Tickets go on sale today at noon for the event on June 13th 

The Acadia Axemen hockey program is proud to announce Doug Gilmour as this year’s featured guest at the 23rd edition of the Acadia Hockey Celebrity Dinner. This year’s dinner takes place on Thursday, June 13th at the Andrew H. McCain Arena in Wolfville, and tickets are now available for individual tickets, half table, and full table purchases at the Acadia Box Office or online at acadiau.universitytickets.com

Gilmour joins a long list of hockey greats to have taken the stage at the Celebrity Dinner, including the likes of Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Darryl Sittler, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Marcel Dionne, Denis Potvin, Brian Trottier, and most recently Guy Carbonneau, at last year’s event.

The event includes a buffet dinner, a large silent auction with something of interest for everyone, including plenty of hockey memorabilia, a celebration of Annapolis Valley hockey, and a chance to meet the hockey greats.

This year’s featured guest is a Memorial Cup Winner in 1981 with the Cornwall Royals, a Stanley Cup Winner in 1989 with the Calgary Flames, a Selke Trophy award winner with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993, and a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2011. He was also a member of the 1987 Canada Cup winning team, famous for their thrilling victory over Russia in the best on best tournament.

Likely best known for his time as a Toronto Maple Leaf, “Killer”, as he was nicknamed, led the Leafs to within one game of the Stanley Cup finals in 1993, losing to Wayne Gretzky and his LA Kings in game 7 of the conference finals. That season saw Gilmour post 127 points for the Maple Leafs, followed by an 111 point campaign in 1993-94.

Gilmour would score 1414 points in 1474 regular season games in the NHL, and likely even more impressive, in 182 career playoff games, the gritty offensive forward would put up 188 points, to average over a point per game. He would play with 7 teams over his NHL career, including the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, and the Montreal Canadiens.

Stay tuned as we make further announcements in the coming weeks about the Acadia Hockey Celebrity Dinner, and get your tickets today as we prepare to welcome the great Doug Gilmour to the Annapolis Valley!

Plenty to look forward to with off-season events & growth for next season

The Acadia Axemen season came to an end last weekend after a pair of thrilling games against StFX that saw the Axemen come out on the wrong side of both a 3OT game in Antigonish, followed by a 4OT game in Wolfville. A series that could very easily have seen a pair of wins for Acadia to win the series.

As we reflect back on the 2023-24 season, the Acadia fans were treated to a hard-working team that played to the final buzzer every night, with 15 of 30 regular season games being decided by 2 goals or less.

After a challenging first half that saw the team finish with a record of 4-11-3, the Axemen rebounded with a 5-5-2 record in the 2nd half, good for a 9-16-5 record overall, earning the final playoff spot in the AUS conference.

Head Coach Darren Burns is pleased with the direction of the team saying, “We were very proud of how our team competed right through to the end of the season. Clearly, losing in the first round is not the bar we want for our program; however, it was a year where our players had to compete heavily understaffed from day one. We felt they continually worked and emptied their tanks. In the big picture, we feel the pieces are in place for this team to take big steps next year. There were valuable lessons learned and we feel we have the returning core to be able to translate these lessons into success in the standings.”

 

The team excelled from the crease out, with Thomas Couture and Brayden Peters seeing equal time in net in the first 10 games of the season, before the injury to Peters. Couture picked up the gauntlet and would go on to be a standout throughout the season, being named to the AUS 1st team all-star and All-Rookie team member. On top of his sparkling .915 save percentage and 2.76 goals against average, he made highlight reel saves almost on a nightly basis and gave the Axemen a chance to win every game. The deep Axemen defense core put forward a strong body of work, giving up on average just 2.97 goals against per game on the season.

The Axemen struggles came on offense, where they scored on average 2.33 goals per game. Certainly, a portion of this could be attributed to player injuries as Acadia lost 125-man games due to injuries this season. The injury bug led to the team dressing 4 goalies over the course of the season and for one home game the team was forced to dress 10 defenceman and just 8 forwards, due to injuries up front.

The special teams saw improvement over the previous season; the powerplay was just 11% effective in 2022-23 and improved to 17.9% in 2023-24, and the penalty kill improved from 73.8% in 2022-23 to being 80% effective in 2023-24.

Many of the freshmen, who were seeing their 1st AUS action, stepped-in to play key roles and minutes with the team, including Brady Burns who led the team in scoring with 21 points in 24 games, and Ethan Ernst, who tied Bailey Peach for the team lead in goals with 8. The blueline was bolstered with 1st year players Charlie Desroches, Tyler Deline, and Cam Whynot all playing key minutes, and as mentioned, the crease was in good hands with 1st year star Thomas Couture, and Brayden Peters.

2nd year forwards Bailey Peach and Liam Kidney maintained their consistent offense with 18 and 16 points offensively this season, and Brendan Sellan’s 16 points on the campaign were highlighted by scoring 8 points over an 8-game stretch in the 2nd half of the season.

The Axemen have 4 players graduating from the program in assistant captains Reilly Webb, Nick Deakin-Poot, and Hudson Wilson, as well as team captain Morgan Nauss. The Acadia coaching staff now turns their attention to off-season recruiting for the 2024-25 season, where they will look to replace the size they are losing from the graduating players, while also adding offense to the lineup.

The support from the Valley community continues to be a high point for the hockey program. The support of the fan base, Valley community, alumni, and corporate sponsorships is crucial for the program and very much appreciated.

Coach Burns also expressed his gratitude to the fans and local community saying, “I would also like to thank the businesses, fans, and families who supported our extensive and integral fundraisers this past year. People in this community continually step up, whether it’s fundraising events, partaking in our hockey camps or attending our games. Our increase in attendance at home games this season is not the norm for many sporting teams these days. This loyalty to our hockey team is certainly vital to our team’s success. We do not take it for granted.”

