Axemen Coach Ecstatic about 2010 Axemen

Darren Burns “ecstatic” about 2010 Axemen



Kings County Advertiser/Register

The  Acadia hockey Axemen finished a strong second in the 2009-10 AUHC regular season, but suffered a disappointing 3-1 loss to Saint Mary’s in the playoff semifinals. Head coach Darren Burns says the fact that the Huskies went on to capture its first-ever CIS title is scant consolation.

Burns used the off-season to search out players to both fill the holes on his roster left by graduating players and address some of his team’s main on-ice concerns – most notably a lack of scoring from the defense.

The  team didn’t have many holes in its lineup entering 2010-2011, but “we’ll lose quite a few players next year,” Burns says. “You can never have enough players.”

He is taking advantage of a better than normal recruiting year to be proactive; hopefully avoiding the scenario  a few years back when he had to fill 14 vacancies at once.

With seven new recruits, including four potentially impactful defensemen, committed to Acadia for this fall and beyond, Burns is “ecstatic with the results of our recruiting.”

Joining the Axemen defense this fall will be Michael Ward, Colin Morin, Leo Jenner and Chris Owens, who is also capable of playing forward.

New forwards include Nathan Green and Joe Gaynor as well as Jacob Dietrich, who was at Acadia last year but ineligible to play.

Ward, who hails from Shippegan, N.B., played his final year of major junior with Cape Breton and Shawinigan in the QMJHL. A 6’2”, 215-pounder, he was “a 40-plus point scorer” as a 19-year old. The former Tampa Bay Lightning draft choice “is a well-skilled, offensive defenseman and a good skater who could help our power play right away.”

Morin, about 6’ and 190 pounds, played last season with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Another 40-point defenseman, he is “a power skater with a lot of offensive upside and some grit to his game, too.” A native of Meadow Lake, SK, Morin is a cousin of Axemen goalie Kris Westblom.

At 6’3”, 225-pounds, Jenner should provide “a huge physical presence” on the Acadia defense. “A real ‘shut-down’ defenseman and a tremendous leader, he should be able to help both our penalty killing and power play.”

Owens comes from Junior A rather than major junior, but “he led the MJAHL in scoring last season as a defenseman,” Burns says. “His forte is playing the point on the power play, which should help us.”

“My goal was to improve our size and offensive output from the defense corps, and I feel with these recruits, we’ve done that,” he adds.

Burns expects the newcomers to join the returning Axemen defensemen and blend together into a superior unit, especially offensively.

As for forwards, Green is “a versatile centre-winger” who should help both the Axemen power play and penalty killing. He is fully healed from a broken leg that cost him half his final junior season. “When he’s healthy, which he is now, he has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer.”

Gaynor, who comes to Acadia from the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, is a 6’3’, 210-pound centre “who was near the top of a lot of the OHL polls of the smartest players.” In the mold of recently departed Axemen captain Paul McFarland, Gaynor should be a particular asset on faceoffs.

Dietrich is itching to play after taking last season off after playing in the East Coast league. Before that, he was a WHL captain. A good two-way player with grit, he can also play either centre or wing.

“Up front, we needed to replace some of the grit we’d lost,” Burns says. “We feel we’ve done that.”

With the lion’s share of last year’s team returning, including the entire top two forward lines, Burns predicts a better year: “We should be improved. Only time will tell how much.”