2021-22 Acadia Axemen Season Preview
Plenty of Optimism for UCup Hosts
The Acadia Axemen return to home ice on October 8th to open up the 2021-22 regular season after last season was cancelled by USports due to the pandemic. The Axemen have a number of new faces since the team last played playoff action back in February of 2020, prior to hosting the USports National University Cup championship, which were cancelled before Acadia played their first game as the pandemic struck Canada. Acadia has once again been named the host for the UCup tournament this season in Halifax, in March.
Let’s take a look at the 2021-22 Axemen!
Arguably the strongest position for the Axemen will be in goal this season. Acadia will have the reigning AUS regular season MVP of 2019-20, Logan Flodell, in net once again, along with highly touted WHL recruit Max Paddock, completing the tandem. In the ultra-competitive AUS no game is a ‘night off’, so having this 1-2 punch in goal will ensure the Axemen a chance to win every night.
Axemen coach Darren Burns, who heads into his 20th season behind the bench for Acadia, is confident of the tandem in his crease saying, “We feel our goaltending will be as good as there is in USports. Floods (Logan Flodell) has been an MVP in this league and we will need him to replicate that form. Although Max is a rookie in the league, he has proven he can carry the ball in high pressure situations. He starred with Regina in the Memorial Cup which has proven to be a great measuring stick for him.”
The Axemen will ice a very different lineup on defence since their last regular season game in Wolfville, gone are the likes of Liam Maaskant, Alex Lepkowski & Ross MacDougall, but the Acadia coaching staff has assembled a very strong defensive corps, with 9 natural defenseman on the roster. Acadia will be led on the backend by the smooth skating Garrett McFadden, who was an AUS 2nd team all-star in 2019-20, along with returning defenceman Morgan Nauss and TJ Fergus.
New additions to the blue line, will play a big role in the Axemen success with the skating & offensive skill of Luke Zazula, and the hard nosed play from Merrick Rippon & Orie Mainolfi, & last year’s strong two way defence recruits Reilly Webb & Hudson Wilson. With this depth on defense, Loch Morrison will move up to the wing to see action with the forwards.
Burns, the 2019-20 AUS Coach of the Year, likes the make up of his blue line saying, “On defence, we feel we are mobile, physical and can skate. We have a mixture of key elements at this position, and we will need this group, along with our goaltending to focus on playing stingy and keeping pucks out of our end.”
“Up front we feel we have a hard-working group who skates well. They will need to focus on work ethic and puck possession to create offence this season,” said Coach Burns about his forward lineup.
Having lost scoring prowess of graduated forwards Stephen Harper, Cristiano Digiacinto, Rodney Southam, & Owen MacDonald, Acadia will rely heavily on scoring by committee with a balanced attack this season. Mason McCarty will be looked to for production, currently skating on the top line with fellow veteran Mo Colella and 1st year centreman Adam McMaster.
2018-19 Memorial Cup winner Tyler Hinam should be an impact player in his first official AUS season, along with 6’5” centreman Nick Deakin-Poot. Forwards Keegan Stevenson, Peyton Hoyt & Annapolis Valley native Cole Rafuse will look to provide a balance of energy and scoring throughout the four line attack.
Returning forwards Johnny Corneil, Eric Henderson, & Jack Flaman will be relied on to continue their production and leadership in the lineup; while Axemen Jordy Stallard, who has been one of the team’s top scoring forwards since arriving in January of the 2018-19 season, will be sidelined until the second half of this season following off season surgery, but will provide a strong addition to the offense when he returns.
The Axemen finished up their exhibition schedule last week with victories over Saint Mary’s and then Dalhousie giving them a 2-1-1 preseason record. Acadia’s regular season opens up on Friday, October 8th as the Axemen host the Dalhousie Tigers, followed by a trip to Antigonish on Saturday for the Axemen to face the X-Men.