Acadia Hockey – Pathway to the Pros
Axemen graduates playing at elite levels
This year’s graduates may have raised the bar to a whole new level for the Axemen hockey program with two players signing AHL contracts, one with the ECHL, and 3 more signing contracts to play overseas in elite leagues.
Acadia Axemen head coach Darren Burns had this to say about the success of the graduating Axemen,“It is great to see so many of our players pursuing pro hockey once they have finished their degree. This year is a great indication of what opportunities are out there for players who work hard. There’s no question we want to create an environment where players can continue to grow their game once done their major junior careers. We are very fortunate that our department and institution has created an environment with an arena which is second to none in the country; a brand new professional dressing room with a state of the art weight room right beside it. It’s an exceptional culture for hockey. As we tell every recruit, Hockey Matters at Acadia and we are very proud of that. ”
Let’s run down the signings from the past year’s graduates:
Boston Leier – Belleville Senators – AHL
Bossy has led the Axemen with heart and skill for the past 4 years, after the University Cup last season, he signed an AHL tryout contract with the Belleville Senators and recorded 6 points in 8 games before returning to Acadia to graduate with his degree. It wasn’t long after that the NHL’s Ottawa Senators AHL affiliate team came calling, and Leier signed on with Belleville. At the Senators development camp earlier this summer, he led his squad to tournament victory, and will attend the main camp for the Ottawa Senators heading into the fall. The WHL alumnus, played his junior career with the Medicine Hat Tigers & Regina Pats before putting up 114 points in 111 regular season games with Acadia. Boston will look to be a big part of the success of the Belleville team this season.
“I am excited to start a new chapter with Belleville and could not have done this without my many people, most importantly my family. I am thankful for the opportunities I had at Acadia University and without our athletic department, coaches, and past and current teammates I would not be where I am today and am very excited to get the season going in the fall”, said Leier.
Matt Pufahl – Colorado Eagles – AHL
Pufahl is an offensive juggernaut from the blue line… after putting up 84 points in 104 regular season games with Acadia over the last 4 years, the talented defenceman has now signed with the Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. This will be the second time the WHL grad has played in the AHL, as he played 5 games in 2013-14 prior to joining Acadia, with the Lake Erie Monsters following the conclusion of his junior career. Pufahl has had numerous awards over his university career, including being named as an AUS All-Star in two of his four seasons at Acadia, and also honoured as a U SPORTS All-Canadian second team defenseman during the 2015-16 season. His skill level will no doubt fit well to the talent-laden AHL style of play.
“I am very excited. A kind of a new chapter and very excited to move on and hope for the best in the future. Hopefully, I can keep the dream alive of playing in the NHL,” noted Pufahl when asked what he was feeling when the contract was put in front of him to sign.
Sam Fioretti – South Carolina Stingrays – ECHL
Sam has signed on to join the South Carolina Stingrays, who are the ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. Another WHL alumnus who played with the Moose Jaw Warriors, played the past 4 seasons with his heart on his sleeve with the Axemen. Putting up 61 points in 102 games, but anyone who watched Fioretti play, knows the intangibles he brings to the game. Whether it’s stirring the pot, winning key draws, or killing penalties, Fioretti is a player that can be relied on. A leader on and off the ice, Fioretti was named the CHL’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2014 after making a big impact in the Moose Jaw community during his fourth and final WHL season.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Fioretti said. “I’m going to put the time in over the summer to get ready and I’m excited to come down there and help the team win in any way possible.”
Remy Giftopoulos – Herlev Eagles – Metal Ligaen
Jumping overseas now, Remy signs on with the Herlev Eagles of Denmark’s Metal Ligaen, the premier league in Danish ice hockey. The former Ottawa ‘67 & Windsor Spitfire in the OHL, put up 87 points for the Axemen in 101 regular season games over the past four years. Gifto joins former Acadia teammate Brett Thomson with Herlev.
Tyler Ferry – Lyon – Ligue Magnus
The versatile Tyler Ferry will join Lyon of France’s Synerglace Ligue Magnus, the top men’s division of French ice hockey. An OHL alumnus of the London Knights, Tyler played 5 seasons with the Axemen, joining the team as a forward and later transitioning to defense, where he became a stalwart workhorse on the backend. In 141 regular season games Ferry notched 40 points.
Taylor Makin – Brest Albatros – France2
A fan favorite anywhere he plays, Makin will join the Brest Albatros of the France2 league, the second of four levels of professional ice hockey in France. His team first, heart and soul approach over the past 5 years with the Axemen will no doubt be on display with this new team in France as well.
