home side.
Following the game, Smith, who was named the first star, conducted an interview for Eastlink Television with reporter Mavs Gillis. In a show of respect his Eagles teammates remained on the ice, and circled and mobbed their captain before the team left the ice together.
Grimard stopped ten of twelve shots in the win, while Grametbauer stopped 35 of 38 shots in the loss prior to the empty net goal.
The Screaming Eagles will play their final home game prior to the Christmas break Saturday night as the Patrick Roy coach Québec Remparts make their only visit to Centre 200. It’s also Teddy Bear Toss night at Centre 200, and Screaming Eagles fans are reminded to bring a teddy bear or plush toy on the ice after the Eagles score their first goal of the night. Puck drop is at 7 PM, and tickets can be purchased at the Centre 200 box office, by phone at 902-564-2200 or online at https://tickets.capebreton.ca/Online/default.asp
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Declan Smith (Cape Breton) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Mark Grametbauer (Bathurst) 35 saves on 38 shots
3. Isiah Campbell (Cape Breton) 1 goal, 1 assist
Scratches For Cape Breton: Leon Gawanke (Division 1A World Juniors), Liam Kidney
Scratches For Bathurst: Charles-André Cypihot (injury), Logan Chisholm (injury), Alexandre David (injury), Kristian Kovacik (injury)
Final Shots On Goal: 39-12 in favour of Cape Breton