Disappointing end to ice season after Axemen go 0-2 at University Cup

John Decoste
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Being ranked second in the country wasn’t much benefit to the Acadia hockey Axemen, who ended up losing both their games at the University Cup in Saskatoon.

Acadia lost 4-2 to the third-ranked Windsor Lancers on March 20, then lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to the host Saskatchewan Huskies on March 21.

“With a few days to reflect on it, we had a tremendous season,” said head coach Darren Burns, en route home to Wolfville.

“It would have been more enjoyable to have done better (in Saskatoon), our guys left everything on the ice out there.”

Acadia’s problem on the weekend had been a problem all season.

“We struggled to score goals. We had our opportunities; sometimes they go in, and sometimes they don’t,” he said, adding that the Axemen “played hard, and with a lot of emotion.”

They took penalties, he said, “but they weren’t dumb penalties.”

Acadia played well five-on-five, but penalties ended up costing them both games. Windsor scored twice with the man advantage, and Saskatchewan had one power play goal.

 

Acadia vs. Windsor

Against Windsor, Acadia opened the scoring on a Mike Cazzola goal 1:19 into the first period. The Lancers responded for a 1-1 tie after one period.

In the second, CIS Player of the Year Liam Heelis gave Acadia its second lead of the game at 1:43, but Windsor again responded.

In the third, the Lancers again struck on the power play and added some insurance with an even-strength goal.

 

Acadia vs. Saskatoon

The Axemen entered their March 21 game against the host Huskies behind the eight ball – they not only needed to win, they had to win by at least three goals to have any chance of qualifying for the national final.

In front of more than 8,000 mostly-partisan Saskatchewan fans, Acadia gave it a shot, but it was obvious by the start of the third the Axemen weren’t going to win by the required three goals or more.

A goal by eventual tournament MVP Derek Hulak at 17:58 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Huskies a 3-2 win. Heelis and Leo Jenner scored the two Axemen goals.

While the Huskies only scored one power play goal, playing shorthanded took a toll on the Axemen penalty killers and generally disrupted the forward lines.

On defence, the Axemen were missing both Cullen Morin and Colin Archer, while Chris Owens and Geoff Schemitsch were both playing injured, forcing Tyler Ferry back on the blueline from the forward position he had played all season. Taking Ferry’s place on the fourth line was Wolfville native K.C. Brown, who saw his first action of the tournament.

“Any deficiencies we had as a team, we overcame through hard work, and that’s all you can ask of your players. We weren’t outplayed in either game, and a team that ended up playing in the national final beat us 3-2,” Burns said.

The injuries may have had more of an impact than penalties.

“All year, we were healthy and things fell into place for us,” he said. “That wasn’t the case for us in Saskatoon.”

Burns was proud the Axemen had managed to make it to the University Cup.

“It’s not easy to get out of our conference. We beat some of the best teams in the country just to get there,” he said. “We showed the same character we showed all season. I’m proud of all of them.”

The University Cup was the final university hockey game for several Axemen. Burns expects to have to replace goalie Evan Mosher, defencemen Morin, Owens and Jenner and forwards Brown, Joe Gaynor and Dustin Ekelman, all of whom are scheduled to graduate. 

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Wolfville, Saskatchewan

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