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Axemen Season Comes to a Close

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After a big one-goal win in Minitonas last Wednesday night (March 7), the Valley Axemen hit the road with an opportunity to force a fifth and deciding game this past Friday night (March 9) in Grandview. The Comets had other ideas though and the Axemen ultimately had their season come to an end after dropping a 5-4 contest.
Axemen 6, Comets 5
In a do-or-die situation, the Axemen staved off elimination with a tight 6-5 win last Wednesday night.
Comets forward Luke Stokotelny was the only player from either team to score in the opening period, putting the Axemen season in jeopordy with 40 minutes to play.
With their backs against the wall, the Axemen would outscore the Comets by a 4-1 margin though in the second period to head to the intermision with a 4-2 lead.
Brett Jersak, Cramer Coulthart, Joel Mateika and Riley Morden would all counter a Reagan Hedley marker to ignite the Axemen going into the third period.
After Mateika scored his second of the night on a very nice bar-down shot through a screen, the Axemen looked as though they would be able to coast their way to the victory.
Cue the Comets comeback. Stokotelny would score twice in a 1:26 span to complete his hat-trick and bring the Comets to within a goal at 5-4, with three minutes to play.
Brock Jersak would outrace a Comets defender to score into an empty net and give the Axemen a 6-4 lead.
Steegan Stoski would beat Axemen netminder Deven Dubyk with five seconds remaining giving the Comets a faint hope but the Axemen would hang on for the victory.
The Axemen were handed eight of the 13 minor penalties in the contest.
Dubyk made 25 saves to earn the win in the Axemen net while Danny McDonald stopped 28 in a Comets losing effort.
Comets 5, Axemen 4,
After building up a 3-1 lead after one period of play during Friday night’s out of town game, and poised to force a fifth and deciding game, the Axemen instead watched the Comets score four straight times to take a 5-3 lead by late in the third period.
A late goal by Kelly Gray brought the Axemen back to within one but that’s as close as the Axemen would get.
Jeff Riddell, with a pair of first period goals, along with an opening, power play goal by Kyle Tripp gave the Axemen that comfortable lead going into the first intermission. Stokotelny was the only Comets player to beat netminder Drew Denischuk in the opening frame.
The Comets would score the only two goals of the middle period thanks to markers from Stokotelny and Jason Shaw to even things at 3-3 heading into the third and final period.
Hedly and Chris Porter would each score giving the hometown Comets a 5-3 lead and the opportunity to eliminate the Axemen.
Gray would cut the lead to 5-4 with his goal with 1:41 remaining in the contest but that was as close as the visitors would get.
According to Gray, who also serves as the team’s manager, the game three loss was as much of their own undoing as anything.
“Three of their goals came on plays that should have been easily chipped out and instead ended up as turnovers and in the back of our own net,” he said.
Missing Deven Dubyk for this game and league MVP Jory Mullin for the entire series certainly hurt the Axemen’s chances but they put up a fight against a very talented Comets team.
Denischuk stopped 41 Comets shots while Danny McDonald stopped 29 Axemen shots.
The Axemen were called on five of the 12 minor penalties in the game.
Axemen Extras
With their playoff run now over, the Axemen can look back on what was a memorable season nonetheless.
“We weren’t able to dress our full line-up in any of the final series games due to injuries, illness, suspensions and family matters but that’s senior hockey,” said Gray.
“Everyone has lives outside of hockey and have to work the next day. Yeah, the season ended in disappointment but we all believe that had we been able to dress our full line-up, we would have had as good a chance as anyone to win the championship.”
Gray added that the entire team was certainly appreciative of the people who come out to support the Axemen.
“In the end, it is what it is and that’s the cards we were dealt,” he concluded. “We thank all the fans and volunteers for the support and we look forward to another chance to take a run at the NCHL title in the fall.”

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Brian Gilroy
REPORTER
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