Planning for off-season events such as the Axemen Celebrity Hockey Dinner in June, youth hockey camps throughout the summer, and the Friends of Acadia Hockey Golf Scramble in September are well underway. Stay connected with our social media accounts for more information to be released in the coming weeks on those events.

Axemen freshman goaltender recognized for exceptional regular season

Atlantic University Sport named the men’s hockey All-Star and All-Rookie teams today, and Acadia Axemen freshman goaltender, Thomas Couture has been named to both the All-Rookie Team, as well as a 1st Team All-Star.  The Acadia Axemen hockey program would like to send our congratulations to Thomas on this tremendous achievement.

The Levis, QC native, not only had excellent statistical numbers this season, but also made countless highlight reel and game saving stops for the Axemen throughout the year. He was named AUS and USports male athlete of the week for the first week of January 2024.

With teammate Brayden Peters going down with a season ending injury early in the season, Couture was counted on heavily to shoulder the load in goal for Acadia, seeing action in 24 of 30 regular season games, where he would boast a .915 Save Percentage, good for 3rd best in the AUS, and a 2.76 Goals Against Average, which was 4th best in the conference.

Couture repeats the impressive feat that UNB netminder Samuel Richard achieved last season, earning a spot on both the 1st Team All-Star and All-Rookie Team for the AUS.

He also becomes the 1st Axemen to be named a 1st Team All-Star since fellow goaltender Logan Flodell did so in 2019-20, and the first Acadia member of the All-Rookie Team since defenceman Garrett McFadden got the nod in 2018-19.

Acadia Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns congratulated his goaltender on the announcement saying, “We are very proud of Thomas and his accomplishments this season. For a rookie goaltender to be named a first team all-star is not an easy task. His play this year spearheaded a very strong defensive effort for our team. He played in many low scoring games, which added to the pressure during his season. Playing against national contending teams every night, he was ready to compete night in night out. His personal statistics spoke volumes and his leadership on and off the ice were vital for the program this season. Having him in our lineup bodes very well for the future of this team.”

Prior to joining the Axemen, Couture played in the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in 2022-23, where he was 26-16-3 in 48 regular season games, and the previous season, he captured a Memorial Cup championship with the Saint John SeaDogs, along with current Axemen teammates Brady Burns and Charlie Desroches. After starting the season in Moncton, he went 18-1-1 in the regular season with the SeaDogs with a 1.99 GAA & a .925 save percentage enroute to the MEM Cup.

Couture and the Axemen will look to even up their AUS quarterfinal series at one in a best of 3 series with the StFX X-Men on Saturday night in Wolfville. The Acadia netminder made 57 saves on 61 shots in game 1, including a number of acrobatic stops in the OT sessions, but the X-Men went on to prevail in the 3OT marathon.

Congratulations Thomas!

Best of 3 Series, Acadia Axemen vs StFX X-Men

In a re-match of last year’s AUS quarterfinal series, the Acadia Axemen will face the StFX X-Men in a best of 3 matchup. Much like last year, StFX owns the home ice advantage in the short series, and the Axemen will look to replay history, as a year ago they went into Antigonish, winning game 1, before returning to Wolfville to close out the best of 3 series at home in game 2. What will this year’s series bring? We will soon see, as Game 1 goes on Wednesday evening.

The 16-13-1 X-Men have won their last 3 games, and feature a high flying offense, that was 2nd to only UNB in the AUS, as they scored 112 goals in the regular season. In contrast, Acadia (9-16-5) scored just 70 goals on the season, however, the Axemen were stingy on the defensive side, giving up just 98 goals on the season, 3rd lowest in the AUS, and 5 less than the X-Men.

For Acadia, Bailey Peach (18 points and co-team lead with 8 goals), Liam Kidney & Brendan Sellan (16 points each), and Ethan Ernst (8 goals) will be heavily counted on for offense against StFX. While forwards Nick Deakin-Poot, Reilly Webb, and Zack Jones will be leaned on to provide strong defensive, two-way play, for Acadia in this short series. As has been the case all season, the strong defence corps of the Axemen will play a big role in the success of the team in this series. The Axemen are hopeful to see the return of  leading scorer Brady Burns, (21 points in 24 games), who has missed the last 6 games, and Peyton Hoyt (6 points in 13 games) at some point during the series, but their status will be a game time decision.

The Axemen will need to focus on containing the X-Men offensive prowess led by AUS 2nd leading scorer Matthew Struthers (46 points), and perennial top scorer Liam Hawel, (37 points), along with the team’s top goal scorer Jacob Hudson, who had 18 goals and 32 points, and Charlie Callaghan delivers offense from the backend with 21 points as a defenseman.

Perhaps the biggest spotlight of the series will shine on the goaltending matchup, where the X-Men’s Joseph Raaymakers (14-12, 2.96 GAA, .912 SV%) will face Axemen star rookie Thomas Couture (7-10-5, 2.76 GAA, .915 SV%). Acadia will look to Couture to continue his outstanding play moving forward in the series.

We caught up with Axemen head coach Darren Burns to get his thoughts on the series, he said, “We are looking forward to the start of the playoffs. We have been really happy with our team’s battle level and focus this year.

Its been a season where players have had to continually adapt to different situations and responsibilities, as our line up was always changing with many players not available. It is important for our team to keep this focus in the post season.”

Game 1 goes Wednesday night in Antigonish at 7pm, before the series shifts to Wolfville for a Saturday night matchup in Game 2. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Monday, February 19th back in Antigonish.

Get your tickets for Acadia’s home game at the Acadia Box Office or purchase online at acadiau.universitytickets.com

#GoAcadiaGo