Acadia alumnus playing with the Hartford Wolfpack

Wolfpack action photo by Scott Martin

Acadia Axemen alumnus Cristiano Digiacinto has had a strong first half playing with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL. As of the writing of this article, he has suited up in 13 games scoring 4 points, including 3 goals for the Wolfpack.

We caught up with Cristiano to ask him about what it’s been like suiting up in the AHL this season, he said, “Playing in the AHL this year has truly been a dream come true. At first things were a little different, not playing last year made it tough to get into the swing of things. After a few games, I felt that my game continued to improve and got back to where I was my last year at Acadia.”

Digiacinto suited up for the Acadia Axemen from 2017-2021,  having his final year of his USports career cut short with the 2020-21 season being cancelled due to the pandemic. However that didn’t deter the Hamilton, Ontario native as he signed an AHL contract this summer with the Hartford Wolfpack.

Back in 2019-20, the Axemen forward had a breakout season, when he finished in a 3 way tie with the most goals in the AUS, with 20 goals in 30 games; he also added 17 assists, for a team high 37 points in 30 games. That season the Axemen and Cristiano were preparing to take centre stage in USports hockey as the hosts of the UCup National tournament, however before Acadia even played their opening game, the tournament was shut down due to the onset of the pandemic in Nova Scotia.

Over his USports career with Acadia, Digiacinto had 53 points in 67 regular season games, and 17 points in 20 playoff games.

Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns expressed pride in Digiacinto’s accomplishments saying, “Deeg was a very focused player when he arrived on campus. We are happy to see how well he is doing and he deserves everything that accompanies his success. He has always wanted to be a pro hockey player. He came here, achieved academic all-Canadian status, was a leader on campus and in the community, got better as a player and is now fulfilling his dream. It is great to see. We are very proud of his accomplishments.”

Prior to arriving at Acadia, Cristiano was drafted by Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014 in the 6th round #170 overall and had won a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2016-17 after a strong OHL career scoring 149 points in 223 regular season games. Following that season he joined the Jacksonville Iceman of the ECHL where he had 6 points in 12 games before leaving the team to enroll at Acadia University after the holiday break and joining the Axemen.

Digiacinto added, “After junior I played a few months of pro hockey before deciding to go to Acadia. My three years at Acadia really helped me mature as a player and a person and put me in a great spot mentally and physically to be a pro hockey player. On the ice, I was able to develop and was put in opportunities to excel on the ice. Off the ice, my kinesiology degree has helped me become a certified personal trainer and gave me a better understanding of my own personal health and fitness. As a pro player now, I understand taking care of my body helps me perform better on the ice.”

Cristiano signed off saying, “I’m thankful for everything Acadia has done for me and without the amazing teammates, coaches and professors, I would not have been giving this opportunity to be a professional hockey player.”

The Acadia hockey program would like to congratulate Cristiano on his success and wish him all the best on a great second half of the season. #ForeverAnAxemen

Jim Midgley named NHL assistant coach

Former Acadia Axemen assistant coach Jim Midgley has been named assistant coach of the NHL’s New York Rangers. Midgley joins Prince Edward Island’s Gerard Gallant’s coaching staff, along with assistant coach Mike Kelly, also from PEI and a UNB hockey alumnus. Midgley was an assistant coach with Acadia from 2002 thru 2007.

Jim, 43, originally from Townsend, Ontario, is currently an assistant coach with Team Canada’s women’s national team at the World Championships in Calgary; the head coach of that team is another former Assistant Coach for the Axemen, Troy Ryan. The two were also to serve in the same positions for the 2022 Beijing Olympics for Team Canada, although with his new position, Midgley will likely need to pass on the Olympic opportunity.

Prior to working with Team Canada, Jim scouted for the Philadelphia Flyers and was an assistant coach with the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in 2019-20. He was the head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2017-18 after serving as an assistant coach for six seasons (2011-17). Midgley was also an assistant coach with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL (2007-09) and). He was the video coach for Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship.


Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns was thrilled to hear the hiring news by the Rangers saying, “We are so excited for Midge. He is one of the great young minds in the game of hockey. He has kept focussed and continued to study the game over the last couple years, while not coaching and now he is a member of an original six franchise. It is all about being a real quality hockey person and having perseverance.  It’s great to see this Maritime connection. There’s a reason why Gerard and Mike’s teams never underachieve. They understand motivation and being real with their players. In adding Midge to their staff, they have just added a huge piece of the puzzle to help them continue their reputation as one of the top coaching tandems in hockey. We are very proud of Midge and we wish him all the best!”


