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Hockey Axemen end regular season on a high note, playoffs begin Feb. 14 in Wolfville

Stephen Harper, #34, locked up the AUS scoring leader title with 46 points in 30 games after weekend action against Saint Mary’s and Moncton. Acadia’s duo of weekend wins secured third place in the AUS for the team.
Stephen Harper, #34, locked up the AUS scoring leader title with 46 points in 30 games after weekend action against Saint Mary’s and Moncton. Acadia’s duo of weekend wins secured third place in the AUS for the team. - Peter Oleskevich

Acadia defeats Saint Mary’s 3-0 at home, secure third place in AUS

WOLFVILLE, NS - The Acadia Axemen ended its regular season on home ice on a high note, defeating the U SPORTS No. 6-ranked Saint Mary's Huskies 3-0.

Axemen goaltender Robert Steeves turned aside all 24 shots by the Huskies for his second shutout of the season.

"The guys played awesome tonight. They let me see the puck. I let go of some funny rebounds and the guys were able to clear it and take the guys sticks. It was a great win," Steeves said following the win.

"We knew it was a big one with third place on the line. We've been through a bit of a slump and the win against UNB was a stepping stone and I thought we played a hell of a game tonight.”

Neither team scored in the first despite chances from both sides. By the end of the first period, the Axemen held an 8-7 shot lead.

The Axemen broke the scoreless tie with two goals late in the second to take a 2-0 lead heading into the third.

With 1:50 remaining in the second period, Axemen forward Boston Leier tipped a wrist shot from Rodney Southam past the glove of the Huskies goaltender Eric Brassard to make it 1-0.

Acadia defenseman Matthew Pufahl added another marker with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, which led the referees to confer while the teams headed off for the intermission as to whether the goal counted. The Huskies coaching staff argued with the referees on their way off the ice at the end of the period, but the goal stood.

The Axemen added another goal just past the midway point of the third when Acadia capitalized on yet another power-play – Leier’s second power-play goal of the game. Axemen forward Stephen Harper took the initial shot, which hit the Huskies goalie and laid on the goal line, at which point Leier came in and jammed the puck across the line.

Brassard stopped 30 of 33 shots on the night.

Win over Moncton

The Axemen finished out the 2017-2018 men's hockey regular season with a matchup against the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleus on Feb. 10 in Moncton. After defeating USports #2 Ranked UNB Feb. 3, and #6 ranked Huskies Deb. 2, the Axemen had put their destiny in their own hands to earn third place in the AUS standings. All that stood in the way was a victory over the Aigles Bleus.

Moncton got on the score board first when Carl Marois scored at 7:19 of the opening period. The Axemen answered back when fourth-year defenceman Matt Pufahl took a pass from Remy Giftopoulos and beat Moncton goalie Brandon Thibeau to tie the game at 1-1 at 10:40 of the opening period.

Acadia took a 2-1 lead in the second period when Cristiano DiGiacinto scored his first goal in an Axemen uniform after joining the team in January, but the Axemen lead was short lived as Marois scored his second of the night, this time on the powerplay to tie the game at 2-2.

That score held for the remainder of the second period and the third period, despite Acadia firing 46 shots at the Moncton netminder over the first three periods, outshooting Moncton 46-26 in regulation time.

In overtime, Steeves made two crucial saves to keep the Axemen hopes alive; shortly after, Moncton's Vanier-Guenet took a penalty for cross-checking Harper. Like poetic justice, Harper made him pay as he ripped home a shot at 2:47 of the overtime session to give Acadia a 3-2 victory. Assists went to Leier and Pufahl.

Acadia finished up the game one-for-two on the man advantage, while Moncton went one for three.

In addition to scoring the game winner, Harper locked up the AUS scoring leader title with 46 points in 30 games.

The victory setup a best-of-three playoff showdown with the Dalhousie Tigers, with Game 1 taking place Feb. 14 in Wolfville. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

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