Halifax, NS- The first hockey matchup post-COVID-19 (sort of) in the AUS features the two national titans not named the UNB Reds.
The Acadia Axemen and St. Mary’s Huskies will meet for the first time since the AUS semi-finals last February, where Acadia took the best-of-five series in four games. With the Axemen hosting the U SPORTS Championship, SMU would still qualify for the tournament as the AUS’s second team. While these games are not sanctioned by AUS or U SPORTS, the two schools are still members of the conference.
Both were both primed for deep runs into the U SPORTS Championship in Halifax last March, but the first COVID-19 shutdown landed smack in the middle of the tournament. SMU won the final game, a 5-1, quarter-final victory over the Guelph Gryphons, before the tournament was called off. Acadia didn’t even get the chance to step on the ice.
SMU and Acadia will make up an informal southern Nova Scotia “bubble” with the Dalhousie Tigers, however, Dal told 49 Sports they wouldn’t begin any exhibition play until next week. The Tigers will travel to Acadia next Friday for their first game back.
SMU vs Acadia
The SMU Huskies will have their first look at life after outgoing head coach Trevor Stienburg and graduated captain Anthony Repaci. First team All-Canadian and arguably the best defenceman in the country last year Nick Welsh has signed and is playing with the Rochester Americans (AHL). Nonetheless, SMU looks to build upon their third-place AUS finish last season, where they bosted the second-best offence after UNB.
Stienburg’s longtime assistant coach Tyler Naughler will coach his first game at SMU’s helm, while the team’s core this year will revolve around reigning U SPORTS rookie of the year Mitchell Balmas and fellow 2019-20 standout rookie Keith Getson.
D-men Alexander Peters and Jacob Friend, with Welsh gone, will be tasked with shouldering a heavier workload, while Xavier Potvin is the frontrunner for the starting job in net after backing up Eric Brassard last year. We’ll also get our first look at rookies including Jacob Durham, Cedric Ralph and potentially goaltender Matt Welsh.
The visiting Axemen finished second in the league in 2019-20 and almost shocked UNB in the AUS final, losing in the deciding match of the best-of-three series. Acadia will play their first game after moving on from veterans Stephen Harper and Liam Maaskant, with the rest of the roster largely the same as last year. Tyler Hinam, Peyton Hoyt and Nick Deakin-Poot make up a few of Acadia’s anticipated additions to the lineup.
Logan Flodell is back after winning the most games in the AUS last year and nabbing a spot on the U SPORTS All-Canadian second team, while senior Cristiano Digiacinto will look to build off an AUS-leading 20 goals in 2019-20. David Burns will coach his first game in year 19 behind Acadia’s bench.
Puck drop is at 7:00 pm Atlantic time and can be streamed for free on austv.ca
Friday’s game will kick off a five-week exhibition schedule across four sports (hockey, basketball, swimming and women’s volleyball) for three Nova Scotia schools. As reported yesterday, the St. FX X-Men/X-Women were unable to get school approval to play.
The schedules in each sport will consist of “controlled scrimmages” as compared to exhibition games, one school said. It added the objective of the schedule is to give student-athletes a chance to play after training somewhat consistently since September, something few other places in Canada have enjoyed this year.
As a result, the school said the informal schedule would involve teams meeting up to play shorter or modified games and scores might not be posted, if counted at all, after every matchup. In the past, basketball teams have treated a game with four quarters as four “mini-games,” declaring a winner at the end of every quarter and starting at 0-0 again for the next one.
Another school said it would post most of its games a week in advance, saying a lot of things can affect a scheduled game further down the road. The soft deadline for exhibition games appears to be after the second week of March, as schools have said there’s little interest in trying to schedule games after the time of year where most seasons are finished.
No fans or personnel outside those permitted by the host team are allowed inside for games.