Looking back on the closing decade
Acadia hockey – a decade in review
As we enter 2020, let’s take a few minutes to look back on the closing decade for the Acadia Axemen. A decade that saw the Axemen win an AUS championship, earn four appearances at the University Cup National tournament – including a bronze medal, 2 winners of the USports Player of the Year trophy for University Hockey in Canada, and 2 Axemen players awarded the Governor General’s Academic All-Canadian Commendation.
The Axemen have been in the AUS playoffs every year in the 2010-2019 decade, most years being a top 4 seed. In 2013-14, the Axemen achieved AUS playoff success as they hoisted their only AUS championship of the decade.
That 2013-14 AUS championship led the team to their first UCup appearance of the 2010’s; however, they dropped 4-2 and 3-2 losses to Windsor and Saskatchewan. The following year the Axemen returned to the National Tournament in the new single knockout format, losing to UQTR is overtime in their first game.
Acadia made national news at the 2016-17 University Cup, as they came in to the 8-team tournament seeded #8 and were matched up against the #1 ranked powerhouse Alberta Golden Bears. The Axemen upset the favorites with a 4-1 win to send the Golden Bears home empty handed. After dropping a 3-0 setback to UNB, the Axemen defeated AUS rival StFX 7-3 to win the bronze medal on the National stage. The following year in 2017-18, Acadia returned to UCup to face a rematch against Alberta, and this time the Golden Bears defeated the Axemen in a high scoring game 8-6.
Perhaps most impressive in terms of personal accolades, were the two standout seasons offensively from Acadia forwards which earned them the honor of top players in the Nation. Andrew Clark’s 2011-12 season was a thing of beauty, as he led the AUS in scoring, was named 1st Team All-Canadian, 1st Team AUS all-star, and awarded the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy as CIS player of the year. The following year in 2012-13, Clark was named a 1st Team AUS All-star, and 2nd team all-Canadian. Two years later, Acadia’s Liam Heelis had an outstanding season, as he too was awarded the Player of the year trophy for the USports (formerly CIS) hockey, was named 1st Team All-Canadian, and 1st Team AUS All-star.
Another special player that dawned the Axemen uniform over the past decade was defenceman Chris Owens. Owens was named a 1st Team All-Canadian & 1st Team AUS all-star in 2011-12, a 2nd Team All-Canadian & 1st Team AUS all-star in 2012-13, and a 1st Team AUS all-star in 2013-14.
The Axemen had the top scorers in the AUS 3 times over the decade with Andrew Clark putting up 39 points in 28 games in 2011-12. Axemen teammates Liam Heelis and Mike Cazzola tied for the AUS scoring lead in 2013-14 each with 42 points, with Heelis getting the nod as scoring champion with 24 goals in the campaign. Stephen Harper was the league’s top scorer in 2017-18 putting up an impressive 46 points in 40 games.
Some of the other Axemen national honors and 1st team AUS honors included:
2014-15 – 1st Team AUS all-star, 2nd Team All-Canadian – forward Brett Thompson
2017-18 – 1st Team AUS all-star, 2nd Team All-Canadian – forward Stephen Harper
2016-17 – 1st Team AUS all-star, 2nd Team All-Canadian – defenceman Geoff Schemitsch
2013-14 – 1st Team AUS all-star, 2nd Team All-Canadian – goaltender Evan Mosher
2013-14 – 1st Team AUS all-star – forward Mike Cazzola
2015-16 – 1st Team AUS all-star – defenceman Matthew Pufahl
2009-10 – 1st Team AUS all-star – goaltender Kristofer Westblom
In 2012-13, Axemen defenceman Travis Gibbons was awarded the Governor General’s Academic All-Canadian Commendation, a tremendous honor for student athletes in the nation. In 2015-2016, Acadia’s Geoffrey Schemitsch was also received the Governor General’s Academic All-Canadian Commendation for his academics while suiting up for the hockey Axemen.
The stability in the Acadia hockey program over the 2010-19 period no doubt came from their coaching staff, as head coach Darren Burns, assistants coaches Mike Alcoe and Mark Richards continued their guidance. Throughout the decade, the Axemen have had former players join the coaching staff including Travis Young and Michael Chiasson, and more recently former Axemen Kris MacDonald as associate coach, Dan Pettersson as an assistant coach, and Evan Mosher as goaltending coach. Coach Darren Burns surpassed 300 career USports (CIS) wins for his career behind the bench with the Axemen last season.
The decade also brought a renaming of the Acadia Arena to the Andrew H. McCain Arena, along with a brand-new dressing room for the Axemen & state of the art weight room & training centre. Support for Acadia Axemen hockey has remained very strong in Wolfville, as the program continues to rank in the top echelon for USports hockey attendance throughout the decade.
As we head into the 2020’s, we look to the current Axemen to see who will become the team & scoring leaders for the new decade, and those who will make the decision to join the historic Acadia hockey program in years to come. And of course, with Acadia hosting this year’s University Cup in March in Halifax, perhaps the Axemen will start the new decade by adding another USports National Championship Banner to hang at the Andrew H. McCain Arena. Here’s to the decade ending as we look forward to what’s to come in the 2020’s.