Former OHL Oshawa Generals netminder commits to Axemen

The Acadia Axemen hockey program is proud to welcome Zachary Paputsakis to the team this fall. Paputsakis, a 6’3” goalie from Rockland, Ontario, joins the Axemen after spending the past 3 years with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He played in 55 games over that span, going 18-19-7 with a 3.25 Goals Against Average and a .903 save percentage. The OHL did not play any games in 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

We asked Zach about his decision to commit to the Acadia, he said, “I chose Acadia because I wanted to play for a top notch hockey program as well as get a great education and Acadia offered both of those. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Acadia and I can’t wait to get down there and experience everything that Acadia and the east coast has to offer.”

 

When asked to describe his style of play in net, Paputsakis said, “I would describe myself as a big goalie who uses my size to my advantage, has good hockey IQ, reads the play well and uses my athleticism to move well post to post.”

 

Zach will join Brandon, Manitoba’s Max Paddock to form a formidable tandem in the Acadia crease for the future years with Paddock entering just his second season this fall.

 

Check out this highlight reel save from Paputsakis against Kingston on February 27, 2022:

 

Axemen head coach Darren Burns added, “We are eager to have Zach join the program. We know he is an extremely competitive and focused goalie, who will continue to improve as a player. His focus and maturity during the recruiting process quickly made us realize he is a great fit for our team. We believe his competitiveness will be a great injection for us moving forward.”

 

Paputsakis becomes the third recruit for the Axemen upcoming season, with forwards Bailey Peach and Liam Kidney being announced throughout this past season.

Corneil nets 3 goals and adds assist in Acadia win

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – It was a cold Saturday night in Wolfville, but the Acadia Axemen (7-13-1) were hot, coming off a close 3-2 overtime shootout loss to the No. 1 ranked UNB last night, as they beat the Moncton Aigles Bleus (5-15-2) by a score of 6-3.

Subway First Star of the Game Johnny Corneil accounted for half of the Axemen’s goals on the night, as he potted a natural hat trick in the second period.

“It was a full team effort tonight. We have been preparing for this weekend and a tough loss last night against UNB, but we were so ready to come in tonight and we didn’t let up. We wanted to win,” said Corneil after the game.

When asked whether he has ever scored a natural hat trick, Corneil replied “I don’t think I have. I think I have only had one hat trick since junior started.”

Nick Deakin-Poot grabbed two assists and third star of the night honours for the Axemen.

It was an even-handed first period, with both teams firing 12 shots on net.

Moncton put up the first goal of the game when the second star of the night Denis Toner threw a shot on net from the face-off circle that fooled the Axemen goaltender Max Paddock.

Acadia came back with a pair of goals in the first from Keegan Stevenson and Merrick Rippon.

Stevenson took a pass from Jack Flaman, deked to his backhand, and slid the puck into the open net.

Rippon gave his team the lead with 6:03 remaining in the frame, jamming the puck in on a mad scramble in front of the Moncton net.

The second period saw an offensive onslaught from the Axemen, as they peppered 16 shots on net with 3 goals to show for their work.

Johnny Corneil netted a natural hat trick for Acadia in the frame with one coming on a backhand in tight, the second coming on a wrist shot in front from a feed by Nick Deakin-Poot who was working behind the Moncton net, and the final coming on a slapshot from the point.

Corneil’s were the only three goals of the period.

Moncton mounted an unsuccessful comeback in the third, scoring two from Olivier-Luc Hache and Vincent Deslauriers.

Hache scored on a soft wrist shot in front, while Deslauriers ripped a wrister into the top right corner of the net before getting dropped by an Axemen defender that led to a minor fight.

Stevenson iced the game for Acadia – his second of the night – after coming in on the left side of the offensive zone before wiring a shot into the top left corner to make it 6-3.

Paddock stopped 32 of 35 shots on the night, while his Aigles Bleus counterpart Etienne Montpetit turned aside 30 of 36 shots.

Acadia returns to play Wednesday, Mar. 2 at Saint Mary’s before coming home to wrap up their regular season against UPEI next Saturday. Moncton will host Dalhousie and StFX next Friday and Saturday night, respectively. Puck drop for both all games at 7 pm.

Provided by Josh Foote, Acadia Athletics Communications

Paddock with 38 saves in OT Shootout Loss

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – It was a David versus Goliath match-up in Wolfville on Friday night, as the sixth-placed Acadia Axemen (6-14-1) fell 3-2 in a shootout loss to the U SPORTS No. 1 ranked UNB Reds (19-2-0) who hold the best win percentage in the country in U SPORTS men’s hockey team.

