Eskasoni Eagles soaring in N.S. Junior Hockey League
A Cape Breton team is celebrating a historic year for its players.
The Eskasoni Eagles ended the regular season of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League with four players at the top of the league's scoring leaders list. All four of them are also Mi'kmaq.
"It's very historic for us," said team president and Eskasoni's Chief, Leroy Denny.
Eagles players named as top scorers are Sonny Kabatay, Marcellus Francis, Dante Basque and Jacob Denny.
Kabatay — the Eagles' team captain — also placed third among the league's all-time top scorers during regular-season play. Kabatay landed 42 goals and 50 assists for an overall 92 points in 30 games.
Kabatay was only four points shy of beating the league's top record of 96 points in a single season.
"We're extremely proud of Sonny and all he has done," said Eagles' general manager, Alyssia Jeddore.
"The coaching staff have really talked about him and all that brings to our dressing room. He brings a sense of leadership that helped our team significantly throughout the season."
Jeddore said the Eagles are the first Indigenous owned-and-operated franchise within the NSJHL. The team is based in Eskasoni, N.S., and almost half their players are Indigenous.
Jeddore said having a team based in Eskasoni has helped develop local talent and fostered a sense of community.
Best season to date
"One of the biggest reasons why we felt it important to join the league was to create opportunity for local players and Indigenous youth," Jeddore said.
"I feel like as the years have gone by, we've gotten stronger, we've gotten better. This has been our best season to date and our team has really grown."
NSJHL president Heather Campbell said the Eagles have been making steady progress over the past five years.
"They get really good crowds and fans travel with them to watch games," Campbell said. "The community really supports them."
As far as having some of the top scorers in the league, Campbell said it's a matter of dedication to the sport.
"They've done the hard work off the ice as well," said Campbell. "It's been a whole executive team thing, but the kids have done a lot of hard work this year."
The Eagles hope to continue their momentous year in playoff action that's already underway.
The Eskasoni team is facing off in a best-of-seven series against the Pictou County Scotians. The two teams will meet for Game 2 on Sunday night at the Trenton Minor Sports Community Centre. The game begins at 6 p.m.
The winner of the Eagles and Scotians series will move onto the division championship.
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