3,723 view Danton debut
Ex-NHLer scores, but Acadia spoils Saint Maryís party with 4-1 triumph
By GLENN MacDONALD Sports Reporter
Thu. Jan 28 - 4:53 AM

THE ACADIA AXEMEN spoiled the Mike Danton party on Wednesday night.

Many of the 3,723 fans that showed up at the Halifax Forum came to see the former NHL forward in his CIS hockey debut in a Saint Maryís Huskies uniform.

The 29-year-old Danton didnít disappoint in his first game in almost six years. He delivered ó and received ó several big hits, showed plenty of hustle and skill and scored SMUís lone goal of the game. But Acadia didnít get caught up in the hype and skated away with an important 4-1 victory.

"Scoring the goal was a huge monkey off my back," Danton said to a scrum of reporters outside the Huskiesí dressing room after the game. "You guys put me on the front page for the last two weeks so itís good to get that out of the way.

"But the bottom line is we still lost. We donít play hockey as individuals, we play as a team and we lost 4-1 tonight."

Danton, who played in the NHL for New Jersey and St. Louis, was recently released from prison after serving more than five years behind bars in the U.S. and Canada for conspiracy to commit murder.

His CIS debut attracted plenty of media and curious onlookers who would normally stay away from a Wednesday night university game.

Crowds entering into the Forumís main entrance snaked around the north-end arena and down Windsor Street. The announced attendance was nearly 3,000 more than the season average. And they threw their support behind Danton.

"The standing ovation and the cheers is just something Iíve been used to since Iíve been here. Everyone has been so supportive," said Danton, who played on the second line alongside team leading scorer Cam Fergus and grinder Justin Munden.

"The league is good. I didnít expect it to be this good. I had never watched a game before, just had some buddies play in it. There are some highly skilled players, a lot of guys that are really fast, that are smart and play the game real well."

Wearing No. 24, Danton showed no signs of rust when he first stepped onto the ice. He threw a thunderous check behind the Acadia goal and used his speed to nearly set up Fergus at the side of the net early into the first period.

"Iím an energy player; Iím not a guy thatís going to be a go-to offensive guy who gets three or four goals a game," Danton said. "I play physical and I work hard. My concern as the game went on further was whether I could sustain that energy. I thought I did a decent job."

Danton was also a target. Bruising blue-liner Beau Prokopetz of Acadia sent Danton airborne with a crushing hip check along the left wall and crushed him again with another solid hit along the right boards. He was also penalized for cross-checking Danton.

"I just try to get under guysí skin," said Prokopetz, a sophomore defenceman from Winnipeg. "I didnít think I could actually hip-check him; heís a short guy. But I bent down pretty low and flipped him pretty good."

About three minutes into the third period, Danton registered his first shot on goal. Moments later, he had a partial breakaway but his slapshot from inside the blue-line was turned aside by Acadia goalie Kris Westblom.

He finally capitalized midway through the period. Danton, standing alone to the right of Westblom, batted in a perfect, in-close feed from Fergus to cut the Acadia lead to 3-1. It drew a rousing ovation from the Forum faithful.

"If you would have seen my practices this week, I wouldnít have done that in practice," said Danton, who had three shots on goal. "I think I closed my eyes and just took a swing at it. Thatís what Fergie does, heís a great, skilled player and he put the puck perfectly in the air."

"That goal he got, I was kind of awestruck how he batted it out of the air," added Prokopetz. "I thought he was very good, especially after not playing for five years. He was very strong with the puck."

Dantonís goal seemed to inject some life into the Huskies. They peppered Westblom in the dying minutes but the Acadia netminder stood his ground. With about three minutes left, he stymied SMU captain Marc Rancourt with a quick glove save.

SMU outshot the Axemen 37-28.

Spencer Jezegou, James Klie, Andrew Clark and David Lomas each scored for the Axemen (15-4-2), who vault four points ahead of the Huskies (12-6-4) for second place in the conference.

The top two teams at the end of the regular season receive a quarter-final bye in the playoffs. "We had to weather the storm and come out with a very strong game," Prokopetz said. "It was a huge two points to keep us in second place for that playoff bye."
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Mike Danton wipes his face while watching the action from the Saint Maryís Huskies bench during AUS hockey action against the Acadia Axemen at the Halifax Forum on Wednesday. Danton scored in his CIS debut but SMU lost 4-1. (Peter Parsons / Staff)

SMUís Mike Danton is squeezed between Acadiaís Paul MacFarland, left, and Zack Firlotte. (Peter Parsons / Staff)