A Can’t Miss Prospect

by Craig Eagles originally posted on firstdownsportspodcast.com

Photo Credit Victoria Royals

It was my first year with the QMJHL Central Scouting Agency and I remember traveling to Blainville-Boisbriand for the Gatorade Challenge. At that time I was also working for Rogers TV as a colour analyst covering the QMJHL. I was with Rogers in that capacity for about three years, but this was my first major scouting trip. I had joined the CSR at the mid-way point of the season. It was my first chance to see players from other provinces play. I knew that Rogers was going to cover the draft that year because it was in Saint John, New Brunswick.

I drilled down on all the players that we had listed in the first three rounds to potentially enhance the coverage of the draft. Obviously, Bailey Peach was one player that was ranked very high. He was a can’t miss prospect really. It’s always great to look back on old scouting reports, but this what I wrote on Peach from that weekend.

Bailey Peach: “Potentially the best release and hands in tight in the draft, explosive player, dynamic scoring winger tremendous speed to the outside, isn’t afraid to go to dirty areas, great compete level and relentless, has to work on defensive side of his game, but is accountable and responsible, great one on one skills.”

Projection: Can be a Top 6 fwd on any team next year and can probably score at least 15 goals in the right situation. Bright future ahead for this player needs to get stronger to ensure he wins puck battles, great work ethic.”

Can’t miss prospect is one of those scouting labels that are often times unfair.

Unfortunately, things didn’t workout the way a lot of people had thought or projected they would for Peach in the QMJHL.Read more »

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

Acadia hockey first half review

The Axemen first half of the 2021-22 season did not go as planned; coming into the season, the Axemen looked at their four deep forward lines, strong defense, and a solid goaltending tandem, as a group that would be a strong contender in the AUS conference.

However, things didn’t go as planned and the Axemen ended their first half with a 6-12 record.

Injuries hit early… and hit again… and again. Through the first 18 games of the season, the Axemen lost an unprecedented total of 76-man games due to injuries; this led them on numerous occasions to dress just 9 forwards, and 14 skaters; and at times up to 4 of those forwards being natural defencemen. With the ultra-competitive quality of play in the AUS, we have to give kudos to those defencemen who stepped up and played up front as they were asked to do, as many hadn’t played forward since novice and atom level hockey. Not an easy feat at the USport level of play.

The Axemen played many gutsy efforts over the first half, but the short roster led to an inability to have a strong sustained offensive attack and having so many players playing out of position often led to chaotic defensive effort, as the Axemen gave up a conference high 69 goals.

Axemen head coach Darren Burns summed up his team’s first half saying, “The first half certainly did not go the way we envisioned it. However, life is never perfect and neither is sports. It was a first half where we had to continually change on the fly week to week. This presented a lot of opportunities for our players. It also gave our coaching staff an opportunity to see players take on expanded roles.”

The spotlight for Acadia was their powerplay, as they finished the first half with the top powerplay in the AUS, scoring 18 goals in 70 chances, good for a 25.7% conversion rate. Other bright spots include Axemen Captain Garrett McFadden’s continued production from the backend as he led the team in scoring in the 1st half with 20 points in 18 games. 1st year forward Adam McMaster also settled in well after making the transition to the AUS game, scoring 14 points in 18 games.

The second half of the season comes with plenty of reason for optimism for the Axemen, however. Acadia will look to welcome back a number of players from the injury list, including forwards Tyler Hinam, who was able to play in parts of just 3 regular season games due to a pair of separate injuries, winger Maurizio Colella will return after missing the last 11 games of the 1st half, and 1st year forward Keegan Stevenson, who missed the last 10 games, should be back in the lineup when the Axemen host Dalhousie on January 7th.

A key addition to the lineup will be Jordy Stallard, who has been out the entire first half of the season after offseason back surgery. He is progressing on target and is expected to be back in an Axemen uniform either to start the 2nd half or shortly after. Stallard has been a near point a game top line scorer since arriving in Wolfville in 2018, after a strong junior career in the WHL.

Lastly the Axemen still have one remaining roster position to fill which could come in handy, even if it is to add depth in case of injuries.

The return and potential addition of these players to the Acadia lineup, will allow the team to settle back into their natural positions and game plan as they look to climb the AUS standings starting on January 7th when they host Dalhousie in Wolfville.

