Steady Leier among the keys to successful season for ice Axemen
By John DeCoste '77
As of Feb. 4, the Acadia hockey Axemen have put together a solid 2016-2017 season, having clinched second place in the regular season standings and a first-round playoff bye.
While a number of players have played important roles in the Axemen success, few have arguably had more of an impact than third-year forward Boston Leier.
With two regular season games remaining, the Saskatchewan native led the Axemen with 17 goals and 31 points while playing all of his team's 28 games. The 31 points were eighth in the AUHC, and the 17 goals were third-best in the conference.
Moreover, Leier's contributions had often come in key situations. Seeing regular action on special teams, he had scored four power play goals, one shorthanded marker, and had a pair of game-winners.
Leier grew up in Saskatoon. His unusual first name may have come from "my dad being a huge Bruins and Red Sox fan. I don't know if that was it, but it might have had something to do with it."
He recalls starting skating "around age four, I think," and he has skated and played hockey as long as he can remember. "I'm sure my dad would have gotten me onto the ice as soon as he could," he says.
Leier grew up playing minor hockey in Saskatoon, "all the way to midget." He was drafted by the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, and played three years there before finishing his major junior career with the Regina Pats "in my overage year."
Leier had scored 38 goals in his first 81 games at Acadia, but although he had 33 goals his final year in junior, he insists, "I wasn't always a scorer.
"When you're younger, you go through different roles. My first year in Medicine Hat, I was more of an 'energy player'. Then I was a defensive player for a couple of years. My last year in junior, I scored more, but I was also on a really good team (in Regina)."
After finishing major junior, Leier wanted to explore the university route. Acadia athletic director Kevin Dickie, a fellow Saskatchewan native, "was a family friend I knew really well."
Dickie reached out to Leier and his family. "I came (to Acadia) on a recruiting trip," Leier says. "It was kind of a last-ditch effort because I wasn't sure I wanted to be this far from home, but once I visited here, I knew it was the place for me." And despite the distance from home, "my mom and dad have been here three or four times to see me play."
Leier found himself on a line with fellow rookies Zachary Franko and Sam Fioretti. They clicked as a unit, and though Franko has since left Acadia, Leier and Fioretti have remained linemates.
"I had played against Sam in junior (Fioretti played his major junior career with the Moose Jaw Warriors). I knew him well, but I didn't like him that much. Now we're the best of friends. It's funny how things work out sometimes."
Leier has been happy with his time at Acadia thus far. "It's been good. I owe a lot of my success to good teammates, like Sam and Taylor Makin." In addition, "our D-men move the puck really well."
The success he has had offensively, particularly this season, is "really a matter of being in the right place at the right time," he says, "though playing on the power play has helped big-time."
Leier describes 2016-2017 so far as "kind of a weird year. Talking to the coaches, there are only about five guys (Leier is one) who have played every game. We've had kind of a battered lineup, but different guys have stepped up when we've needed them most."
The Axemen have had really balanced scoring this season, a key to their 18-8-2 record. In addition to Leier's team-leading 17-14-31, rookie Stephen Harper and veteran Brett Thompson each had 24 points as of Feb. 4. Matt Pufahl had 23, Remi Giftopoulos 22, Geoff Schemitsch 21, and Fioretti 20.
Giftopoulos had 10 goals, Harper and Fioretti nine, Brendan Childerley eight, Pufahl seven and Thompson and Michael Clarke six each. As a team, Acadia had scored 101 goals, second in the AUHC, while allowing 77, also second best in the conference behind top-ranked UNB.
Leier recalls that he "had a good pre-season" in his first year with the Axemen, "but then I stopped playing the game that had made me successful. Once I figured that out, it's been good since then.
"At this level," he says, "you don't have to be the best player every night. There are tons of good players here."
Speaking prior to Acadia's 4-1 win over Moncton Feb. 4, a victory that clinched second place for the Axemen, Leier said, "I think we'll hang on to second place. We have a good team, and we 'll be getting some key players back who have been injured. It'll be huge to be at full strength."
One of the players who had missed a few games was Fioretti. "I like playing with Sam," Leier says. "We play well together. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves. I wouldn't have had the success I've had this season without him."
Leier explained that both AUS finalists will advance to the U-Sport nationals, which are being hosted by UNB in Fredericton. "If UNB makes it to the final, the losers of the semifinals will play off" to determine the third of the three AUS teams that will be part of the eight-team University Cup field.
"Where it's (a one-game elimination), anything can happen," he says. "You sometimes take your lumps, like in my first year here, and hopefully learn from your mistakes."
Leier is scheduled to graduate with his Business Administration degree in the spring of 2018. "I'm on track right now, and my fingers are crossed that everything works out." A finance major, he "would like to be a financial planner or advisor, but there's lots of work to do before that happens."
As for the possibility of returning to Acadia for a fifth year of hockey eligibility, he is "undecided right now. The only way I'd come back would be for education," and that likely wouldn't be to his advantage academically. "It's not what I'm planning right now, but you never know what the future might bring."
As for extracurricular activities, outside of classes and hockey, Leier says he and teammate Stephen Woodworth "have done some hunting together, ducks and geese. I enjoy it. I love being outside, and it's a great stress-reliever."
On campus, Leier is part of the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. program, which has been "an awesome experience," and takes part in all the team activities. "I wish I could do more, but you're really busy, and having the season last as long as it does is pretty tough."
He regularly follows the other Axemen and Axewomen teams, and acknowledges, "I've really gotten into basketball, which I didn't know much about before I came here." He is also a regular attendee at Axemen football games.
He adds, "all the varsity athletes are pretty tight with each other. You can find a common ground where you're all student-athletes and you often share classes. I'm friends with some of the football players."
Leier says he has "no regrets coming here. It's been a great experience, and I'd highly recommend it." He adds, "it would be nice to leave here (having won) a national championship. We have the team that can do that, if everything falls into place."