Acadia Eliminates Canons, Look to Sink Schooners Next

The Golden Bears downed Quebec in 6 games and now prepare for their toughest test in the form of an old rival.
by Marcel Cormier | May 20, 2015, 5:35 PM ET

"We've climbed a steep hill to get here but the mountain lies before us still."

That message was scrawled across the white board inside the Bear Den for all the players to see when they arrived for practice this morning. No one is certain who left it there but the meaning is clear; getting this far is great but the real challenge is still to come.

The Acadia Golden Bears took game 6 and the series with the Quebec Canons by the same 4-2 margin. A 3-point effort from Claude Giroux proved to be the difference but the stat forward struggled earlier in the series before his return to form. With Martin St.Louis going down with injury mid-way through game 2, Acadia still felt they had the Canons by the throat being ahead two games to none. But the Canons proved their worth as the series shifted to their home rink and they rattled off wins to equal the series. 

Giroux, James Neal and Ryan O'Reilly, who was moved up to fill St.Louis' spot on the top line, struggled mightily going a combined minus-20 over Games 3 and 4. Rumors of illness made their way out of the lockeroom and to the ears of local media who ran with the reports.  

"Yes some players were playing at less than 100-percent but it would be a dishonor not to give credit to the Canons for their efforts in those two games," said head coach Dave Hakstol. "This time of year you have to dig deep and overcome whatever obstacles are set in front of you. In those games, the Canons were the better team."

Hakstol made some changes to his forward lines as the series returned to Saint John. Reilly Smith and Troy Brouwer took on bigger roles, the latter finally scoring his first two goals of the playoffs in games 5 and 6. Acadia won game 5 in overtime, Sean Couturier's goal :14 seconds into the extra period being the difference.

Already without veteran defenceman Brooks Orpik, the loss of St. Louis is a massive one but the Bears will have to find a way to overcome that hurdle as well as they prepare for their toughest test of the playoffs so far; the Nova Scotia Schooners. 

"Absolutely its a blow," admitted Hakstol, "One of our best forwards and one of our best defencemen taken out of the line up not to mention the experience and leadership both provide us...that's a lot to overcome but we managed to do it against Quebec and I know we can do the same in the next round."

Orpik, out with a broken ankle, is not out of the question should the Bears and Schooners go the distance but even then, GM Guy Flaming says he's not going to be rushing anyone back from injury.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it but let's be honest, we would need Brooks in the final should we make it that far so putting his health in jeopardy by rushing him back before he's 100% is too risky," said Flaming. "Thankfully we have depth on the blueline and Laddy Smid has stepped in and played well for us. He's been around the block before, we know we can count on him."

In goal, Roberto Luongo was more more himself in round 2 than he was in the opening series against Winnipeg.

"I think that's fair to say," agreed the Olympic goaltender, "But it's not all about a single player, we win and lose as a team."

There is little question so far that Acadia's top player in the post season has been Jordan Eberle. Playing on the 4th line at even strength but a staple on the first power play unit, Eberle leads the team in scoring with 14 points and a team high plus-9 rating.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the way the team is playing and with how I'm playing within the team," said Eberle, "Whether I'm on the first line, the second line or the fourth line - it doesn't really matter right now because it's all about what's best for the team."

Coach Hakstol was asked about Acadia's next opponent and he didn't spare the praise for the powerful boatmen from Halifax.

"They have so many weapons with guys like Tavares, Couture, Ennis, Duchene, Hossa, Nyquist, Nash...I mean the list just seems endless and I haven't even mentioned their blueline." praised Hakstol.

Like the Canons with Max Talbot, there are former Bears on the Schooners roster which Acadia expects to see a lot from in the coming series. David Legwand spent parts of 5 seasons in the Bear Den while Dainius Zubrus was in Acadia for 3 years. Both Legwand and Zubrus helped Acadia to their 1st SICHL Continental Cup back in 2006-07. 

Both clubs have tremendous depth at all skater positions and both are able to start a world class goaltender. Perhaps the biggest difference between Acadia and Nova Scotia at the moment is that the Schooners enter the Conference Final with a clean bill of health - no injuries to any roster players while the Bears have a pair of major absences.

The Canadian Conference Final is expected to begin after the weekend.

Bear Tracks

  • Kelowna Rockets forward Justin Kirkland is on his way to Quebec City with the WHL Champions to take part in the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup. (Drafted 3rd round 2014).
  • Likewise, Michael McCarron and the Oshawa Generals will represent the OHL at the Memorial Cup. (drafted 1st round 2013).

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