2014-15 AUS MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM PREVIEW: Acadia Axemen

MH-ACA_Preview-2014(WOLFVILLE, N.S.) – The Acadia Axemen opened the 2013-14 season unranked in the CIS Top 10, but by the second week of regular the season they cracked the list at number eight after a perfect 4-0 start which extended into a 10 game streak without a loss in regulation time.

Ranked third in the country by the Holiday Break, the Axemen took the top spot in the AUS standings and established themselves as the team to beat in the Atlantic conference.

As the season closed out, the Axemen ended up in second place, trailing first place UNB by four points with a 21-4-3 record but securing quarter-final bye heading into the post-season.

A four-game victory in the best-of-five semifinal series against Moncton matched up the Axemen with the rival Saint Mary’s Huskies, who had knocked off the first place Varsity Reds.

Acadia went on to defeat the Huskies in the best-of-five final series to capture their first AUS championship since 2006 and the ninth Atlantic conference title in team history.

The championship team was rewarded with the prestigious selection of team captain Liam Heelis as the AUS and CIS Most Valuable University Hockey Player Award.

Heelis was also chosen as the AUS male representative for the coveted CIS BLG Award that honours one male and one female athlete as the top Canadian University Athlete of the Year.

The Axemen will open the 2014-15 regular season Saturday night in Halifax where they will take on the Dalhousie Tigers. Game time is at 7:00pm.

Team Profile:

2013-14 regular season record: 21-4-3
2013-14 regular season standings: Second place in AUS
2013-14 AUS playoff record: 6-2
2013-14 CIS playoff record: 0-2
2013-14 playoff finish: Defeated Moncton in best-of-five AUS semi-final (3-1); defeated Saint Mary’s in best-of-five AUS Championship Final (3-1). Dropped both games at the University Cup, losing to Windsor (4-2) and Saskatchewan (3-2).

Head Coach: Darren Burns

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2014-15): 14th
– Career regular season record with team: 187-162-15
– Career regular season record in CIS: 187-162-15
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 193-166-15
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only): 193-166-15

Quote from head coach Darren Burns:

“We have a lot of new faces in our lineup and last season is last year. This is going to be a very tight league this year. We hope to focus on being a good skating team who moves the puck well and we want to make sure “working hard” is the primary staple of our team”.

Total number of returning players: 16

Key returning players:

F – Mike Cazzola – 3rd year:

Cazzola was honoured as an AUS All-Star last season. In his first season with the Axemen, Mike was the AUS Rookie of the Year and was also named to the CIS all-rookie team. Mike finished last season with 42 points – 31 assists and 11 goals – tied with teammate Liam Heelis for the top point go-getter.

F – Liam Heelis – 4th year:

Liam finished the season with 24 goals in 26 games along with 18 assists for a league leading 42 points. Named as the AUS and CIS Most Valuable Player, the Axemen’s captain was priceless in only his third season as a team leader.

F – Brett Thompson – 3rd year:

Brett was named as an AUS all-rookie team in 2012-13 and was sixth in AUS scoring and third on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in his second season.

D – Geoff Schemitsch – 2nd year:

A standout second year defenseman that plays a big role on the Axemen’s back-end, Geoff is good offensively and responsible defensively. A smooth skating defenseman, Geoff will be one of several keys to Acadia’s defense this season.

D – Travis Gibbons – 4th year:

Travis is a defenseman that is a big game player. A great skater

that plays well positionally, Travis makes a good first pass. Gibbons is a good penalty killer that

blocks a lot of shots and will be an integral part of the penalty kill this season.

F – Michael Clarke – 2nd year:

A strong and physical player, Michael shoots the puck like a pro and plays a complete two way game. With great hands, Michael as the ability to take control of a hockey game. Last year Clarke finished the regular season with 12 goals and 7 assists.

Key recruits or transfers:

F- Boston Leier: Boston is an extremely gritty two way forward who makes things happen through hard work and a high hockey IQ. He possesses a very quick release which makes him dangerous inside the blue line.

F – Sam Fioretti: Sam is a hard working two way forward who possesses great playmaking abilities and a very accurate  hard shot.

F – Zachary Franko: Zach is a highly skilled forward who sees the ice well and is a great playmaker. He is a very driven player who is a student of the game.

F – Remy Giftopolous: Remy is a very strong two way forward who has very good offensive instincts, but the tenacity to be a “shutdown” center men as well.

D – Matthew Pufahl: Matt is a very gifted defenceman who moves the puck with authority, but is also very sound and tenacious in the defensive side of the puck.

Key losses:

G – Evan Mosher: AUS All-Star and CIS All-Canadian
D – Leo Jenner: Key defenseman over the last four seasons
D – Chris Owens: AUS All-Star over the last three seasons
D – Cullen Morin: Key defenseman
F – Joe Gaynor: Veteran leadership and grinder in the corners
D – Colin Archer: Solid stay-home blueliner and strength in the corners/front of net

Source: Acadia Sports Information