Midseason State of the Unionby Marcel Cormier | January 26, 2017, 11:53 PM ET
"Obviously this is not where we expected to be at this point of the season but I know that we have the talent in this room to get us back on top."
That was leading scorer Claude Giroux's response when asked by reporters this morning to reflect on Acadia's performance through the first half of the schedule. The Golden Bears, currently sit tied for 6th place in the Canadian conference with 46 points, 9 back of the top seeded Whitehorse Huskies. The conference is as competitive as ever as no club has been able to hold down first place for more than a few weeks.
"It definitely feels different to not have everyone chasing us in the standings right from opening night," admitted defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, "We're used to being front runners and playing with a target on our backs. I suppose the target is still there but this year we're doing the chasing."
As the most successful franchise in SICHL history, the Bears know that every team in the league is looking to knock them off the throne and a lack of communication with other GMs has the top Golden Bear feeling like a pariah.
"I don't know if it's collusion or not but my phone has barely rang this year," said Owner and GM Guy Flaming, "It wasn't until Gary Graves from Boston called recently that any type of offer had even come my way. I almost felt like I had to entertain his enquiry, simply out of boredom."
That phone call led to several back and forth exchanges between Boston and Saint John with a deal finally being hammered out days later.
To Boston: Nicolas Meloche + $1,000,000 + ACA 3 (2017) + ACA 4 (2019)
The key player in the swap is talented two-way prospect Nicolas Meloche who the Bears originally selected 38th overall in 2015. The blueliner was recently acquired by the QMJHL's Charlottetown Islanders as the club positions itself for a run at the league title. Meloche is a player the Bears had no intention of trading but in the end, Boston's offer was enough to force the move.
"Gary had asked me about him a couple of times and each time I refused to even consider it," Flaming said, "But I looked at the depth chart of our team on the blueline; Ristolainen, Trouba, Parayko, McNabb, Gostisbehere, Carlo, Pysyk...I guess I just decided that as much as I liked Nic as a prospect, we could actually get by without him. Once I decided on that, it was a matter of hammering out some conditions."
And "conditions" is a key word here in that the draft picks that Acadia is to receive from Boston do have a major condition attached to them. Should the Boston GM fail to attend the 2017 SICHL SUMMIT this August in Edmonton, the picks will go back to the Colonials and be replaced by a 1st round pick in 2017 and a 2nd in 2018.
"It's really to encourage participation from Gary at this summer's GM meetings in Edmonton," Flaming explained, "The incentive is there for him to go and if he doesn't, then we'll gladly take the 1st rounder this year instead of in 2018."
Acadia also re-acquired goaltender Jimmy Howard who they helped develop into a SICHL starter before he accepted an offer sheet from the Amsterdam Admirals before ever playing a SICHL game for the Bears. However, before you start feeling like this is a player poetically coming full circle, those wounds still run deep for the Bears GM.
"Jimmy Howard is absolutely, 100% available," Flaming declared, "Make no mistake about it, at this time we have zero intention of allowing him to play a game for us."
Asked why he had taken this stance after accepting him as part of the trade, Flaming spat back.
"I had to take him! I didn't want to but Boston needed to shed his contract and to make our deal work, it had to happen this way," Flaming said, "If I can trade him, I will. If I can't trade him, he can get comfortable sitting on the bench. His opportunity to play for the Bears was back in 2010 when we needed him. After we helped groom him, brought him along so that he'd be ready to step in for us, he stabbed us in the back and left for the money. Well, I hope he saved his pennies because we sure as hell aren't signing him this year."
When told of the GM's comments, Howard said very little.
"That's disappointing to hear, obviously, but in a way I understand and I just hope that I can go somewhere that I'm wanted."
BREAKING: This evening the Bears have announced that they have bought out the remaining portion of Howard's contract. It is believed to have cost Acadia about $800K just to cut ties with their former Goalie of the Future.
Acadia sits 6th in the conference according to points but have the third best goals +/- ratio with a +23. The problem is that they have blown out teams this year but have also lost a lot of 1-goal games. The club has also been streaky this season; they had a streak where they had dropped 5 of 6 games but they've also had a run with victories in 7 of 8 games.
"We've been inconsistent and that's a sign of a team that's breaking in some young players," coach Dave Hakstol said, "As the year goes on, we hope our rookies will grow and mature and that our veterans will provide some stability.
Acadia's top freshman has been defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen who trails only Connor McDavid in SICHL rookie scoring. Other players making their SICHL debut this season have been Shayne Gostisbehere, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Copp, Michael McCarron and goalie Jacob Markstrom.
- Claude Giroux has surpassed Ryan Smyth as the franchise leader is Games Played (560) and Game Winning Goals (39)
- Goaltender Braden Holtby is closing in on Rick DiPietro for the franchise record in minutes played. Holtby needs to play 3 more games to set a new benchmark. Holtby recently set a new standard in the category of 'Shots Faced'
- Rasmus Ristolainen leads Acadia this year with 5 power play goals.
- Western Michigan freshman Wade Allison is 2nd in scoring for the Broncos. Teammate Aidan Muir was having a career season but is out indefinitely with a wrist injury after being cut by a skate.
- Brock Boeser underwent surgery to repair an injured hand/wrist. That kept him out of the 2017 WJC where he was expected to lead USA into action. Boeser is back playing with North Dakota.
- Recently acquired prospect forward Austin Poganski joins Boeser and Tyson Jost at the University of North Dakota. All three are among the club’s top 4 in scoring this season.
- Freshman Ross Colton leads the University of Vermont in scoring with 22 points in 24 games. The forward was a 4th round pick in 2016 by the Bears.
- St. Cloud State sophomore Mike Eyssimont leads the Huskies in scoring with 22 points.
- John Hayden continues to lead Yale in scoring. The senior was a 3rd round selection back in 2013 by Acadia.
- Among Bears prospects in the Canadian Hockey League, Matthew Phillips ranks 2nd in the WHL with 35 goals. The diminutive forward recently had back-to-back hat tricks against Edmonton and Calgary.
- Also in Victoria, after just half a year, Tyler Soy has reached the 20-goal plateau for the third consecutive season.
- Regina Pats forward Austin Wagner is second in WHL shorthanded goals having scored 4 of them this season.
- In the USHL, defenceman Patrick Kudla leads all defencemen with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in scoring with 21 points.
- Finnish forward Aapeli Rasanen has 16 points through 20 games.
- Americans Caleb Jones, Erik Foley and Kieffer Bellows won gold at the 2017 WJC with team USA.
- Tyson Jost and Jeremy Lauzon helped Canada to the silver medal.
- Goaltender Matej Tomek appeared in 2017 WJC for Slovakia, the first games he has played in a year and a half of being the back up in North Dakota.