WOLFVILLE, NS – As long as the beers were flowing, the fans were going to stay in the arena — even if the hometown Acadia Axemen struggled to compete in a 7-0 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears
Hosting the U CUP for the first time at their home rink, the Axemen had the 2,049 person crowd in their favour but weren’t able to compete with the Canada West heavyweights at any point.
While Acadia got to a solid start with a chance from Nick Deakin-Poot just seconds in, the pressure soon died off as the Golden Bears took a stranglehold on the game.
A key to the game for Acadia before puck drop was to zone in on Alberta’s Dylan Plouffe, and their inability to do so punished them early and often, as the former Vancouver Giant picked up assists on two of the three goals that the Golden Bears scored in the first period.
Plouff, who returned to the lineup after missing several weeks, worked the puck laterally over to Eric Florchuk seven minutes into the game, with Florchuk finishing the chance in close. The Bears added another goal mere minutes later with former NCAA defender Daneel Lategan firing a one-timed shot past Acadia’s Max Paddock, again the assist for Plouffe.
“It’s nice to have him back healthy; he can cover a lot of territory in a lot of time. He can be active and make plays,” Alberta head coach Ian Herbers said of Plouffe post-game. “He was physical tonight, which means he’s comfortable.”
As the seconds clicked down in the first period, the Bears added another with Gary Haden’s whipped wrist shot, finding twine behind a seemingly dejected Paddock. It was far from ideal for an Acadia team that came out to great fanfare.
Acadia held Alberta scoreless in the second period and had a few chances from the diminutive Luke Zazula but failed to cut the lead before flailing into desperation in the final frame, allowing an additional four goals.
Paddock, who played with seemingly little interest in the third period, finished the night with 16 saves on 23 shots, forcing Acadia head coach Darren Burns to replace him with sophomore Connor McCallum for the final six minutes.
“Tonight was miserable,” Burns said. “I get motivated by misery, and this is extremely motivating. We owe a lot to this institution, this community, the alumni, and we’ve got a lot of hard work to put in to get this to where it needs to be.”
While the loss stings for the Axemen, they finally got the event they had waited nearly three years for and a historic day to play in front of their home crowd in a national championship. The U CUP doesn’t often go to small towns or arenas, but Wolfville had a great chance to see their home program, and the crowd did not disappoint.
“This town is unbelievable,” Acadia captain Jack Flaman said. “The fans, the people in town, not even just fans, everyone is supporting us whether they come to the game or not. I’m just extremely disappointed that we couldn’t do more.”
Alberta went about their job
Entering the tournament, the Alberta Golden Bears were favourites, and after their first game, they have only reassured the faith that many have in them. At no points against Acadia were they pushed to an extreme level; they didn’t get caught up in post-whistle antics and had no problems defending the rush.
It was a business-like performance for the Golden Bears, another day at the office, and another step towards their primary goal of a U SPORTS Championship.
Moving on to the semifinal and a difficult opponent in StFX, the Bears will have their biggest test of the season, taking on one of the strongest teams in the AUS.
Despite outsourcing their opponents 14-0 over the Canada West final and U CUP quarter-final, the one-game showdown with the X-Men will likely push the Bears to be their best, something they didn’t need to be on Thursday against Acadia.
“We might get to run the maritime gauntlet here on the way to a championship,” Herbers said of the potential of playing Acadia, StFX and UNB. “We need to make sure we’re ready to go. They’re a good team [StFX] with good goaltending; they’re well-coached; we need to make sure we’re sharp.”