Axemen ready for 2nd half challenge
1st Half Experience & Added Depth Key for Acadia
The Acadia Axemen hit the ice to start the second half of their AUS men’s hockey season on Friday night on the road in PEI, as they face the UPEI Panthers, and then again on Saturday night in Fredericton against the UNB Reds. Not an easy start for the Axemen who will look to improve on a tough first half, that saw a young team, with 12 new players, go through some growing pains. A 5-10-2 record, good for 6th in the conference, with a 5-3 record on home ice, meant an 0-7-2 record on the road. Something the Axemen need to improve on to climb the AUS standings.
The Axemen came in to the season leaving 2 roster spots open, and with injuries and suspensions in the first half, it definitely spread the team thin at times. 1st year forward Cole Reginato saw action in just 5 games due to an early season injury, assistant captain Alex Lepkowski missed 7 games due to suspension and injury. 2nd year Axemen Michael Zipp & Cristiano Digiacinto missed 4 games a piece, while first year forward Johnny Corneil was out for two games.
The decision to hold those roster spots open looks to have paid off for the Axemen however, as they have added former WHL sniper Jordy Stallard, and stalwart defenceman Tate Olsen, who also played in the WHL. Both players spent the first half of the season playing in the ECHL; both players are NHL draft picks as Stallard was drafted in the 5th round in 2016 by the Winnipeg Jets, and Olsen in the 7th round in 2015 by the Vancouver Canucks.
Acadia Head Coach Darren Burns expressed excitement heading into January saying, “We are very excited to get started with the second half. The intensity of AUS hockey ramps up in the second half of the season and that is something we need to be prepared for. There’s no question the first half was a huge learning experience for our team and the second half will be even tougher. We were extremely fortunate to add two strong players which will help. There’s no place to hide in our conference and commitment and execution will be critical if we are going to succeed.”
The move adds top 6 scoring depth, in Stallard, to a group that struggled to score in the 1st half, with just 40 goals, good for 6th in the AUS. Meanwhile adding Olsen will solidify a defensive unit that also finished 6th in the half in goals against, allowing 63 goals.
Overall adding two more players of this calibre will give the Axemen the depth needed to face the gruelling battles of the second half of the season in the ultra competitive AUS conference, where every game is a battle, with injuries, illness, & suspensions a piece of the puzzle. A puzzle that Axemen head coach Darren Burns needs to deal with in preparing his team and penciling in his lineup to face their next opponent.
The Axemen will also look to 1st year netminder Logan Flodell to grow from his 1st half of action in the AUS. With 11 regular season games under his belt, and the experience from his 5 year WHL junior career, the Axemen are confident he, along with 2nd year netminder Dawson Carty, can backstop the Axemen up the AUS standings over the next two months.
Catch all of this weekend’s action on AUStv.ca or listen to Len Hawley’s call of the game locally on AVR Radio 97.7FM! As always, for all of the latest Axemen news, follow @axemenhockey on Twitter. Go Acadia Go!