Ice Axemen walking the walk, talking the talk

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Largely forgotten in the publicity surrounding the quest of the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team for a perfect season is the fact the Acadia Axemen are putting together a pretty good season of their own.

Wins last week against Dal (at home), St. Thomas and Moncton (both on the road) improved second-place Acadia’s record to 18-6-2.

That pales in comparison to UNB’s perfect 26-0, but it’s the best regular season record an Acadia hockey team has had in several years.

Four of Acadia’s six regulation-time losses have come to UNB, a team no one in Canada has beaten this season. Other than that, a loss to Saint Mary’s in the season opener and one to UPEI earlier this month; and the rest have either been wins or losses in overtime, still good for a point in the standings.

Before you suggest it’s not too impressive to need overtime to beat teams sixth and seventh in the standings, remember Dal, St. Thomas and Moncton were all fighting for their playoff lives last week - and the Tommies and Aigles Bleus were on their home ice.

Actually, UNB has gone to overtime four times as part of their current win streak, and won all four. With their two overtime wins last week, the Axemen are 6-2 in their overtime games this season.

I’ve been impressed with the Axemen. They’ve had solid goaltending, mostly from Kris Westblom; a not-that-highly-regarded but airtight defensive corps and balanced scoring from three lines.

Entering their final two regular season games, Jonathan Laberge had 14 goals, David Lomas and Chris Bruton 11 (Bruton might have more if he

hadn’t been injured last week), Andrew Clark and Spencer Jezegou 10 each, Ryan Graham nine and Scott Tregunna and Philippe Bertrand seven.

I’ve been hearing no one has a chance to beat UNB, that the rest of the conference should just mail the V-Reds the conference championship. While beating UNB will certainly be a tall order, there are several teams - including Acadia - capable of it.

Saint Mary’s, which beat UNB in last year’s conference final, certainly has the team again this year, as does St. F.X. and even the currently red-hot UPEI Panthers. As for Acadia, UNB’s two games in Wolfville this season resulted in wins by scores of 3-2 (a game tied with four minutes to play) and 2-1.

I’m sure the Axemen are impressed with UNB’s accomplishment of 26-0 (and likely 28-0 after this weekend), but they aren’t going to let it get in the way of trying their best to win a conference title. This year, the AUHC gets one team at nationals. You win the conference championship, or you buy a ticket like everyone else.

Actually, the best thing for the Axemen is simply to play their own game, first against their semifinal opponent, whoever that ends up being; and then – hopefully – in the conference final, most likely versus the V-Reds.

If they try to play UNB’s reputation rather than the team itself, they’ll be in big trouble. If they play their own game, like they have most times this season, they have as good a chance as anyone – including UNB.

Geographic location: Acadia, St. Thomas, Moncton Saint Mary Canada Wolfville

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