Acadia Captures 4th Continental Cup

The Golden Bears are SICHL champions for the 4th time in ten seasons after sweeping the Las Vegas Aces in the league final.
by Marcel Cormier | June 13, 2016, 2:26 AM ET

Claude Giroux scored twice including the game winning goal to lead the Acadia Golden Bears to their fourth ever league title and third in the past five seasons.

The Bears clinched the series on the road in just four games, a major surprise considering the strength of their opposition and the predictions of SICHL insiders and experts leading up to the final. In fact, not a single prognosticator suggested that either team would win the final this year in a sweep.

"These were two high caliber teams, the two conference leaders through the regular season, and the two teams a lot of people expected to see in the final," said Bears GM Guy Flaming, "Quite honestly I'm surprised at how one-sided the final result looks because it didn't feel that way at times."

The difference in the series probably comes down to goaltending and to the performances from the marquee players on the two clubs.

For Acadia, Giroux was the star of the round as he struck in all four games and ended the finals with 6 points, a team hgh 21 points over the course of the playoffs. Jordan Eberle, Scott Hartnell, Chris KreiderSean Couturier and Troy Brouwer all had games where they rose to the occassion.

Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin failed to record a single point and was a combined minus-9 in the series. P.K. Subban was also absent from the score sheet. Wayne Simmonds managed a single point. Jeff Carter had two points, both of them in Game 4.

The Bears never trailed for a second of the 4-game series. It was the only series Acadia played in this spring that didn't feature an overtime game.

Netminder Braden Holtby, who had been pulled on a couple different occassions earlier in the playoffs, was outstanding between the pipes in the final. He allowed a total of 6 goals against Las Vegas while the Bears lit up Sergei Bobrovsky 14 times in three games, chasing the Aces starter before Game 4. 

Zdeno Chara had four points against his former team.

"It was motivation, for sure," he said during the on ice celebration after the 3-2 victory, "I still have a lot of friends on the other side and in that room but yes, for sure, it was special for me to come back here and win it all in this building."

Midway through the series against Ottawa, head coach Dave Hakstol made a lineup change which seemed to spark his club when they needed it most. Hakstol moved Jordan Eberle from the second line to the fourth line, the same spot he filled last year when he went on to lead the Bears to their 3rd SICHL championship. Once reunited with Jay McClement and Craig Adams, it balanced the lines and neither the Slammers nor the Aces had a solution for the 4-line attack. 

"It was sort of in the back of my mind while we were still battling with the Schooners but then Dustin Byfuglien was suspended and I thought that making the switch then may have been too much change," said Hakstol, "But Ottawa really did a great job of limiting the effectiveness of some of our key guys so I tried it then and it worked. I decided to keep it again for the finals and I really think that was a big reason why we had the success that we did."

As with all teams, changes will be coming to the Bears before new banners are raised and the puck drops on the 2016-17 season. Definitely playing their last game for Acadia are Chara, Adams, Tomas Kopecky and Bryce Salvador. Likely the same thing for Andy Greene, added via trade from Fredericton before the deadline.

"Honestly, I think we had a pretty strong team before the deadline but the trade we made with the Express put us over the top," said Flaming, "At the risk of sounding glib, I should say that we might not have be able to do this without the additions of Greene, Girardi and Hartnell so my thanks to Fredericton GM Mark Macrea."

The team is expected to spend an extra day or two in Las Vegas but will return to Saint John on Tuesday evening followed by the fan celebration downtown on Wednesday.

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