As the voices of hundreds of Acadia fans that made the trek from Wolfville to the Halifax Forum rose to a deafening roar, Michael Clarke dealt the knockout blow to Saint Mary’s.
Firing into the Huskies empty net with just under a minute left in the third period, Clarke widened the margin to 3-1 for Acadia as the Axemen claimed the AUS championship in four games.
“I’m so happy for the guys,” said tournament MVP Liam Heelis, as the Axemen celebrated their victory, taking turns hefting the AUS Men's Hockey Cup over their heads.
“I’m just so proud of the guys and as I watch them now I can say they deserve every moment of this.”
Heelis – who netted five goals and six assists in Acadia’s eight playoff games - made his way around a Huskie defender tight against the boards and fed Dustin Ekelman in the slot to help get Acadia on the board with just over two minutes to go in the first period.
Ekelman’s power play goal – his fourth of the playoffs – saw the graduating Acadia player move around a sprawling Huskie and slide a shot between Anthony Peters’ legs.
Steven Shipley responded for Saint Mary’s seven minutes into the second period, but it was Travis Randell’s unassisted goal, at just over five minutes left in the second period, that became the eventual game winner.
- Read more special articles:
- Disappointing end to ice season after Axemen go 0-2 at University Cup
- Host Saskatchewan Huskies eliminate Axemen at CIS championships
- UPDATE Acadia loses first game at CIS University Cup
- Want to watch the Axemen at the CIS University Cup? Here's how
Acadia goalie Evan Mosher – who spent much of the season as Acadia’s backup - stopped 28 shots and was named Acadia’s player of the game.
He was quick to dish out credit to an opponent who arrived into the playoffs as the fifth seed, but managed to knock off the defending national champion New Brunswick Varsity Reds en route to the final.
“Everyone sees how tough they are to play against,” said Mosher. “They had a rough start but they eventually became the team everyone knew they could be.”
Acadia was forced to play game four after Saint Mary’s fought to stay alive March 9 with a 2-1 victory. Saint Mary’s took an early lead in that game – the first time Acadia did not lead in the series – with a goal in the first and second periods. Although Clarke was able to score with just over three minutes remaining on the clock in the third, it was too little, too late for Acadia.
The physical match saw Acadia’s Geoff Schemitsch escorted off the ice following a hit to the head. Head coach Darren Burns confirmed later that Schemitsch, who was unable to return to the game, was out due to a concussion.
The March 10 win represents Acadia’s ninth AUS championship, the first since the 2005-2006 season.
The 3-1 victory allowed Acadia to punch its ticket to the CIS National Championships, which will run from March 20-23. Winning both the semifinal and final series in four games each puts the Axemen in the number two ranking going into the tournament and the team will be hoping for the same seeding.
Other teams already assured a spot at nationals include McGill, Windsor and Alberta, with other entrants to be decided in the coming days. The host Saskatchewan Huskies will also play in the championship tournament.
- With files from Metro Halifax