Halifax, NS- In the first Acadia Axemen and Saint Mary’s Huskies meeting since last year’s AUS playoffs, they took everyone by surprise, staying away from the “shaking off the rust” cliche we’ve become accustomed to in the COVID-19 sports world.
That’s usually what we see from players after not playing any games for weeks, months or 337 days: rust.
Instead, everything was fast about this hockey game. Skating, forechecking, momentum swings, and Acadia’s responses to SMU goals.
The Huskies, however, were relentless for nearly the entire third period aside from one or two strong Acadia shifts. SMU exploded for three goals in the final frame to win 6-3, halting virtually any potential momentum shifts for the Axemen. No detailed stats were available immediately after the game aside from the 31-26 shot total in favour of SMU.
The game was filled with back-and-forth hockey and quick chances turning into three-on-twos the other way. Even after goals, as mentioned, the other team would come down and score anyway.
But after heading into the room after two periods tied 3-3, SMU found an extra gear and capitalized on some Acadia miscues, like Joel Bishop’s breakaway tally following a stolen outlet pass from the Axemen zone.
Mitchell Balmas and Keith Getson will be stepping into bigger roles this season and have not disappointed so far. Joined on SMU’s top line by rookie Cedric Ralph, the three were among the best three players this game. With Balmas’s aggressive but controlled play-driving, Getson’s puck-moving (and the game’s opening goal) and Ralph’s impressive two-goal debut, we could already be looking at the AUS’s top line way, way earlier than I should be declaring.
Rookie (or veteran?) presence
This should become more noticeable as more games happen, but the young guns showed up tonight with the composure and responsibility of fifth-years. No rookies looked blatantly out of place. Many played and held it down in all situations, including impressive debuts from Tyler Hinam and Nick Deakin-Poot for the Axemen, and Ralph, Bradey Johnson and goalie Matt Welsh for SMU.
Goalies good, shooters better by just enough
Speaking of Welsh, it looks like he’s on route to carve out a career much like in his five-year, 125-win career with Charlottetown (QMJHL). In his first start in the maroon and white, he stood tall at pivotal, potentially momentum-shifting moments like Acadia power plays in the middle of the first and third periods. He seemed to thrive off the siege that the commanding Axemen man-advantage laid upon him.
On the other end, reigning AUS MVP Logan Flodell was no different. At times of the game, he was just on, especially on back-and-forth chances that usually turn into goalie-sprawling contests. Flodell didn’t sprawl once; lateral movements like his are extremely rare in university sport and he made easy-looking saves all night.
The goalies were on top of their games tonight. But so were the snipers and point-producers. As with any high-speed hockey game, legs get tired, mistakes are generated and, before you know it, pucks go in the net.
The next scheduled game, and only one so far, is in Acadia Friday at 7:00 p.m., where the Axemen will welcome the Dalhousie Tigers
Cover Photo: Acadia Athletics (2020)