Coach Burns expressed his optimism for the second half saying, “We are very excited to start the second half and add several pieces to the puzzle and continue to mould our team to get better each week in preparation for March.”

Acadia hosts the National UCup championship tournament in March in Halifax, and although they have a spot in the 8-team tournament based on being the host, there is nothing they want more than to earn their spot with a solid 2nd half of the AUS season.

McMaster with 2 goals in Axemen loss

HALIFAX, N.S. – The Dalhousie Tigers posted a come from behind win against the Acadia Axemen at the Halifax Forum on Wednesday night. After being down 2-1 heading into the third period, the Tigers scored three late goals to win the game and move up in the AUS men’s hockey standings. 

The visitors were able to set the tempo early thanks to a Dalhousie penalty with only two minutes gone, but ultimately it was the host who struck first. 

A quick break through the neutral zone set Barret Kirwin (Barrie, ON) free on a two-on-one with Derek Gentile (Sydney, NS). Kirwin got around the defender and squared it to Gentile who made no mistake, shooting the first time before the goaltender could get across and giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead with just over four minutes gone in the period. 

It didn’t take long for Acadia to answer, however, Just a minute and a half later the Axemen had a breakaway of their own. Adam McMaster (Beamsville, ON) danced past his defender and hit a quick wrist shot into the top corner to tie the game for the Axemen. 

Acadia almost got another goal quickly after. Dalhousie’s Reilly Pickard (Halifax, NS) made one of his many saves in the period to keep the game all-square but some shoving after the play resulted in multiple penalties and a power play for the Tigers. Dalhousie couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage and was more on the back foot for the rest of the period. 

Pickard was forced into 10 saves in the period, many of which came in the latter half of the period as the Axemen asserted themselves more as the penalties for Dalhousie started to rack up. 

The first period ended 1-1. 

Acadia started the second period on a power-play thanks to a Dalhousie penalty with 10 seconds left in the first period. The Axemen were almost able to take advantage but a shot from close range went off the post and a save from Pickard just after momentarily stopped the Acadia pressure. 

It was the visitors who got on the board first in the second period thanks to McMaster again. With seven and a half minutes gone, McMaster scored his second goal of the night. Just like with this first goal, McMaster’s second was a result of a swift transition by the Axemen and quick hands from McMaster himself to work his way around the goalie. The goal put Acadia up 2-1. 

The Tigers couldn’t get settled for most of the second period, facing 21 shots from the Axemen in the period and only mustering nine of their own. The home team was lucky not to be down more heading into the third period, mostly thanks to the efforts of Pickard in net. Heading into the third period the Axemen led 2-1. 

It looked like the Axemen would hold on through the third period, especially when the Tigers got called for another penalty with eight and a half minutes remaining. However, the Tigers were able to break through the Axemen following a line-change and were rewarded with a short-handed goal to tie the game at 2-2. Darien Kielb (Hamilton, ON) scored the rebound following hard work by Gentile to hold off his defender while going to the ice. 

With just under five minutes left in the period, the Tigers flipped the game on its head. Following another line-change for the Axemen, Dalhousie was afforded a clear breakaway and this time it was Jarrett Baker (Black Rock, NS) who finished it off and gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead that looked improbable only a few minutes earlier. 

With a minute and a half remaining in regulation time, Dalhousie finished the game off with a great solo goal from Shaun Miller (Enfield, NS) who made it 4-2 for the Tigers, which is how the game would ultimately finish. 

Dalhousie’s Reilly Pickard had 38 saves and was named the Subway Player of the Game. 

Adam McMaster had two goals to lead the way for the Acadia Axemen. 

Dalhousie’s next game comes on Friday when the Tigers play Saint Mary’s at the Halifax Forum at 7 pm. 

This was Acadia’s last game before the winter break. The Axemen’s next game is on January 7th when they host Dalhousie. The puck drop is at 7 pm. 

Acadia’s McCollum with 1st AUS win

Conor McCollum stopped 21 of 24 shots for his first AUS win

The Acadia Axemen (6-11) squeeked out a 4-3 victory over the Moncton Aigles Bleus (5-10-1) on Saturday night in Moncton. Conor McCollum, the Axemen third string goaltender, got the call for the Axemen with Max Paddock sidelined due to injury, and Logan Flodell having played last night against UNB. McCollum responded with a standout performance for his first AUS win, making a number of stellar saves and turning aside 21 of 24 shots he faced.

