The final weekend of the QMJHL season has arrived, and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are in Northern New Brunswick for a pair of games as the Eagles hunt for home ice advantage in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. The Eagles will play a two game set with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, as every team in the QMJHL is in action on both Friday & Saturday.
Coming into tonight’s game the Screaming Eagles are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, following a 5-3 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs at Centre 200. Cape Breton is one of four teams vying for the fourth and final home ice position. If teams are tied the first tiebreaker is regulation & overtime wins (ROW), followed by goals for/goals against differential as the second tiebreaker. Heading into the final weekend, the four contending teams are as follows:
Charlottetown 85 points, 32 ROW, +22
Cape Breton 82 points, 33 ROW, +47
Chicoutimi 81 points, 34 ROW, +9
Moncton 81 points, 33 ROW, +49
Much of the race will be determined by tonight’s game when Charlottetown visits Moncton at 7:30. At 8:30, Chicoutimi will host Shawinigan.
The Eagles will likely be short-staffed once again when it comes to regular roster players as they visit Bathurst. Five players missed the final home game of the regular season as Declan Smith, Shawn Boudrias, Antoine Crête-Belzile were all absent with upper body injuries while Adam McCormick and Derek Gentile missed due to illness. Prior to tonight’s game Cape Breton holds a record of 38-22-6 (18-12-2) on the road, and have won five of six games against Bathurst- including winning both in New Brunswick.
It will be an emotional weekend for Mitchell Balmas, who was the first star on Wednesday night for the Eagles with a goal and two assists. With the goal Balmas set a new career high with his 43rd goal of the season. Last year Balmas was part of Acadie-Bathurst’s Memorial Cup winning team and the 20 year old will be visiting the KC Irving Centre for the final time On Wednesday Balmas got help from Mathias Laferrière and Shaun Miller who each had two point nights.
The rebuild has been tough for the Titan, who come into tonight’s game as the lone QMJHL team who have already been eliminated from post-season contention. Bathurst is looking to finish the season strong, rallying from down 2-0 in Charlottetown but falling 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday night. The Titan have a record of 8-52-6, playing just 1-27-4 at home. The Titan will look to avoid some very dubious QMJHL history- the QMJHL’s record for fewest home wins during a season is 2, held by 1976-77 Shawinigan Dynamos.
Puck drop for tonight’s game is at 7:00 PM, and you can catch all the action beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30 with Patrick McNeil on 1270 CJCB (or online at cjcbradio.com). Go Eagles Go!