Midgley played his junior career, in the OHL, with the North Bay Centennials & the Belleville Bulls before heading east to suit up for the Acadia rival, Saint Mary’s Huskies for 4 years; serving as Captain of the team for 3 of those years.

The Acadia Axemen hockey program would like to congratulate Midge on his new role with the Rangers, as we’ll be watching and routing for him this season in Wolfville!

Acadia alumnus named Toronto assistant coach

Photo credit Nick Brancaccio

The Toronto Maples Leafs announced the hiring of Acadia Axemen alumnus Paul McFarland as their new assistant coach this week. McFarland, who played for the Axemen from 2006-2010, will join Mike Babcock’s coaching staff in Leafs country, replacing D.J. Smith who moved on from Toronto to take on the head coaching role with the Ottawa Senators.

McFarland was last year’s special guest speaker at the 20th Acadia Hockey Celebrity Dinner, after he had finished his first season behind the bench with the NHL’s Florida Panthers. A season that saw the Panthers miss the NHL playoffs by just one point. After a second season, alongside head coach Bob Boughner, Panthers management decided to take a different direction and brought in Joel Quenneville as the new head coach, making McFarland a coveted free agent to join the coaching staff of many professional hockey teams.

McFarland grew up in Richmond Hill, a part of the Greater Toronto Area, and went on to play four seasons of major junior hockey, with the Kitchener Rangers and the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. In his first season with Kitchener in 02-03, the Rangers won the OHL championship and the Memorial Cup. Paul has always been known for his leadership skills and work ethic, serving as the captain of the Windsor Spitfires in the final year of his OHL career.Read more »

Peyton, St. Louis, Reynolds & Dickie to be Inducted

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – Acadia’s 2018 Homecoming weekend celebrations will include the Axemen Hockey Honour Roll induction luncheon on Friday, Oct. 12 beginning at 11:30 am at Fountain Commons.

Included in this year’s hockey honour roll induction ceremony are former Axemen Josh St. Louis ’01, Chris Peyton ’00 and Doug Reynolds ’98. Also included in this year’s Hockey Honour Roll induction is former head coach Kevin Dickie, who is now the Executive Director of Athletics and Community Events.

Former Axemen Captain, Chris Peyton, will be entering the Honour Roll after an outstanding four year career. Peyton played his Junior hockey years with the Halifax Mooseheads before coming to the Axemen. With 59 assists, Peyton is leader of his class of 1996 to 2000 in assists.

After an incredible 57 goals and 108 points in his last year of Major Junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, Josh St. Louis was arguably the top recruit entering the CIAU in 1997. In only 3 seasons, St. Louis scored 43 goals for Acadia in his career – 22nd among the top Axemen.Read more »

Acadia Hockey Honour Roll Member adds another Honour

Left to Right: Mark McFarlane, Jeff MacLeod and Robin Hennigar

AMHERST, N.S. – This past Wednesday, July 18, former Hockey Axeman Mark McFarlane ’95 along with two additional inductees were installed into the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (Oakland, CA) in association with CANSA (Cumberland African Nova Scotia Association).

From Amherst, N.S., McFarlane was a member of Acadia’s 1993 University Cup hockey championship team and graduated in 1995.

Prior to joining the Axemen, he played for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League from 1988 to 1991 where he won a Memorial Cup.

After Acadia, Mark turned to the professional ranks, suiting up for several teams in the Southern Hockey League, the United Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League.

McFarlane won three Colonial Cup championships (UHL and CoHL) with the Quad-City Mallards and retired from professional hockey in 2004.

His number 22 was retired by the Mallards and in 2010 and he was inducted into the Axemen Hockey Honour Roll. Mark won five championships from Junior hockey onwards.Read more »

Axemen alumnus turned NHL assistant coach

By John DeCoste ’77

When he arrived at Acadia in the fall of 2006, coaching in the NHL – or anywhere else, for that matter – wasn’t necessarily on Paul McFarland’s radar screen.

Now that he has been a coach for six seasons – most recently with the Florida Panthers during the 2017-2018 season – McFarland has come to realize that coaching “was what I really wanted to do.”

McFarland was back in Wolfville as a special guest for the 20th anniversary of the hockey Axemen celebrity dinner June 13.

He acknowledged that growing up and playing hockey in Richmond Hill, Ontario, he had the same dreams and aspirations as any other Canadian youngster – to hopefully one day play in the NHL.

McFarland played four seasons of major junior hockey – two full seasons with the Kitchener Rangers, one with the Windsor Spitfires, and one season split between the two teams. Never a great scorer, he was (and is) an outstanding leader, which continues to serve him well in his coaching career.

