20 year olds Declan Smith and Mitchell Balmas along with import blueliner Leon Gawanke were big winners as the Screaming Eagles held their 22nd annual awards banquet on Monday night in Membertou. In total, twelve awards were handed out, with Smith capturing three of the awards (one shared with Balmas, who took home another award himself) and Gawanke walking away with two trophies.
Smith, the team captain in his fourth year with the Eagles, and Balmas, a veteran in his first season with Cape Breton, shared the Cape Breton Beverages Ltd. Trophy as the team’s Most Valuable Player. Smith also captured the Greg Lynch Memorial Trophy, and the 94.9 The Cape Trophy, as voted on by Screaming Eagles fans. This season the overager has 34 points in 48 games with a +11 rating while playing all situations.
Balmas was awarded with the Casino Nova Scotia Trophy as the team’s Regular Season Scoring Champion. The Sydney native was acquired from Bathurst in the off-season and is playing the fifth and final year of his major junior career in his home town. While there are still three games remaining in the regular season, Balmas (42 goals, 35 assists) holds an eight point lead over Mathias Laferrière heading into the last week of the 2018-19 campaign.
Gawanke was awarded the Eastlink Trophy as the club’s Top Defenseman, as well as the Tim Hortons Trophy for Outstanding Community Involvement. The 19 year old Winnipeg Jets draft pick has 54 points in 59 games this year with a +9 rating. This his third year with the team.
Two other Screaming Eagles defensemen walked away with awards- overager Wilson Forest was honoured with the Bobby Joe Ryan Memorial Trophy (presented by Molson) for Best Sportsmanship, while Antoine Crête-Belzile collected the Tokyo Lloyd MacDonald Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Work Ethic. Both players were acquired in off-season trades by Cape Breton. The former Rimouski defender Forest has 22 points in 64 games this year (+9) with only 39 penalty minutes, while the 19 year old Crête-Belzile, formerly of Blainville-Boisbriand, has 16 points in 59 gams with a +10 rating.
Another player who has spent some time on the blue line, 19 year old forward Gabriel Proulx, was named the winner of the Cape Breton University Trophy as Academic Player of the Year. In his second with the Screaming Eagles, Proulx has 30 points in 59 games with a +19 rating. He is also the Screaming Eagles’ nominee for the Marcel Robert Trophy, the QMJHL’s award for Academic Player of the Year.
Both goaltenders also captured awards. 18 year old Kevin Mandolese, in his third year with Cape Breton, was presented with the Jim Hawkins Memorial Trophy as Humanitarian of the Year. This season he has a record of 27-17 with a 2.91 goals against and an 895 save percentage. His crease partner William Grimard was named winner of the Rudderham’s Source for Sports Trophy as Rookie of the year. The 17 year old goaltender has a record of 10-11 with a 2.87 goals against average and an .867 save percentage.
Grimard was not the only rookie to take hardware, as 17 year old Félix Lafrance was the winner of the MacLeod – Lorway Insurance Company as the team’s Most Improved Player. The winger came back from an injury at the beginning of the season to notch 22 points in 51 games.
The Screaming Eagles will now get ready for their final home game of the 2018-19 season when they host the Saint John Sea Dogs on Wednesday 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