Acadia 2018-19 Season Previewby Marcel Cormier | November 5, 2018, 1:52 AM ET
As training camp and the exhibition season begin, the Acadia Golden Bears look ready to continue their tradition of being a contender for the SICHL Continental Cup. 2015-16 was the last time the Bears took home the title but after consecutive first round losses to the Calgary Mustangs, the team is hungry for a return to glory.
Acadia's dedication to the draft has paid off for the club for many years and this season is just another example of that. Veterans like Neal and Girardi were expendable simply because younger, cheaper and better replacements pushed them off the depth chart. Boeser is expected to replace Neal and sophomore forward Mikko Rantanen will be counted on for much more than his 20 points last season.
Shayne Gostisbehere should finally claim a roster spot for the entire season. He played 52 games with the big club in 2016-17 but spent all of last year with the Villains. Brandon Montour will join 'Ghost' in Saint John after signing a new $2.5M contract.
Last, but certainly not least, a familiar face returns as Roberto Luongo signed an enormous 1-year deal in excess of $15M, a new club record. Luongo backstopped the Bears to the 2014-15 Continental Cup after a 53-win regular season performance.
With incumbant starter and 2018 Ken Dryden Trophy winner Braden Holtby still with the team, GM Guy Flaming was asked why the club sought another high profile goaltender.
"Braden Holtby is our starter, plain and simple. There is no goalie controversy here. It is his job." said Flaming. "I will tell you that Braden came to me after the playoffs, I guess it was around July, and said that he wasn't feeling like himself. Physically and mentally, the last couple of seasons have been hard on him and that is largely our fault - mine and our coaching staff."
Holtby played all 82 regular season games last year and 78 the season prior and 74 the year before that. That is a LOT of hockey.
"I wanted to make sure that we supported Braden with someone that, when he's not in net, gives us just as good of a chance to win," said Flaming, "It also helps that Roberto paved the way for Braden that one season so the two already have a history of working well together."
Head coach Dave Hakstol is considering moving star forward Claude Giroux to the left wing allowing center Sean Couturier to move up from the 3rd line into more of a offensive role. Meanwhile, Adam Lowry will take on bigger duties this year with veteran Brandon Dubinsky slotted into the middle of the 4th line.
Expect Lowry, Grabner, Couturier and Dubinsky lead the penalty killers while there are plenty of options for the power play units.
Defensively, with Girardi being dealt the blueline gets a little younger but more offensively dynamic. All members of the projected top 7 group can skate, move the puck or pound the pill from the point. That fact will allow Ryan McDonagh and Justin Braun to concentrate more on being defensively reliable.
The goaltending position should seem like 1A and 1B but we'll take the GM at his word that Holtby is his guy to start the year in the top spot.
Acadia begins the pre-season schedule against the Montreal Millionaires.
- Acadia signed former New Hampshire Wildcats forward Andrew Poturalski, Owen Sound Attack goalie Michael McNiven and Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis to free agent deals.
- The Bears and Whitehorse Huskies swapped a pair of prospects. Acadia sent recently drafted defenceman Jonathan Tychonick to the Yukon in exchange for defenceman Ian Mitchell. Mitchell is in his second season with the Denver Pioneers and has 8 points through 6 games. He's also represented Canada several times over the last few years and is in consideration for the 2019 WJC in Vancouver.
- Prospect Wade Allison has yet to play this season for Western Michigan as he's still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his 2017-18 season.
- Prospect Jay O'Brien, a 1st round pick this past draft, has yet to record a point through 5 games with the Providence Friars. Despite the lack of production, reports are that O'Brien has played well in his first few NCAA games but his efforts are reflected on the score sheet.
- Meanwhile, Trey Fix-Wolansky shares the WHL scoring lead with 39 points through 17 games. The Edmonton Oil Kings forward has taken his game to a completely different level this season.
- Freshman Noah Cates has fit in well with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The 4th round pick from 2017 has 6 points in 8 games.