The Axemen took a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period on a goal from Jack Flaman. Eric Henderson had the lone assist on the goal. Acadia took that lead to the dressing room after one period.

Early in the second period, just 1:32 in, Mason McCarty made it 2-0 on a beautiful solo effort as he broke in on a breakaway and made no mistake.

Moncton got on the board 2:24 later, as Remy Anglehart scored on the powerplay to cut the lead in half. But before the period ended, Acadia responded with a powerplay goal of their own as Jack Flaman notched his second of the night, at 19:36. Eric Henderson & Mason McCarty both picked up their 2nd points of the night on the goal. That gave the Axemen a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.

Vincent Deslauriers brought his team within one at 3:28, but Eric Henderson responded for the Axemen to restore the two goal lead for Acadia at 10:25 of the third period. His 3rd point of the night, with the assists on the goal going to Garrett McFadden and Peyton Hoyt.

It looked like that may put the Axemen in the driver’s seat, however Deslauriers had other ideas as he scored his second of the night to once again make it a one goal game at 13:57.

The final minutes were tense as Acadia had to kill off two penalties in the last 5 minutes including while Moncton pulled their goalie to give them a 6 on 4 advantage, but McCollum was up to the challenge turning the Aigles Bleus away. Final shots on goal were 34 for Acadia and 24 for Moncton.

With the win, Acadia moves ahead of Moncton in the AUS standings, and moves within 3 points of a three-way log jam for third place in the conference. The Axemen finish up their 1st half of play on Wednesday night as they travel to Halifax to face the Dalhousie Tigers.

Henderson with lone goal for Acadia

Wolfville, N.S. – It wasn’t much of a holiday send-off for the Acadia Axemen (5-11-0) on Friday night, as the UNB Reds (14-1-0) handed them up a lump of coal with a 5-1 loss in their last home game of 2021.

The score didn’t reflect a hard-fought game and Acadia put in a solid effort against the U SPORTS No. 1 ranked Reds. The Axemen could not capitalize on their opportunities.

“I thought we played really hard.  We came out strong. We have been practicing a lot and doing everything right and it was just one of those games where you couldn’t catch a good bounce and those games happen sometimes,” noted Second Star of the Game Peyton Hoyt.

UNB got a pair of goals from Subway First Star of the Game James Phelan to help them on the way to their victory.

Both teams had ample chances in the opening period, but it was only UNB who capitalized on their chances, taking a 2-0 lead.

For their first, James Phelan notched a goal off a rebound he picked up from the Axemen goalie Logan Flodell’s left pad. Phelan lifted the puck over the sprawling Flodell for the 1-0 lead.

UNB doubled their lead in the final minutes of the frame, as Samuel Dove-McFalls potted a short-handed goal on a cross-crease rebound in front of the Acadia net.

The closest Acadia came to a goal in the first period came from Nick Deakin-Poot who got free in front of the net and fired two point-blank shots into UNB’s goaltender Rylan Parenteau.

By the end of the first period, UNB held a 16-14 shot advantage.

An energetic second period saw a power-play goal on both sides and a two-goal lead for UNB heading into the final period.

It took only 31 seconds for the Reds to add to their lead in the third, as Nicholas Guay scored a power-play marker on a scramble in front of the net.

Likewise, Acadia netted their first of the game on a power-play with a scrambled play in front of the UNB net.

Eric Henderson got a stick on the puck in the crease, amid an array of bodies, to close the UNB lead to 3-1.

At the end of the second frame, UNB posted a 27-23 lead in shots.

Acadia had opportunities in the final frame, including an extended 5-on-3, but they could not solve Parenteau.

UNB added two goals late in the game, including an empty-netter from Phelan and a marker from Jason Willms with 0.2 seconds left in the game, to make it 5-1.

Axemen goalie Logan Flodell stopped 30 of 33 shots, while his UNB counterpart and third star of the night Rylan Parenteau turned aside 33 of 34 shots.

The second star of the night honours went to Axemen forward Peyton Hoyt.

Acadia heads to Moncton tomorrow and then concludes the first half of the regular season on Wednesday, Dec. 1 against the Dalhousie Tigers. The Axemen return in 2022 on Friday, Jan. 7 against the Tigers.

UNB faces off against the Saint Mary’s Huskies Saturday, Nov. 27. The puck drop for all games is 7 pm.

Josh Foote, Acadia Athletics Communications