Axemen Hockey ’22-’23 Season Preview
Acadia retools lineup for upcoming season
We are just over a week away from the drop of the puck to open the 2022-23 AUS men’s hockey regular season. The Acadia Axemen will open the season on the road in Halifax, facing the Dalhousie Tigers on Wednesday, October 5th. The Axemen lineup will look much different from the squad Acadia iced when hosting the University Cup tournament last March in Wolfville.
Gone from last year’s team are netminder Max Paddock, forwards Mason McCarty, Johnny Corneil, Jordy Stallard, and Loch Morrison; while the Axemen added 10 new recruits to the lineup as they look to improve on a difficult regular season last year.
Let’s look at this year’s edition of the Acadia Axemen hockey team:
The Axemen welcome back the leadership and tenacity of team Captain Jack Flaman (9 points in 18 games), who will return for a fifth season. Adam McMaster (16 points in 22 games) and Peyton Hoyt (13 points in 22 games) will be counted on heavily for production, along with returnees Eric Henderson (14 points in 22 games), Keegan Stevenson (8 points in 12 games), Nick Deakin-Poot (7 points in 22 games), & Cole Rafuse (2 points in 22 games). Colin Marshall who played in 3 games for Acadia last season will add depth to the forward roster.
The Axemen have added six forwards, headlined by Falmouth, Nova Scotia native Bailey Peach. Peach is coming off a standout season with the Victoria Royals of the WHL scoring 78 points in 66 games. He will be counted on for production and should prosper from the large ice surface at the Andrew H. McCain Arena.
Cole Nagy, a 6’6” forward who took part in the Colorado Avalanche rookie camp should make an impact with the Axemen, along with fellow recruits Brendan Sellan, Corson Hopwo, Matt McKim, and Enfield, NS’s Liam Kidney.
Coach Burns is enthused with his forward group saying, “Up front our team has had a huge overhaul. We have some good core leaders returning that we need to set the tone for many new players. Early on, our forwards have shown excellent work ethic and overall speed. We will need them to use these qualities to their fullest to help our team win.”
On the backend, Acadia returns all 6 defenceman from the second half of last season with Luke Zazula (7 points in 22 games), Hudson Wilson (1 point in 15 games), Reilly Webb (7 points in 22 games), Merrick Rippon (4 points in 22 games), Morgan Nauss (1 point in 19 games), and Orie Mainolfi (1 point in 22 games) returning. Newcomer Brendan Tomilson, who starred in the OJHL last season, will look to round out the defence, while Cole Vardy adds depth to the blueline.
Coach Burns said, “Our defence core is one of maturity. We feel this has to be a position that is a stabilizing force for us. We are returning 6 d and as a core they were good last year. We will need them to go from good to great this year if we are going to be a contender. We feel they have what it takes, and our d will be relied on heavily.”
With the departure of Max Paddock, the Axemen recruited two first year netminders to backstop the team this season in former Oshawa Generals Zack Paputsakis & Peterborough Petes alumnus Tye Austin. Returning for a 5th season is Conor McCallum.
Coach Burns is optimistic with the netminding trio for the team saying, “Having two new goalies is not the norm in our league. So, it will prove very exciting to see how things unravel, but both newcomers we believe are late bloomers which is not uncommon at this position. Paps and Tye have looked good early on and are eager to prove themselves. Connor is coming back for his fifth year and although he has not appeared in much game action, he has looked great when he has. He’s an extremely confident goalie who our players have grown to respect immensely. There’s lots up for grabs in our net coming into the season.”
The Axemen will be led by a strong defence core, with an improved scoring prowess upfront over last season. Acadia will be a fast, puck moving team that will be difficult to play against each and every night. If the goaltending duo of Austin and Paputsakis can settle into the high octane style of play in the AUS conference, the Axemen have plenty of reason for optimism this season.
Acadia will see their first pre-season action this Thursday night in Halifax when they face the SMU Huskies at the Dauphinee Centre.