Axemen 2022-23 season review
Coach Burns looks forward to the Axemen off-season initiatives
2022-23 was the year we were finally back to some sense of normalcy in AUS men’s hockey, after the Acadia hosted University Cup was cancelled before the Axemen played a game in March of 2020, a cancelled 2020-21 season, and a fragmented season in 2021-22, it was finally back to business as usual this season.
The Axemen welcomed 9 new faces into the lineup in September as they looked to lay the building blocks for the program’s future. Their first half of the season saw some growing pains as they entered the holiday break going 5-10-2-1, and saw the team begin to gel, as many of the players began to get acclimated to the speed and compete level of the AUS.
Acadia head coach Darren Burns said this about his team’s growth, “We were extremely happy with our team’s progress over the season. In early September we made our team very aware that we were not going to use age as an excuse. We felt this was an extremely important recruiting year for our program and it was crucial that we brought in players who loved the game and were committed to do what our program asks of them. It’s not a secret, if you are going to be competitive as an individual and team in AUS hockey, you better compete and love the game; it’s the only way you have any chance of succeeding especially if you are a young team. We felt this group of players demonstrated this from day one.”
The Axemen began to turn a corner in the second half, as they earned 12 points, going 6-6 not only making the playoffs, but moving into 5th place in the standings by passing the Aigles Bleus in the final game of the regular season. The Axemen were slotted to play the StFX X-Men in the 1st round of the playoffs, in a best of 3 series. The X-Men were a team, that by and large, were considered a potential team to make it to the UCup tournament this season, and boasted the top 3 regular season scorers in the conference. The underdog Axemen knocked off the X-Men in 2 straight games to win the series and move on to the 2nd round. In the 2nd round, they faced the Saint Mary’s Huskies who finished 2nd in the AUS, and were ranked in the USports top 10 in the country throughout the year. After a decisive loss in the 1st game, Acadia gave SMU all they could handle in the next 3 games, including a 2-1 double overtime win in Wolfville for the Axemen, to save off elimination in game 3, before finally bowing out to the Huskies in a hard fought game 4.
We asked Coach Burns about the team’s 2nd half and the importance of the team’s playoff compete level, he said, “The second half success and playoffs helped, in that it showed the players that hard work and commitment and belief in a plan and structure will bring positive results. We don’t want winning one round in the playoffs to be our standard. Some folks questioned if we would even make the playoffs. Our finish and performance in the playoffs gave our returning players a taste of what it takes to succeed in this league. There is no question we feel they had a successful season. We compete in a tremendous conference, and it’s well documented that AUS hockey creates opportunity to compete against some of the top teams in the country every night, so it tests you every night.”
With the 2022-23 season now in the rear-view mirror, the attention shifts to the Axemen off-season and what needs to be done to ensure the team and the hockey program are ready to continue to build for success in the 2023-24 season and beyond.
Coach Burns expressed his desire to continue to build the program for the future saying, “Moving forward the main focus for our staff is generating more revenue, which will enhance our on-ice product. To be a national contender you need to be able to compete financially. The landscape has changed and even though the AUS always produces many of the top teams in the country, you are seeing many other schools raising their levels and hockey is as competitive as it’s ever been. We have been fortunate here in the Annapolis Valley, this is the best place to play university hockey in the country. We have a great facility and a very loyal fan base and a following like no other. We want to make sure our players have everything they need to win and develop to further their careers. Our university is extremely supportive of our team. It will be crucial for us to execute our different fundraising endeavors to help ensure we can have a top-quality program. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be releasing these initiatives and we look forward to making these successful with the support of our community, alumni, and fans. It’s no secret money is crucial not only to attract the best players in the country, but to provide the best student athlete experience. This is a must.”
Burns added, “On ice, we are very fortunate that we have already secured a topflight goalie in Thomas Couture and our focus will be in recruiting players who have speed and can create offence. We have many key building blocks in place to have a very strong team. It’s no secret we struggled to score this year, and this is our ongoing focus for our recruiting process. It was great to see a reinvigorated following in the arena this year after a couple of fragmented seasons in our league due to the pandemic. I don’t believe I have ever been as excited about the future for this program. There’s a lot of work to do and it starts with our coaching staff.”
Stay tuned for exciting news about off-season events and initiatives, as well as recruiting announcements in the coming weeks! The future is looking bright for the Axemen hockey program and we’re excited to have you onboard for the journey! #GoAcadiaGo