By John DeCoste
The Acadia basketball Axemen are down a couple of players to begin the post- holiday schedule.
Axemen head coach Steve Baur confirmed last week fourth year forward Justin Boutilier and third year guard Alex McLaughlin both packed it in as active players over the Christmas break.
Boutilier will continue to be involved in an assistant coaching capacity, Baur said, with an emphasis on instructing younger post players like Lauchlan Gale, Brad States and Rhys Larry. "He's still around, and he's eager to help," the coach said of the Niagara Falls native whose younger sister Jessica is on the Axewomen roster.
When healthy, Boutilier has been a force for the Axemen the past three seasons, offensively and defensively, particularly in terms of rebounding. His performance in the AUBC playoffs last spring was one of the keys to the Axemen qualifying for the CIS Final Eight.
Unfortunately, Boutilier hasn't been healthy. He has missed periods of time in all three of his previous seasons due to injury, and this season has been hampered by knee problems.
"Being injured as often as he has been has taken an emotional toll on Justin," Baur said. "It was a tough decision, but reality kicked in. It's been a pretty frustrating couple of years.
"He's never really gotten back to where he was a couple of years ago," Baur said. "It's a real shame, but I think his decision is the right move for all concerned."
As for McLaughlin, the 6'3" guard's solid play had earned him a starting spot for the Axemen late last season and into the playoffs.
This year, however, he had lost playing time to Jonathan Tull and Anthony Ashe, both of whom red-shirted last season, and newcomers including Tyler Scott.
"It was his decision," Baur said of McLaughlin. "After the season he had last year, he had expectations of playing more than he has. So far this year, he's had a different role, and it hasn't been much fun for him."
The coach said McLaughlin's departure was on good terms. "I've not gotten the impression there were any hard feelings." He confirmed McLaughlin had left the team, but remains an Acadia student.
The departure of the two players leaves the Axemen with a roster of 12 heading into the second half, and in the short term, is likely to mean more playing time for players like Dustin Poirier and freshman Shaquille Smith.
The Axemen resumed the regular season Jan. 5 in Wolfville, scoring an impressive 108-65 win over an outmatched Cape Breton squad.
Anthony Sears was almost perfect on the night, shooting 14-15 from the floor, including five-for-five three-pointers, and adding two of three free throws for 35 points in just 19 minutes of playing time.
Anthony Ashe with 21, Sean Stoqua with 15 and Tyler Scott with 14 also reached double figures for Acadia, which scored 50 points in the first half on 59 per cent shooting.
The Axemen are next in action Jan. 11 when they host the Saint Mary's Huskies at 8 p.m.