QF 1 2017 U SPORTS Cavendish University Cup: Acadia cuts down top-seeded Golden Bears

Steeves with 33 saves in Acadia win

by Mike Gange, for U Sports

FREDERICTON (U SPORTS) – The No. 8-seeded Acadia University Axemen eliminated the top-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears by a 4-1 score in the opening game of the  2017 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup at the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton. The tournament is being hosted by the University of New Brunswick.

University Cup website: www.universitycup.ca

The Axemen now advance to the first semifinal game, to be held at noon local time on Saturday. They will face the winner of the second quarter-final, between the host UNB Varsity Reds and Queen’s Gaels.

The Golden Bears scored the only goal of the first period. Taylor Cooper (Sherwood Park, Alta.) scored at 10:07 on an Axemen turn over, beating Acadia goaltender Robert Steeves (Moncton, N.B.) for the even-strength marker.

But the Axemen rallied with two in the second and another pair in the third, including an empty-net marker with only seconds to go in the game, to clinch the win and the upset. Kyle Farrell (Howie Center, N.S.) beat Golden Bears goalie Brendan Burke (Scottsdale, Ariz.) at 1:04 of the second, and Boston Leier (Saskatoon, Sask.) scored the eventual game winner at 14:19 of the frame.

Acadia added an insurance marker with just under four and a half minutes left in the game when Stephen Harper (Burlington, Ont.) took a break-out pass from Brett Thompson, and deked out Burke. He had missed on a similar opportunity in the first period. Daniel Petterson (Toronto, Ont.) put the game away with just 6.9 seconds left to play when he scored into the empty net.

Alberta outshot Acadia 35-26. Steeves was named Acadia’s Adidas Player of the Game, but deflected the accolades.

“It was more of a team game than a goaltender battle,” he said. “The team battled hard all night long, and they let me see everything so I could make the saves.”

This was Acadia Axemen coach Darren Burns’ first win at the University Cup, after previously losing five in a row. Burns credited his players for the victory.

“We prepared with video, and certainly (Alberta) has a ton of talent, and draw from the Western Hockey League, but we knew we had to play our game,” said Burns. Bob (Steeves) is a tremendous competitor. He battled hard. We realized going into the second period we had to win more face-offs, and gain puck possession. Our top guys came through but the whole team gave a competitive team effort.

Golden Bears head coach Serge Lajoie was clearly disappointed at the end of the game.

“Our energy could have been better on the power play,” he said, after Alberta went 0-5 on the man-advantage. “Our special teams have to be special. Our PK was good, but we could have done better.”

Alberta iced a very young roster, with 16 players playing in their first or second year for the team.

“We don’t offer any excuses,” said Lajoie, whose team lost for the second straight year in the national quarterfinals. “We were loose, we had lots of composure. And we can’t let one game define our whole season. “Yes, I am disappointed, but we have to let the dust settle, let the group compose themselves, and look ahead.”

Cooper, with the team’s only goal, three shots and a plus-one rating was named Player of the Game for Alberta

Saturday will see two semifinal games, at noon and at 4 p.m. (all times Atlantic). The bronze medal game will be played at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, while the gold medal game will  start at 1 p.m.