The Axemen held their own with a 2-0 lead to start the game. However, the Reds mounted a comeback that was capped off by a shootout winner from former Axemen defenceman Ross MacDougall, who netted a nifty backhander to get the win.

Acadia goalie, and second star of the night, Max Paddock put on a clinic as he turned aside 40 of 42 shots on the night, including an incredible sprawling desperation save in his crease in OT that saved a sure goal.

“Everybody came to play again, just like last weekend. We’ve shown the top two teams we can play with them. It’s great to see a group of guys come back the second semester to really gel the team and be able to compete with the best of them,” noted Paddock after the game.

Despite trailing 12-6 in shots, the Axemen held a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period.

Rookie forward Keegan Stevenson opened the scoring thanks to Nick Deakin-Poot’s work in the offensive zone.

Stevenson scored on his own rebound – off a pass from Deakin-Poot – while falling on his stomach.

Peyton Hoyt doubled up the score for Acadia on a broken play that led to a 2-on-1. Hoyt took a pass from Jordy Stallard and slid a wrist shot in for a 2-0 lead.

UNB continued their offensive barrage in the second period with a whopping 21 shots on net.

Jason Willms slid the puck across the ice past Paddock on a scramble play to make it 2-1.

UNB forward and Subway First Star of the Night Mark Rassell nabbed a one-timer on the power-play from the edge of the crease to tie the game at 2-2, which is where things stood going into the third period.

Neither team was able to capitalize in the final frame of the game, despite a number of odd-man rushes for both teams.

UNB dominated the overtime period, holding possession of the puck for the first 1:30 of the extra frame. While both teams had numerous chances, they required a shootout to find a winner.

UNB goalie Rylan Parenteau stopped 15 of 17 shots on the night, while Acadia’s Paddock was stellar in the other end.

Acadia takes to the ice again at home Saturday, Feb. 26 to take on the Moncton Aigles Bleus, while the Reds travel to Saint Mary’s to take on the 8-11 Huskies.

Provided by Josh Foote, Acadia Athletics Communications

Corneil and Stevenson with the Acadia tallies

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – AUS hockey was back in Wolfville for the first time since November 26, 2021, and in front of fans no less, on Saturday night. Sadly, the Axemen were unable to capitalize on their early lead in the game and ended up falling 3-2 to the StFX X-Men.

It was a strong night for the goalies, as Max Paddock stopped 25 of 28 shots for Acadia while his StFX counterpart and Subway Third Star of the Game Joseph Raaymakers turned aside 27 of 29 shots.

Despite chances from both sides – including a strong power-play from the Axemen and a partial breakaway from X-Men forward Matthew Phillip – the game remained scoreless heading into the second frame with Acadia holding a 14-8 lead in shots.

It was another strong showing for the goaltenders in the second period, as they turned aside a number of chances. However, both teams managed to get one on the board before the end of the period.

Acadia broke onto the scoreboard first with a marker from the Subway Second Star of the Game Johnny Corneil with 6:46 left in the frame.

Corneil stepped into the slot, took a pass from Keegan Stevenson, and wired a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net to make it 1-0.

“It was a battle for the whole 60 minutes and both teams had about two and a half months to get ready for this game. Lots of time off and both teams were itching to get back on the ice in a game atmosphere,” noted Corneil after the game.

“We’ve been talking a lot about detail and structure for the last two weeks, and attention to detail was a big part of it but also work ethic,” said Corneil. “That was my main focus and kinda relaying that to some of the younger guys as well.”

StFX responded late in the second with a deflection goal in front of the net from William Bower.

Bower notched his goal by nabbing a rebound off the Axemen goalie and then tapping the puck out of the air to tie the game at 1-1.

At the end of the second, Acadia held a 22-17 shot lead.

Read more »

March 31st thru April 3rd 

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – U SPORTS announced today that it is moving the 2022 Cavendish Farms University Cup men’s hockey championship to Wolfville, NS to the Acadia University Campus.

“Due to scheduling conflicts, U SPORTS, Acadia University and Sports and Entertainment Atlantic (SEAtlantic) have chosen to move the 2022 Cavendish Farms University Cup men’s hockey championship from Scotiabank Centre the campus of Acadia University,” said Dick White, Interim U SPORTS CEO. “We know that the Town of Wolfville will do a tremendous job hosting the event for all participants.”

“The pandemic has taught us all that we have to learn to be flexible and adapt and while our original plan of hosting the U SPORTS Men’s Hockey National Championship in Halifax at Scotiabank Centre is no longer an option due to the required date change, we are extremely excited to be able to bring some of the highest levels of hockey in the country to Acadia University, the Town of Wolfville, and the Annapolis Valley region,” said Acadia University’s Director of Athletics, Brian Finniss.

