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Cape Breton Eagles open QMJHL regular season with two-game series against Titan

Ryan Francis of the Cape Breton Eagles carries the puck during a team practice at Centre 200 on Wednesday. The Beaver Bank, N.S., native will enter his third season with the Eagles when the club opens its Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season Friday in Bathurst, N.B.
Ryan Francis of the Cape Breton Eagles carries the puck during a team practice at Centre 200 on Wednesday. The Beaver Bank, N.S., native will enter his third season with the Eagles when the club opens its Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season Friday in Bathurst, N.B. - Jeremy Fraser
SYDNEY, N.S. —

For the third consecutive year, the Cape Breton Eagles will open their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season on the road.

Cape Breton will begin the 2019-20 season Friday when they travel to Bathurst, N.B., to play the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre.

The Sydney-based team will enter the new season with 16 veterans in its lineup, two of whom were acquired by trade during the offseason.

This year’s Eagles club will feature three 20-year-olds, seven 19-year-olds, seven 18-year-olds, three 17-year-olds and three 16-year-olds as part of the team’s 23-man roster.

Jake Grimes, who will make his major junior head coaching debut Friday in Bathurst, has had the chance to learn more about his players over the past month during training camp.

The Dartmouth native feels his team has practiced well and is prepared for the task at hand this season.

“I like the level of skill we have up front and we have a little bit of experience on the back end, while also having some young guys there as well,” said Grimes.

“We’ll see how much we can piece together here and all we’re really concerned about right now is the very first game in Bathurst.”

During the offseason, the Eagles acquired veteran forward Cole Fraser from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and defenceman Jarrett Baker of Black Rock, Victoria Co., from the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

The overage players to start the season are forwards Shaun Miller, Sydney native Derek Gentile and Minnesota Wild prospect Shawn Boudrias.

Defenceman Antoine Crête-Belzile, 20, remains on the team’s protected list but is still on concussion protocol after suffering an injury during the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs against Charlottetown last season.

For the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, the Eagles won’t have a 20-year-old defenceman in their lineup to start the new season.

In goal, the Eagles will rely on veteran Kevin Mandolese. The 19-year-old recently returned to the club after attending the Ottawa Senators main training camp.

In 50 games last season, Mandolese posted a 29-12-1-4 record along with a 2.87 goals-against-average and 0.895 save percentage. He had a strong second half of the season and guided the Eagles to a second-round playoff appearance against Rimouski.


CAPE BRETON EAGLES:

  • The team announced its opening night roster for the 2019-20 season on Aug. 30
  • Cape Breton will have 16 veterans in its lineup, two of whom were acquired by trade during the offseason.
  • The roster includes three 20-year-olds, seven 19-year-olds, seven 18-year-olds, three 17-year-olds, and three 16-year-olds.
  • In 2018-19, Cape Breton finished the season with a 40-22-1-5 record for 86 points
  • In 2018-19, the Eagles finished third in the Maritimes Division and seventh overall in the league standings
  • In 2018-19, Cape Breton ended the year seventh in the league in goals for (267) and 11th overall in goals against (214)
  • Cape Breton was eliminated from the 2019 President Cup playoffs in five games by the Rimouski Océanic in the second round.

Along with 19-year-old Baker on defence, the club will have veterans Adam McCormick, Nathan Larose and Kyle Havlena. Joining them are rookies Jérémy Langlois, Alex Falardeau, Matthew Lint and Logan Kelly-Murphy.

On offense, Cape Breton will feature 10 returning players including Fraser, Boudrias, Gentile, Miller, Félix Lafrance, Ryan Francis, Brooklyn Kalmikov, Liam Kidney, Egor Sokolov and Mathias Laferrière.

Sixteen-year-old rookie forwards David Doucet and Connor Trenholm earned their spots on the team after having a strong training camps last month.

“We have decent team speed, we should have opportunities to score, so as a new coach in the league and of the team, I’m happy so far,” said Grimes. “We’re going to take it step-by-step and day-by-day.”

Mandolese (Ottawa), Boudrias (Minnesota) and Laferrière (St. Louis) have been reassigned to the Eagles for the season. They are expected to be in the team's lineup Friday.

Also, Cape Breton will get Sokolov back in the lineup.

The 19-year-old Russian was invited to attend the Columbus Blue Jackets main camp after an impressive showing at the team’s rookie camp earlier this month. On Tuesday, Sokolov participated in his first-ever NHL preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres and picked up an assist. He survived the team’s first set of cuts from camp on Wednesday.

But Sokolov was released Thursday afternoon by Columbus and the Eagles were successful in arranging travel for him to arrive in Bathurst on Friday afternoon.

In 2018-19, Cape Breton finished the season seventh overall in the league with a 40-22-1-5 record. The team was eliminated from the second round of the league playoffs by the Rimouski Océanic in five games.

The team was seventh in the league in goals for (267) and 11th overall in goals against (214).

On the power play, the Eagles were sixth in the league, working at 20.8 per cent. As for the penalty kill, the club was seventh overall at 77.8 per cent.

Following tonight's season-opener, the Eagles and Titan will meet again Saturday at 4 p.m. in Bathurst to wrap up the opening weekend of the QMJHL regular season.

The Eagles home opener will take place on Sept. 28 when they host the Saint John Sea Dogs at 7 p.m. at Centre 200 in Sydney.


QMJHL:

  • Each team plays a 68-game regular season
  • Sixteen teams will make the President Cup playoffs, beginning in late March
  • The league will have four divisions including the Maritimes, East, Central and West
  • In total, the league has 18 teams. Breakdown: Maritimes: Acadie-Bathurst, Cape Breton, Charlottetown, Halifax, Moncton and Saint John. East Division: Baie-Comeau, Chicoutimi, Quebec and Rimouski. Central Division: Drummondville, Shawinigan, Sherbrooke and Victoriaville. West Division: Blainville-Boisbriand, Gatineau, Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d’Or.
  • 2018-19 regular season champion: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (Record: 59-8-0-1, 119 points)
  • 2018-19 division champions: Halifax Mooseheads (Maritimes - record: 49-15-2-2, 102 points), Baie-Comeau Drakkar (East - record: 49-15-2-2, 102 points), Drummondville Voltigeurs (Central – record: 52-13-2-1, 107 points), and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (West – record: 59-8-0-1, 119 points)
  • Defending champion: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
  • Defending Memorial Cup champion: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
  • The 2020 Memorial Cup will be held in Kelowna, B.C. in May.

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