The newly branded Cape Breton Eagles are ready to soar!
The Eagles are built to win and may very well be the most feared team in the QMJHL come playoff time.
The recent acquisitions of Xavier Bouchard and Shawn Element strengthen already lethal lineup.
“In Xavier Bouchard we wanted a big 2-way Right shot D that can log big minutes and understands the game,” said Eagles Head Coach Jake Grimes.
“Xavier helps us offensively and defensively and he has been exactly that. Not to mention leading by example on and off the ice day in day out.”
The addition of one of the best two way forwards in the league definitely solidified the Eagles lineup and provides the Head Coach with a shutdown presence up front as well.
“As for Shawn Element all you have to do is play against him to realize what he brings to the table. Honest. Hard working. Skilled. Tough. Gritty and a leader as well. We also needed a left shot forward who could play both special teams,” Grimes added.
The next 48 hours will be very intriguing to say the least if the Eagles decide to continue to add to already deep and skilled roster.
There’s no question, Grimes will have his team ready for anything in the second half heading into President Cup Playoffs.
Grimes has done a fantastic job this season in his first foray in the Q building a winning culture and team first mentality, which will certainly pay dividends heading into the second half of the season.
How is Grimes going to handle the pressure to win and high expectations moving forward?
“We view it as opportunity,” Grimes said.
“Our guys have worked hard to earn their deserved respect and our organization has added some key players that are good fits for us to see what we can do.”
When any team adds during the Trade Period the search for chemistry is critical especially identifying roles for players to have individual success and ultimately team success.
“Chemistry and utilizing players in the best interest of our team on any given night are both necessary for us to maximize our team and our players know and agree to that,” explained Grimes.
The Eagles have an extremely well balanced roster and have all the pieces in place to challenge the top contenders in the league.
So why are the Eagles so dangerous?
It all starts between the pipes.
Kevin Mandolese has arguably played some of his best hockey of his career patrolling the blue paint.
Obviously, Mandolese hasn’t played as much as he would have liked after battling an early season lower body injury, but has certainly looked poised, relaxed and extremely confident this season backstopping a very deep and skilled team.
William Grimard stood tall for the Eagles during Mandolese’s injury. Grimard turned in some stellar performances over that time and is certainly battle tested.
You can look at the netminding tandem’s numbers and dissect them all you want and perhaps find some fault, however, the Eagles have been hit hard by the injury bug this season especially on their backend.
Look beyond all the numbers and stats the Eagles duo stop pucks and win hockey games and that’s all that matters come playoff time.
Have we really seen the Cape Breton Eagles at their best this season?
Grimes believes the Eagles have played some inspired hockey, but have we seen their best?
“I do believe we’ve played some pretty good hockey games this year. The type of games where our high paced offence combines with great decision making and attention to detail on both sides of the puck. That will need to be the norm now though the rest of the way in,” confessed the Eagles bench boss.
“I honestly felt we used our five week training camp well on and off the ice and started the season like we were shot out of a cannon. Super high pace and execution. 17-20 games in the accumulation of injuries, travel and practicing less took its toll a bit and we certainly limped into Christmas.”
Grimes is confident his club will have a very strong second half.
“I believe the break did us well even though we are still battling injury and the typical illnesses that go around this year. Our pace is back up a bit. It’s our pace of play and commitment to team play that will help us this year.”
The Eagles haven’t had their full lineup play together since Day 1.
Injuries are part of the process and come with the territory, nevertheless, once the dust settles after the trade period you will inevitably see a championship caliber team forming in Cape Breton.
The Eagles defensive corps is amongst the finest in the league, again you can look at the stats all day if you want, but the Eagles were decimated by injury and had a very young trio of defenders trying to find their way in the league in the first half.
The highly skilled and somehow underrated group can play any style and can definitely lock things down when needed.
Veteran presence, great puck movers, offensive instincts, coupled with defensive accountability skill, mobility and grit, that’s the Cape Breton Eagles D corps through and through.
Potentially the most dangerous aspect of all could be Cape’s forward group.
Incredibly skilled, gritty, heavy and tough to play against. The Cape Breton Eagles are built to wear teams down and score tons of goals.
The Eagles have the capability to frustrate the living hell out of their opponent, and you can almost guarantee that’s exactly what they plan on doing in the second half and heading into the playoffs.
Speed on the forecheck and a unwavering desire to win puck battles, the Eagles forward group can beat you in a lot of different ways.
The 4th highest scoring team in the league will do whatever it takes to score goals and win.
That’s the collective mentality of a very dangerous team.
Does Grimes think his club is dangerous?
“We are a dangerous team in sense that we can score and attack in waves and cycle with possession. As we continue to get tougher to score on we become a team that should be threatening in every game we play.”
Don’t let their place in the overall standings fool you, the Cape Breton Eagles are a team to be reckoned with and are certainly ready to take flight.
The Cape Breton Eagles are a very dangerous team.
Update: The addition of Tyler Hinam brings Championship experience, leadership and character. Whenever overagers get moved this late in the season is very difficult. Shaun Miller has had an incredible QMJHL career.
This trade had to be very difficult for the organization, but it certainly addresses their need for more offence and even more size and grit to their lineup.
Hinam’s performance and role with the Huskies last season was critical for their championship run.
The Cape Breton Eagles are even more dangerous now!