BAS­KET­BALL’S TURN

Club’s suc­cess this sea­son a sur­prise to ev­ery­one but the team

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY T.J. COLELLO BAS­KET­BALL sports@cb­post.com On Twit­ter: @cb­post_s­ports

High school hoops play­ers hit the courts again.

The Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles en­ter tonight’s meet­ing with the Acadie-Bathurst Ti­tan seven points out of first place in the over­all Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League stand­ings. They’re 29-17-2-2, have won four straight, are 7-2-0-1 in their past 10 games and fin­ished 9-2-0-1 over the month of Jan­uary. Cape Bre­ton is also nip­ping at the heels of both the Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders and the Saint John Sea Dogs on the top of the Mar­itime Divi­sion stand­ings. Not bad for a team pro­jected to be in re­build mode to start the sea­son.

But team cap­tain Olivier LeBlanc hasn’t been sur­prised by the suc­cess he and his team­mates have en­joyed.

“I think we’re sur­pris­ing a lot of peo­ple, but we had high ex­pec­ta­tions for this year,” said the 20-year-old de­fence­man from Que­bec City. “I’m not sur­prised be­cause I know how hard we’ve been work­ing since train­ing camp, so I think it’s just the re­sults of the hard work we put in, so we just have to keep do­ing that.”

By com­par­i­son, Cape Bre­ton’s more vet­eran-laden ros­ter from 2015-16 fin­ished in sev­enth place over­all, sport­ing a 38-24-5-1 mark. There’s still plenty of hockey to go this year — 18 games are left on the team’s reg­u­lar sea­son sched­ule — but the Scream­ing Ea­gles have a chance to fin­ish in the same neigh­bour­hood or bet­ter in the stand­ings. And that’s with 10 play­ers born in ei­ther 1999 or 2000 on the cur­rent ros­ter, and play­ing reg­u­lar min­utes.

They’re get­ting it done with veter­ans lead­ing the way, and rook­ies fol­low­ing their lead. Over­age for­wards Gio­vanni Fiore and Mas­simo Carozza are tops in scor­ing, while LeBlanc has been qui­etly hav­ing a ca­reer sea­son on the back­end. Drake Bather­son has ex­celled in his first full sea­son with the club, while first-year im­port play­ers Vasily Glo­tov and Leon Gawanke have been solid con­trib­u­tors, among oth­ers.

Add in the steady goal­tend­ing of 17-year-old Kyle Jes­si­man and 16-year-old Kevin Man­dolese, and it’s been a win­ning recipe.

“The veter­ans and the rook­ies are to­gether and it’s a big part of our suc­cess,” said LeBlanc. “When you’re off the ice, you’re feel­ing good about your­self and you feel a part of the team. As a young guy, it shows on the ice when you’re more con­fi­dent.”

The suc­cess the team has en­joyed on the ice hasn’t been a sur­prise for head coach and gen­eral man­ager Marc-An­dré Du­mont ei­ther. He says the team works hard, com­petes and ev­ery­one’s con­tribut­ing.

“They work hard in the gym. There are guys in there train­ing,” he said af­ter prac­tice on Thurs­day. “I heard the squat rack and the weights fall down on the ground, and we’re play­ing two games in 21 hours.

“They’re work­ing hard on the ice. They’re spend­ing time on the ice and to­day, we had to kick them out.”

But Du­mont said his team isn’t tak­ing any­thing for granted.

“Ev­ery day we get to the rink, and if there’s one se­cond in that day we’re not on the job, we stop, we ac­knowl­edge it, and we change it,” he said. “That’s some­thing we’ll con­tinue do­ing be­cause it’s not be­cause you’re suc­cess­ful yes­ter­day that you’ll be suc­cess­ful to­mor­row. Suc­cess is a daily task. It’s a daily chal­lenge.

“The minute any of our play­ers or our­selves as a team sit on it, the pa­rade is go­ing to go by.”

T.J. COLELLO/CAPE BRE­TON POST

The Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles have had plenty of rea­son to cel­e­brate as of late. They’ve won their past four games, are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 and are only seven points back of first place in the over­all league stand­ings.

Du­mont

LeBlanc

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