In the home stretch

Derek Gen­tile de­ter­mined to help Cape Bre­ton Ea­gles have suc­cess in fi­nal ma­jor ju­nior sea­son

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - JEREMY FRASER

Derek Gen­tile de­ter­mined to help Cape Bre­ton Ea­gles have suc­cess in fi­nal ma­jor ju­nior sea­son.

SYD­NEY — When Derek Gen­tile be­gan his Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League ca­reer five years ago, the last thing on his mind was his fi­nal sea­son.

Fel­low team­mates would tell the Syd­ney na­tive to em­brace his time in the league be­cause it would go by fairly quickly, but Gen­tile never thought much about it.

Un­til this year.

This sea­son will mark the 20-year-old’s fi­nal year of ma­jor ju­nior hockey and, al­though he doesn’t know where the road will take him in the fu­ture, he’s en­joy­ing this last ride.

“It def­i­nitely flew by,” said Gen­tile. “I’ve had so many peo­ple tell me to re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the time and I’m try­ing to soak it all in.”

Gen­tile be­gan his hockey ca­reer play­ing in the Syd­ney Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion.

Fol­low­ing his mi­nor hockey days, Gen­tile suited up for the Bre­ton Cougars — now known as the Joneljim Cougars — of the Nova Sco­tia Ma­jor Ban­tam Hockey League, post­ing 50 goals and 113 points in 64 games.

Gen­tile con­tin­ued his ca­reer in Rothe­say, N.B., where he played 42 games for Rothe­say Nether­wood School — a prep­school — record­ing 34 goals and 60 points.

In June 2015, Gen­tile was se­lected by the Que­bec Rem­parts in the fourth round, No. 70 over­all, at the QMJHL En­try Draft.

Af­ter crack­ing the Rem­parts’ ros­ter in Au­gust 2015, Gen­tile would play two-and-a-half sea­sons in Que­bec City, be­fore be­ing traded to the Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders in Jan­uary 2018.

Gen­tile played 81 ca­reer games with the Is­lan­ders, in­clud­ing 18 play­off games, scor­ing 24 goals and adding 53 as­sists, be­fore be­ing traded to Cape Bre­ton last De­cem­ber.

Dur­ing his time in Char­lot­te­town, Gen­tile was part of the Is­lan­ders club which went on a lengthy play­off run in 2018, led by play­ers like Pierre-olivier Joseph, Cameron Askew and Pas­cal Aquin.

The team would even­tu­ally lose to the Blainville-bois­briand Ar­mada in the league semi­fi­nal.

Gen­tile believes this year’s edi­tion of the Ea­gles has sim­i­lar­i­ties to the 2017-18 Is­lan­ders team but he hopes to see the Syd­ney-based fran­chise go fur­ther.

“When you have that kind of feel­ing with a group, it’s pretty spe­cial,” said Gen­tile. “We had that same kind of feel­ing when I was in P.E.I. where you just felt that the year wasn’t go­ing to be over.

“This year it’s the same feel­ing; I know it’s only early and we will con­tinue to build an iden­tity and a cul­ture, but it’s headed in that di­rec­tion.”

In 17 games this sea­son, Gen­tile has recorded five goals and eight as­sists for 13 points along with 12 penalty min­utes and 60 shots on goal.

Gen­tile is cur­rently on the team’s third line with Liam Kid­ney and fel­low over­ager Shaun Miller.

“I’m a lit­tle left out not be­ing from East Hants,” laughed Gen­tile about his line­mates’ main­land roots. “They’re good fel­las and they’re hon­est guys, so it’s easy to play with guys who are show­ing up ev­ery day and play­ing their game ev­ery night.”

“Know­ing it’s your fi­nal sea­son is al­ways in the back of my mind, but you try not to think about it too much.”

Derek Gen­tile Ea­gles for­ward

Grow­ing up, Gen­tile re­calls at­tend­ing many Ea­gles games as a fan and re­mem­bers var­i­ous fran­chise mo­ments in­clud­ing Chris Cul­li­gan’s penalty shot over­time win­ner in Game 3 of the 2007 QMJHL semi­fi­nals against the Val-d’or Foreurs in Syd­ney.

“You al­ways re­mem­ber the lo­cal guys and the guys you al­ways looked up to and the guys who were at your mi­nor hockey prac­tices,” said Gen­tile. “I hope to be the same kind of guy for the younger play­ers in our com­mu­nity to­day.”

Gen­tile ad­mits there couldn’t be a bet­ter way to end his ma­jor ju­nior ca­reer than suit­ing up for the team he once cheered for as a child.

“It’s one of the bet­ter out­comes I could have thought of,” said Gen­tile. “Not only to be here at home in my 20-year-old sea­son, but to be here when we have such a strong and unique team, it makes it even more spe­cial.”

Be­ing a lo­cal player, Gen­tile knows all eyes will be on him as the sea­son pro­gresses but he un­der­stands what the home­town fans are look­ing for fromf him.

“On any given night I know the majority of the peo­ple who are in the rink and I think it’s a good thing.” said Gen­tile. “It’s a pres­sure that strives me to be bet­ter and bring a good at­ti­tude and try to cre­ate a win­ning at­mos­phere within the team.”

Gen­tile hasn’t thought much about the end of the sea­son and is only con­cerned with the task at hand right now — help­ing the Ea­gles win as many games as pos­si­ble.

“Know­ing it’s your fi­nal sea­son is al­ways in the back of my mind, but you try not to think about it too much,” said Gen­tile.

“Whether it’s univer­sity hockey or pro­fes­sional hockey, we will fig­ure that out in April, May or June, but right now the Ea­gles are the most im­por­tant.”

Cape Bre­ton is cur­rently the high­est-scor­ing team in the QMJHL, av­er­ag­ing 4.76 goals per game, while be­ing one of the top clubs in the league at even strength hockey.

Gen­tile and the Ea­gles will be on the ice Satur­day night when they host the Is­lan­ders at 7 p.m. at Cen­tre 200. Cape Bre­ton will also play for­mer Ea­gle Isiah Camp­bell and the Drum­mondville Voltigeurs on Sun­day at 4 p.m. at the Syd­ney venue.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Derek Gen­tile of the Cape Bre­ton Ea­gles is play­ing in his fi­nal sea­son in the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League. The Syd­ney na­tive con­sid­ers it to be an hon­our to play his fi­nal year for his home­town team.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Derek Gen­tile of the Cape Bre­ton Ea­gles is play­ing in his fi­nal sea­son in the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League. The Syd­ney na­tive con­sid­ers it to be an hon­our to play his fi­nal year for his home­town team.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.