(HALIFAX, NS) – The Acadia Axemen have booked their spot in the AUS Finals with a 4-2 victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies Tuesday night at the Dauphinee Centre.
The packed arena saw an electric game with a mix of hard hits, scintillating saves, and gorgeous goals as the Axemen, backstopped by goaltender Logan Flodell (Regina, SK) knocked off their provincial rivals and took the series three games to one.
SMU took a 1-0 lead into the dressing room after a dominant first period which saw them outshoot the Axemen 13-5. Sam King (Hampton, NB) broke the ice at 7:17 by banking the puck off the right pad of Acadia goaltender Logan Flodell (Regina, SK) after pouncing on a point shot from Jacob Friend (Bowmanville, ON) that careened of the end boards.
While the Huskies continued to pour on the pressure, Flodell came up big for the Axemen, including a huge left pad save off a one-timer in the slot by Joel Bishop (St. Johns, NL) in the late stages of the first stanza.
Acadia's best chance came on a wrap-around attempt by Ross MacDougall (St Stephen, NB) which was stopped by a diving Eric Brassard (St. Hubert, QC)
The second period saw a complete role-reversal, as the Axemen peppered Brassard with 19 shots, scoring twice. Cristiano Digiacinto (Hamilton, ON) knotted the game at one with a top-shelf snipe over the blocker of Brassard at 12:46. Just 23 seconds later, Garrett McFadden (Kincardine, ON) took advantage of an odd-man rush and snapped one short-side to make it 2-1.
The odd-man rush was made possible by a thunderous open ice hit from Axemen captain Liam Maaskant (Clinton, ON), who used every bit of his 6-foot-4 frame to flatten Logan DeNoble (Peterborough, ON). After labouring on the ice for an extended time, the second-year forward was helped off the ice and back to the dressing room.
The hit ignited a frenetic pace which would continue through to the end of the period, featuring several post-whistle scrums, including Digiacinto throwing Dawson Theede's stick after a shoving match with Nicholas Welsh (Halifax, NS).
The third period saw the Huskies launch a valiant effort to tie the game, including three power play opportunities. But Logan Flodell proved why he won the Kelly Award for AUS Most Valuable Player by making timely, game-saving stops for the Axemen.
Owen MacDonald (Elora, ON) pounced on a defensive zone turnover by the Huskies and fired one off the inside of the post to make it 3-1 for Acadia at 14:40, which ended up being the game, and ultimately, series winner.
The Huskies would continue to press despite the two-goal deficit and got some hope with two minutes remaining as Nicholas Welsh converted on a one-timer from the point with the net empty and an extra attacker.
Acadia would ice the series with an empty netter from its captain Liam Maaskant, who lobbed the puck from inside the Axemen blueline and into the yawning cage.
Acadia goaltender Logan Flodell made 32 saves and was awarded the AUS Subway Player of the Game.
Acadia moves on to play the UNB Reds in the AUS Finals, while Saint Mary's will play the Moncton Aigles Bleus in a third-place consolation series.
Drew McConnell, SMU
Photo Nick Pearce