Bears on the Huntby Marcel Cormier | March 23, 2018, 2:03 PM ET
A recent hot streak has pushed Acadia up the standings into more familiar territory. Coupled with slumps for other top teams in the Canadian conference, the Bears were in a position to catch the Brandon Wheat Kings as the two clubs met for a home-and-home series. But with each team winning on home ice, no ground was gained. That said, Acadia's remaining schedule shows the potential for them to continue the chase.
12 of their remaining 19 games have Acadia facing off against non-playoff teams but head coach Dave Hakstol warns fans that no one should just assume those are automatic points.
"We play the Metros two more times," he began, "but we're 2-2 agains them this year. The Vipers beat us. We've lost to Banff."
"There is no easy night in the SICHL".
Still, Acadia is looking forward and not worrying about the teams trying to catch them from behind. They don't play the Norsemen again in the regular season. However, they do have a pair of games against Edmonton and one more against Nova Scotia.
"Edmonton has been coming on the last month or so but we can't spend time looking over our shoulders, it's better to keep our eyes on Brandon's back," said defenceman Jacob Trouba, "As for the Schooners, they should be more concerned with not missing the playoffs."
The stretch drive to the playoffs begins with a game against the Vipers followed by a tilt with Brno that is sandwiched between three games against Montreal.
Prospects in the Playoffs
Acadia has 10 prospects heading into the CHL playoffs. Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane), Juuso Valimaki (Tri-City), Kieffer Bellows (Portland), Giorgio Estephan (Swift Current), Matthew Phillips and Tyler Soy (Victoria), Brandon Hagel (Red Deer), Connor Hall (Kitchener) and Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound).
On top of that, 10 more are entering the NCAA National tournament this weekend. Michael Eyssimont and Ryan Poehling (St. Cloud State), Morgan Barron (Cornell), Cooper Marody (Michigan), Andrew Peeke (Notre Dame), Dylan Samberg and Michael Anderson (Minnesota Duluth), Brandon Hickey and Jake Oettinger (Boston University) and Erik Foley (Providence).
Nick Campoli (North York) is in the OJHL playoffs.
Cooper Marody led the Big Ten conference in scoring with 46 points, 10th in the entire NCAA.
Acadia is going to lose a valuable player in the expansion draft, the only question is who that player will be. At this point it appears as though the Bears will opt to protect 7 forwards and 3 defencmen along with goaltender Braden Holtby. Thankfully, roster players like Colton Parayko and Mikko Rantanen are exempt from being exposed.
At the moment, it appears that Acadia will protect Ryan O'Reilly, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, James Neal, Jordan Eberle, Chris Kreider and the recently acquired Michael Grabner who will be re-signed and given the Franchise Player tag.
"It's not ideal and I don't want to lose anyone," said GM Guy Flaming, "But the bright side is that we'll only lose one player and we have the organizational depth to overcome that loss."
The depth Flaming was referring to is obvious when one considers the players who are expected to push for full time SICHL duty next season.
Danton Heinen, Devin Shore, Scott Laughton, John Hayden, Stefan Noesen, Sean Kuraly and Vince Hinostroza are all pushing for spots after playing for the farm affiliate Villains this season. Then there is Brock Boeser who may leapfrog them all on the depth chart. Expect Tyson Jost to get consideration too.
Defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere spent this entire season on the farm and will be hungry to stick in the SICHL next year. So will Brandon Carlo who looked good in Acadia during his 11-game recall earlier this season. Brandon Montour has worked his way into the conversation. Could Ethan Bear earn a look or two as well?
The back up spot will be contended for between Markstrom (if not claimed in expansion) and Tristan Jarry.
When asked if the expansion draft might actually be a blessing in disguise, allowing a spot to open up for a younger (and cheaper) rookie to move up to the SICHL, Flaming's only response was a wink, a grin and double "finger guns".