Michael Clarke – Rosetown Red Wings – Allan Cup Hockey West
In addition, Acadia alumnus Michael Clarke has joined the Rosetown Red Wings of the Allan Cup Hockey West league, a multi-tier Canadian Senior ice hockey league based in Alberta. Year in year out the Allan Cup provides tremendous hockey at a very high level. In fact, Axemen alumnus Travis Randall was a 2017 Allan Cup champion with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, coached by former Axemen head coach Tom Coolen.
Acadia Athletics Executive Director and former Head Coach of the Acadia Axemen, Kevin Dickie noted, “We want junior hockey players to choose Acadia that are the top pedigree at that level. If they are that, they have to know that by coming to Acadia they have a chance to continue on at the next level professionally, whether in North America or Europe. This has become prevalent at Acadia going back to the early ninetees.”
And it’s not just last years graduates that are excelling at elite levels in the hockey world, here’s a look at the relatively recent graduates from Acadia and the elite hockey they continue to play:
Brett Thompson – Herlev Eagles of Denmark’s Metal Ligaen scored 34 points in 50 games this season after putting up 151 points for the Axemen in 141 regular season games in the previous 5 seasons.
Mike Cazzola – Cazzola starred with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Comets in 2016-17 with 76 pts in just 67 games, earning ECHL all-rookie honours; he also played in 3 games with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL that season. Cazz moved overseas to the Edinburgh Capitals of the EIHL last season scoring 53 pts in 52 games. The prolific scorer put up 133 points in 107 games over 4 seasons with the Axemen.
Liam Heelis – The 2014 CIS/USports Men’s hockey most valuable player has signed this season to play for the Glasgow Clan of the EIHL, after putting up 61 pts in 53 games with Fife Flyers in the same league last season. The OHL alumnus scored 112 pts in 109 games in 4 seasons at Acadia.
Dylan Anderson – Dylan only knows how to play hockey one way, 110% every shift. He is currently playing with the Melbourne Ice in the AIHL, which is Australia’s top ice hockey league after playing alongside Mike Cazzola last winter with the Edinburgh Capitals of the EIHL. In 129 games with Acadia over 4 seasons, Anderson scored 58 points.
Christopher Owens – another offensive dynamo on the blue line, Owey now suits up with EHC Lausitzer Füchse of the DEL2 league, which is the second-level of ice hockey in Germany, below the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He signed over seas, after two seasons with the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks in which he added 25 pts in 65 games. His Acadia 5 year career saw Chris record 124 points in 134 regular season games.
Scott Trask – Trask became a President’s Cup champion this season with the Huntsville Havoc of the SPHL, the Southern Professional Hockey League after 4 seasons with the Axemen in which the QMJHL alumnus added 15 points in 84 regular season games.
Evan Mosher – the former QMJHL PEI Rockets netminder spent last season as a teammate of Brett Thompson with the Herlev Eagles, after a season in France with Gap. Mosher has also played for the ECHL’s Quad City Mallards.
Andrew Clark – the CIS/USports 2012 men’s hockey most valuable player is playing with the HC Innsbruck of the EBEL. The Austrian Hockey League is the top-tier ice hockey league in Austria. Clarkie had a successful stint in the ECHL with Stockton Thunder putting up 35 pts in 31 games before being called up to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers where he added 19 pts in 31 games. Following that season Clark signed overseas and has a number of very successful years. With Acadia Andrew had 131 pts in 111 regular season games.
Russ Moyer – Russ continues to play at an elite level at the spry age of 35. last season Moyer was teammates with Liam Heelis with the EIHL’s Fife Flyers. The OHL Ottawa ‘67s alumnus also spent some time with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins back in 2007-2008.
Robin Sochan – At the tender age of 41 Robin has had an exceptional 16 year career playing in the elite German leagues. He now plays in the Germany3, with the Black Dragons Erfurt, and back in 2001-02 he was an AUS first team all-star with the Axemen before graduating and heading overseas.
If producing pro level players wasn’t enough, the Acadia hockey program graduates now includes an NHL level coach as well, as Acadia Axemen alumnus & former captain Paul McFarland has moved through the ranks of OHL Junior hockey with the Kingston Frontenacs to the NHL, and now serves as assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.
With the tremendous talent currently in the lineup for Acadia, there’s no sign of interruption in the Acadia hockey development of great hockey players, graduating to sign pro deals in elite leagues, making Acadia University one of the premiere university hockey programs and indeed a viable ‘pathway to the pros’.