McFarland ended up playing 155 OHL regular-season games with Kitchener and 81 with Windsor. While at Acadia, he played 112 games and didn’t miss a game for four seasons.Read more »

Axemen graduates playing at elite levels

The Acadia University hockey Axemen continue to graduate highly skilled players that are going on to play in elite leagues as high as the AHL.

This year’s graduates may have raised the bar to a whole new level for the Axemen hockey program with two players signing AHL contracts, one with the ECHL, and 3 more signing contracts to play overseas in elite leagues.

Acadia Axemen head coach Darren Burns had this to say about the success of the graduating Axemen,“It is great to see so many of our players pursuing pro hockey once they have finished their degree. This year is a great indication of what opportunities are out there for players who work hard. There’s no question we want to create an environment where players can continue to grow their game once done their major junior careers. We are very fortunate that our department and institution has created an environment with an arena which is second to none in the country; a brand new professional dressing room with a state of the art weight room right beside it. It’s an exceptional culture for hockey. As we tell every recruit, Hockey Matters at Acadia and we are very proud of that. ”

Let’s run down the signings from the past year’s graduates:


Boston Leier – Belleville Senators – AHL

Bossy has led the Axemen with heart and skill for the past 4 years, after the University Cup last season, he signed an AHL tryout contract with the Belleville Senators and recorded 6 points in 8 games before returning to Acadia to graduate with his degree. It wasn’t long after that the NHL’s Ottawa Senators AHL affiliate team came calling, and Leier signed on with Belleville. At the Senators development camp earlier this summer, he led his squad to tournament victory, and will attend the main camp for the  Ottawa Senators heading into the fall.  The WHL alumnus, played his junior career with the Medicine Hat Tigers & Regina Pats before putting up 114 points in 111 regular season games with Acadia. Boston will look to be a big part of the success of the Belleville team this season.Read more »

Acadia grad joins Washington Capitals affiliate

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and AHL’s Hershey Bears, have agreed to terms with forward Sam Fioretti for the 2018-19 season. The Calgary, Alberta native will begin his professional career with the Stingrays after 4 years at Acadia University and four seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League.

“We talked to Sam through the spring. He was a really good player for Acadia, which is a very well-coached program,” said Stingrays Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Ryan Warsofsky. “He had a really good regular season and was one of their leaders. We’ve followed him the last couple of years and he has some energy, brings grit and plays on the edge. We’re really happy to bring him in next season.”

“Being a guy that played my major junior hockey in Moose Jaw and living in Canada I like the idea of going down and experiencing time in the states while playing hockey,” said Fioretti. “Talking to Coach Warsofsky, we developed a little bit of a relationship and through word of mouth I found out that people who have played in South Carolina love it down there. It just seemed like a great opportunity and a great spot to continue my career.”Read more »

Another Axemen graduate heads to the AHL

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – Graduating hockey Axeman Matt Pufahl will extend his hockey career with the Colorado Eagles this coming season. The Eagles will take over as the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche affiliate team. The AHL Board of Governors approved league expansion in July of 2017, with the Eagles set to come on board this season. The Eagles are located in Loveland, CO — about 100km north of Denver.

“I was expecting to go over to Europe, to be honest. I was looking over there with my new agent, when David Oliver (Director of Player Development, Colorado Avalanche) out of Colorado called me. I had been in contact with him before when I was there out of Junior Hockey. He asked me what my plans were and I indicated I had shifted my focus to Europe and hadn’t heard anything from North America,” noted Pufahl.Read more »

Leier’s tryout proves successful with new contract

Belleville, Ont. – The Belleville Senators have signed former Acadia Axemen forward Boston Leier to an American Hockey League contract for the 2018-19 season.

Leier was signed out of Acadia University on March 22 to an amateur tryout agreement after a four-year U SPORTS career in the AUS. In eight games with Belleville, his first foray into professional hockey, he scored four goals and added two assists.

Leier returned to Acadia to complete his courses and write several exams.

“I’m extremely excited to sign my first professional contract with Belleville,” Leier said. “It has been a goal of mine to do this since I entered junior hockey so I’m obviously very grateful for the opportunity. Every member of management, coaching staff and players made my short time there this season a great experience.

“I am excited to start a new chapter with Belleville and could not have done this without my many people, most importantly my family. I am thankful for the opportunities I had at Acadia University and without our athletic department, coaches, and past and current teammates I would not be where I am today and am very excited to get the season going in the fall.”Read more »