Ice Axemen, UNB tied for top spot

John Decoste
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The Jan. 17-18 weekend was a step backward for the Acadia hockey Axemen, but at the same time, things are never so bad they couldn’t be worse.

The Axemen finished the weekend tied for first in the AUHC with UNB after a pair of losses on the road. Through 20 games of the season, UNB’s record was 16-3-1, while Acadia stood at 15-2-3, both good for 33 points.

After dropping a 5-3 decision to UNB Friday in Fredericton, the Axemen lost 6-5 Saturday in Moncton, though Acadia did earn a point when the game went to overtime.

On Friday, AUHC scoring leader Liam Heelis broke a 2-2 tie at 6:01 of the third period, but that turned out to be the high point of the evening for the Axemen as the Varsity Reds struck for three unanswered goals.

Thomas Nesbitt tied the score only 14 seconds after Heelis’s goal. Cam Critchlow netted the eventual game-winner at 9:48, and Chris Culligan rounded out the scoring with a shorthanded effort at 11:01.

Phillipe Maillet opened the scoring for UNB at 16:56 of the first, but Mike Cazzola tied the score at 19:13 on assists from linemates Heelis and Brett Thompson.

In the second period, Tyler Ferry gave Acadia the lead at 3:02, but Nesbitt scored for the V-Reds just 1:03 later.

The shots on goal reflected the closeness of the contest: 8-7 for UNB in the first; 10-9 for UNB in the second; 13-12 for Acadia in the third. Each team took five minor penalties, and there were no power play goals.

On Saturday in Moncton, the Aigles Bleus took a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes, with three of their goals coming on the power play.

Steve Lebel opened the scoring at 4:54, Pierre-Antoine Dion made it 2-0 on the power play at 9:13, and Pierre Durepos stretched it to 3-0 with another power play marker at 10:27.

The Aigles Bleus went on the power play again, but this time, Leo Jenner scored shorthanded at 11:57, assisted by Travis Gibbons and Heelis. Before the power play ended, though, Moncton made it 4-1 on a goal by Alex Emond at 13:03.

Acadia began their comeback late in the second period. Michael Clarke scored on the power play at 14:25, and Heelis added his league-best 19th goal of the season at 15:33 to narrow the deficit to 4-3 after 40 minutes.

The Axemen kept the pressure on in the third period, tying the score on Gibbons’ goal at the five-minute mark, then taking a 5-4 lead on Clarke’s second of the game at 9:41. Gibbons picked up an assist for his third point of the evening.

Again, that ended up being the high point of the game for Acadia. Moncton again went on the power play at 10:58, and Remi Blanchard found the back of the net at 12:07 to tie the score.

There was no further scoring in regulation time, and the contest went to overtime. It didn’t last long, as Alex Saulnier netted the game-winner at 1:55.

The Axemen outshot Moncton 41-26, but even though he allowed five goals, Moncton goalie Adrien Lemay was solid with 36 saves. Brandon Glover started in goal for Acadia, but gave way to Evan Mosher after allowing four goals on five shots.

The Axemen are back to facing Nova Scotia competition this weekend, travelling to Dalhousie Friday, Jan. 24, before returning to Acadia Arena to host St. F.X. in a 7 p.m.  start Saturday, Jan. 25. 

Geographic location: Acadia, Moncton, Fredericton Nova Scotia

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