Acadia looks to continue momentum coming off the holiday break
Axemen eager for more after gaining 1st half experience
We’ve hit the holiday break in the AUS season, so let’s take a look back at the first half of the season for the Acadia Axemen.
The Axemen came into the season with a total of 9 new recruits joining the program, including six 1st year forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie. A tall order to initiate nearly half of the team into the fast paced, ultra competitive AUS conference. But the Axemen came out of the gate strong winning 2 of the first 3 games of the regular season before falling into a lull through mid October to mid November going 1-8-1. The team found their stride heading into the holiday break, earning points in 4 straight games and going 2-1-1-1 in their last 5 games. Acadia currently sits in 6 place in the AUS, just 4 points back of the 5th place StFX X-Men.
Acadia Axemen head coach Darren Burns was pleased with his team’s progress saying, “To me, looking at the first half, it needs to be assessed in two parts. This was a very important year for the program coming out of the last two fragmented years and graduating so many players. It was crucial we got the right people to strengthen our foundation and culture and we feel extremely confident we have done that. This, mixed with great leadership by our veterans, has proven to create a positive first half. On the ice surface we feel the team grew immensely over the first half. We had a strong finish, as players got used to the league. We liked what we saw when we had our full line up. At the same time, it has made us hungry to want more and we believe our players feel the same. That being said, everyone knows the league is going to another level in the 2nd half, that’s just the way the AUS is.”
In terms of individual players, forward Liam Kidney, of Enfield, got off to a hot start with 6 goals in his first 6 games and continues to lead the team with 7 goals and 12 points over 18 games.
Falmouth’s Bailey Peach had a strong first half in his 1st season with Acadia, with 10 points in 17 games, good for second on the team; tied with fellow rookie Brendan Sellan, who came on late in the 1st half with 6 points in his final 8 games.
Corson Hopwo came on strong with 8 points, before being injured in the 2nd last game before the break, while Cole Nagy continues to impress at both ends of the ice with every AUS game he adds to his resume.
2nd year centreman Adam McMaster had 9 points, while Peyton Hoyt had 7 points in 15 games. Nick Deakin-Poot also excelled to start the season, laying the body on the opponents every chance he had, scoring 6 points in 12 games despite injuries which forced him out of the lineup for 6 games.
Captain Jack Flaman, assistant captain Eric Henderson, and forward Keegan Stevenson began to find their scoring touch late in the 1st half, and will be counted on for continued leadership and secondary scoring in January.
The Axemen greatest strength may have been their defense. The returning 6 defenseman have led the way, with the shotblocking extraordinaires Orie Mainolfi and Morgan Nauss, getting in lanes and taking away scoring chances. Luke Zazula has pitched in on offense with 6 points, and Merrick Rippon has increased his offensive prowess this season with 9 points in 15 games. Assistant captains Reilly Webb and Hudson Wilson have brought strong leadership and continue to force opponents to earn every inch, the full length of the ice. Brendan Tomilson has been a strong addition on the blueline, also showing versatility stepping in to play forward when called upon.
In goal, 5th year netminder Conor McCollum has emerged as the starting goalie throughout the first half, starting 11 games with a 5-4-2-1 record with a .895 Save Percentage and 3.11 Goals Against Average. While 1st year Axemen Zack Paputsakis has been strong despite still looking for his 1st win on the season, he has given Acadia a chance to win in each of his 7 starts on the season, with a 2.89 GAA and .908 SV%.
The Axemen will get a boost on the offensive side going into the 2nd half as they have added former Halifax Mooseheads centremen Zack Jones to the team. The extra scoring punch may be just what Acadia needs to continue their push in the standings as they head into January.
As Coach Burns concluded, looking forward to coming out of the break, “It’s about to get faster and tougher starting in January and it’s up to our staff to prepare our players for this. We are looking forward to this challenge. At the end of the day, we were impressed with our team’s commitment. However bigger challenges lie ahead, and we look forward to taking them head on as a team.”
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Axemen will look to come out of the holiday break strong when Acadia returns to the ice on January 6th . They will look to avenge a 3-2 loss to the Dalhousie Tigers in the final game before the break, when they travel to Halifax to face the Tigers at 7pm at the Halifax Forum.