We are Acadia student-athletes and members of the varsity men’s hockey team. With the conclusion of our hockey season and the school year, we would like to take a quick minute to reflect and thank of all our supporters. We have decided this is the most sincere and outreached way to do so.
So Annapolis Valley and Axemen supporters and sponsors everywhere, THANK YOU! Thank you for following the hockey Axemen and the entire varsity athletics program. For some, all the way to Saskatoon, and others weekend in and weekend out in person/on the radio/online. You folks are what make our favourite pastimes memorable.
We speak on behalf of all Acadia student-athletes and most importantly of our graduating athletes at Acadia. Having a community behind us every step of the way is what made our experience at Acadia so much more special.
Looking back this season, it has been one heck of run. It started, as always, early, with our summer hockey camps, teaching the local kids the fundamentals to grow and develop as hockey players, while we came together as a team with the new rookies molding their way in.
Shifting into exhibition play and the first weekend of regular season, we struggled somewhat and our expectations for the season dwindled; where would we stack up against UNB, SMU and UdeM was anyone’s guess. At that moment, it was unclear where we would wind up at the conclusion of the season for some.
However, our supporters stood by, proud as ever, and we caught fire riding a nine-game win streak and ending the first half with a beating of the CIS No. 1-ranked UNB by a margin of four before our home fans. That was surreal. The support and rowdiness of games like that is something we will never forget – even being a regular season game.
Coming back after Christmas with our work cut out, and some doubt in our club by critics and sportswriters across the Maritimes, we managed to continue where we left off and ended our season in style with a first round bye.
Taking on “Les Aigles Bleu” in the second round, we faced some adversity with first period jitters. With our fans behind us, we were able to surmount a 4-0 deficit, with every goal - 2, 3, and 4 most noticeably - the crowd grew louder and louder. The Acadia Arena was absolutely electric. We rode that energy right into overtime, where the onslaught continued as we battled for an OT victory - completing the comeback. All of this was on the day that the late and great Connie MacNeil netted three goals in six seconds 64 years prior. He and the hockey gods were with us that day, and it is one we will all cherish. With that victory and one more in Moncton, we were off to the final.
Facing the ever-tough Saint Mary’s Huskies we hopped out early at home to 2-0 series lead, with you the fans behind us all the way, supporting an untarnished, perfect playoff record at home throughout the post-season. It was off to the Forum with one win remaining. Playing in the tight corners of the Forum, we faced some more challenges and a hot goaltender in Anthony Peters. That didn’t matter, however, as game four was about to commence, the Forum was filled with roaring Acadia faithful who trekked down the NS-101 to cheer us on, making us feel right at home. The game concluded in a nail-biting victory and an AUS championship for our team and the Valley to treasure for years to come.
Then followed the send-off from Wolfville School and the escort through town as red and blue filled the gymnasium with chants and cheers! That was a special moment for sure. Thank you to everyone who attended this great event and those who offered special wishes.
This group of players was truly special and unique in the courage and pride in which they demonstrated on and off the ice. To our graduating players, we wish you the best of luck in your next step of the journey, whether in hockey, work or graduate studies and on behalf of the returning players we look brightly into the future and next season.
This being said, it is having that backbone of support that drove the engines this season. We will never forget the memories of this season and the people, family, friends, teammates, fans, sponsors and supporters who helped to make it all possible. The support we received all season and all the way to Saskatoon was exceptional and made our season possible.
Liam Heelis, on behalf of some very proud Acadia athletes and graduating players