“Acadia Athletics has one of the strongest and most passionate fan bases in the country and being able to bring this championship to them and to the community is something that our partner SEAtlantic, staff and the organizing committee are very excited for. It is going to be a great weekend in Wolfville with the best university Men’s Hockey teams in the country on the ice at Acadia University,” added Finniss.

“The most recent University Cup date and location changes guarantee that hockey fans in the Valley will have the opportunity to enjoy an unparalleled level of University hockey, the likes of which has never been seen previously. The eight best men’s varsity teams from across Canada will compete for the honour of raising the David Johnson University Cup in Wolfville. With Acadia as the host team, it doesn’t get any more home for the Axemen,” noted Chris Larsen, President of Sports Entertainment Atlantic.

 

The updated 2022 U SPORTS championship schedule is listed below:

 

Sport Host / Venue Date Original date/Host
Wrestling Saskatchewan Mar 24-25 CANCELLED
Swimming Laval Mar 24-26 Feb 25-27 / Laval
Women’s hockey UPEI Mar 24-27 – No change
Women’s volleyball Calgary Mar 25-27 – No change
Men’s volleyball Manitoba Mar 25-27 – No change
Track & Field UNB @ Saint John Mar 31-Apr 2 Mar 10-12 / UNB @ Saint John
Men’s hockey Acadia / Wolfville, NS Mar 31-Apr 3 Mar 17-20 / Halifax, NS
Women’s basketball Queen’s Mar 31-Apr 3 Mar 10-13 / Queen’s
Men’s basketball Alberta Apr 1-3 Mar 11-13 / Alberta

Note: event schedules are subject to change due to COVID-19 and conference participation

U SPORTS will announce the championship and broadcast schedules in the coming weeks.

Acadia University and SEAtlantic announcement of ticket sales will follow.

A Can’t Miss Prospect

by Craig Eagles originally posted on firstdownsportspodcast.com

Photo Credit Victoria Royals

It was my first year with the QMJHL Central Scouting Agency and I remember traveling to Blainville-Boisbriand for the Gatorade Challenge. At that time I was also working for Rogers TV as a colour analyst covering the QMJHL. I was with Rogers in that capacity for about three years, but this was my first major scouting trip. I had joined the CSR at the mid-way point of the season. It was my first chance to see players from other provinces play. I knew that Rogers was going to cover the draft that year because it was in Saint John, New Brunswick.

I drilled down on all the players that we had listed in the first three rounds to potentially enhance the coverage of the draft. Obviously, Bailey Peach was one player that was ranked very high. He was a can’t miss prospect really. It’s always great to look back on old scouting reports, but this what I wrote on Peach from that weekend.

Bailey Peach: “Potentially the best release and hands in tight in the draft, explosive player, dynamic scoring winger tremendous speed to the outside, isn’t afraid to go to dirty areas, great compete level and relentless, has to work on defensive side of his game, but is accountable and responsible, great one on one skills.”

Projection: Can be a Top 6 fwd on any team next year and can probably score at least 15 goals in the right situation. Bright future ahead for this player needs to get stronger to ensure he wins puck battles, great work ethic.”

Can’t miss prospect is one of those scouting labels that are often times unfair.

Unfortunately, things didn’t workout the way a lot of people had thought or projected they would for Peach in the QMJHL.Read more »

Acadia alumnus playing with the Hartford Wolfpack

Wolfpack action photo by Scott Martin

Acadia Axemen alumnus Cristiano Digiacinto has had a strong first half playing with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL. As of the writing of this article, he has suited up in 13 games scoring 4 points, including 3 goals for the Wolfpack.

We caught up with Cristiano to ask him about what it’s been like suiting up in the AHL this season, he said, “Playing in the AHL this year has truly been a dream come true. At first things were a little different, not playing last year made it tough to get into the swing of things. After a few games, I felt that my game continued to improve and got back to where I was my last year at Acadia.”

Digiacinto suited up for the Acadia Axemen from 2017-2021,  having his final year of his USports career cut short with the 2020-21 season being cancelled due to the pandemic. However that didn’t deter the Hamilton, Ontario native as he signed an AHL contract this summer with the Hartford Wolfpack.

Back in 2019-20, the Axemen forward had a breakout season, when he finished in a 3 way tie with the most goals in the AUS, with 20 goals in 30 games; he also added 17 assists, for a team high 37 points in 30 games. That season the Axemen and Cristiano were preparing to take centre stage in USports hockey as the hosts of the UCup National tournament, however before Acadia even played their opening game, the tournament was shut down due to the onset of the pandemic in Nova Scotia.

Over his USports career with Acadia, Digiacinto had 53 points in 67 regular season games, and 17 points in 20 playoff games.

Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns expressed pride in Digiacinto’s accomplishments saying, “Deeg was a very focused player when he arrived on campus. We are happy to see how well he is doing and he deserves everything that accompanies his success. He has always wanted to be a pro hockey player. He came here, achieved academic all-Canadian status, was a leader on campus and in the community, got better as a player and is now fulfilling his dream. It is great to see. We are very proud of his accomplishments.”

Prior to arriving at Acadia, Cristiano was drafted by Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014 in the 6th round #170 overall and had won a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2016-17 after a strong OHL career scoring 149 points in 223 regular season games. Following that season he joined the Jacksonville Iceman of the ECHL where he had 6 points in 12 games before leaving the team to enroll at Acadia University after the holiday break and joining the Axemen.

Digiacinto added, “After junior I played a few months of pro hockey before deciding to go to Acadia. My three years at Acadia really helped me mature as a player and a person and put me in a great spot mentally and physically to be a pro hockey player. On the ice, I was able to develop and was put in opportunities to excel on the ice. Off the ice, my kinesiology degree has helped me become a certified personal trainer and gave me a better understanding of my own personal health and fitness. As a pro player now, I understand taking care of my body helps me perform better on the ice.”

Cristiano signed off saying, “I’m thankful for everything Acadia has done for me and without the amazing teammates, coaches and professors, I would not have been giving this opportunity to be a professional hockey player.”

The Acadia hockey program would like to congratulate Cristiano on his success and wish him all the best on a great second half of the season. #ForeverAnAxemen

Acadia hockey first half review

The Axemen first half of the 2021-22 season did not go as planned; coming into the season, the Axemen looked at their four deep forward lines, strong defense, and a solid goaltending tandem, as a group that would be a strong contender in the AUS conference.

However, things didn’t go as planned and the Axemen ended their first half with a 6-12 record.

Injuries hit early… and hit again… and again. Through the first 18 games of the season, the Axemen lost an unprecedented total of 76-man games due to injuries; this led them on numerous occasions to dress just 9 forwards, and 14 skaters; and at times up to 4 of those forwards being natural defencemen. With the ultra-competitive quality of play in the AUS, we have to give kudos to those defencemen who stepped up and played up front as they were asked to do, as many hadn’t played forward since novice and atom level hockey. Not an easy feat at the USport level of play.

The Axemen played many gutsy efforts over the first half, but the short roster led to an inability to have a strong sustained offensive attack and having so many players playing out of position often led to chaotic defensive effort, as the Axemen gave up a conference high 69 goals.

Axemen head coach Darren Burns summed up his team’s first half saying, “The first half certainly did not go the way we envisioned it. However, life is never perfect and neither is sports. It was a first half where we had to continually change on the fly week to week. This presented a lot of opportunities for our players. It also gave our coaching staff an opportunity to see players take on expanded roles.”

The spotlight for Acadia was their powerplay, as they finished the first half with the top powerplay in the AUS, scoring 18 goals in 70 chances, good for a 25.7% conversion rate. Other bright spots include Axemen Captain Garrett McFadden’s continued production from the backend as he led the team in scoring in the 1st half with 20 points in 18 games. 1st year forward Adam McMaster also settled in well after making the transition to the AUS game, scoring 14 points in 18 games.

The second half of the season comes with plenty of reason for optimism for the Axemen, however. Acadia will look to welcome back a number of players from the injury list, including forwards Tyler Hinam, who was able to play in parts of just 3 regular season games due to a pair of separate injuries, winger Maurizio Colella will return after missing the last 11 games of the 1st half, and 1st year forward Keegan Stevenson, who missed the last 10 games, should be back in the lineup when the Axemen host Dalhousie on January 7th.

A key addition to the lineup will be Jordy Stallard, who has been out the entire first half of the season after offseason back surgery. He is progressing on target and is expected to be back in an Axemen uniform either to start the 2nd half or shortly after. Stallard has been a near point a game top line scorer since arriving in Wolfville in 2018, after a strong junior career in the WHL.

Lastly the Axemen still have one remaining roster position to fill which could come in handy, even if it is to add depth in case of injuries.

The return and potential addition of these players to the Acadia lineup, will allow the team to settle back into their natural positions and game plan as they look to climb the AUS standings starting on January 7th when they host Dalhousie in Wolfville.

Coach Burns expressed his optimism for the second half saying, “We are very excited to start the second half and add several pieces to the puzzle and continue to mould our team to get better each week in preparation for March.”

Acadia hosts the National UCup championship tournament in March in Halifax, and although they have a spot in the 8-team tournament based on being the host, there is nothing they want more than to earn their spot with a solid 2nd half of the AUS season.