At 6'4", he is one of the taller players on the team and provides a real physical presence on the ice. In addition to his physicality, Axell brings confidence to the offense specifically and the team as a whole which is necessary in all games, from the regular season to playoffs. His leadership on the ice will be essential to any success that Cornell enjoys this season.
The Wolverines had just the start for which they had hoped. The beginning of the game was a bit rough with the Wolverines scoring 2 goals in quick succession. How quick? Within the first two minutes of play, the challengers in maize were up by two goals. Schafer called a time-out. He realized the game was spiraling out of control quickly. In so doing, Schafer afforded the officials the opportunity to review the second goal. Ultimately, the second was called back for goaltender interference. But what is notable happened after that crucial call.
The line that took the ice would be responsible for setting the tone of the game and the character of the Cornell team going forward in the NCAA Regional. The Michigan game would not be so memorable for the two most loyal fanbases in college hockey if the Michigan onslaught continued and the highly favored Wolverines prevailed. Axell led the line that took the ice immediately after the disallowed goal.
Axell took the face-off immediately following the call. The Wolverine opposite him in the face-off circle was none other than Travis Lynch. It was Lynch's would-have-been goal that was disallowed. The situation could not have been scripted better. After the face-off, it was Axell's line who brought the pace and flow of the game into Cornell's control.
It might not have been Axell's shift after the disallowed goal that evened the score between Cornell and Michigan. It might not have been his shift after the disallowed goal that scored the winning goal. But, few can deny the integral nature of that shift and his leadership on that line to establishing firmly the game that Cornell needed to play to defeat the second overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Axell's leadership in that specific shift did not cause Cornell to win in the box score, but it did lead Cornell to take a resounding lead in the mental game that evening in Green Bay, WI. The later composure of Cornell that allowed McCarron's, Ryan's, and Craig's goals was a direct product of Axell and his line taking control of the pace of play and showing confidence in the face of great adversity. His mental and physical grit was apparent on college hockey's biggest stage. It was Axell's leadership that changed the complexion of the entire game in one shift and buoyed Cornell onward to believe in itself.
It is supremely obvious why he was chosen by his teammates as one of the three captains this year with that type of on-ice leadership. Now let's look back at what Axell has done up until this point.
Before coming to Cornell, Axell played two years with the St. Michael's Buzzers of the OJHL on a line with current teammate Greg Miller. He was co-rookie of the year and played int he CJAHL Top Prospects game in 2008. He got five points in his 48 games there, scoring 15 goals. In addition to his hockey interest, Axell played football and lacrosse, gaining rookie of the year in 2006 and captaining the team as defenseman of the year in 2009.
Lucky for us here at WAFT, Axell chose hockey as his collegiate sport. In his freshman campaign, Axell appeared in 10 games. He got three assists on the season, making his debut in the season opener against Niagara. His first point was scored against Colgate at Lynah in November of the same year. In addition to points against Brown and Dartmouth, Axell had six penalty minutes on the season.
Sophomore Year (2010-11)
Sophomore year was better to Axell than his freshman year. He appeared in 18 games (almost double the amount of games as the previous season). Mirroring his first point from the previous year, Axell's first collegiate goal was scored once again against Colgate at Lynah. It was all the sweeter because it was the game-winner. On the season, he also had an assist against Harvard and finished the season with six penalty minutes again.
Junior year was even more impressive for Axell. He appeared in all 35 games, despite being injured. Due to this determination, Axell earned the Iron Man Award for pushing through the season to overcome his injuries. In spite of these injuries, he had a career-high four points. His most notable assist on the year came in Game 2 of the ECAC Quarterfinal series against Dartmouth that most will remember as the longest men's hockey game played at Lynah Rink. Axell was an integral part of the team in ways that did not reflect on the score sheet, being one of the primary penalty killers for the Big Red. As far as penalties go, Axell managed to blow his previous number (six per season) out of the water. Axell notched 39 penalty minutes in his junior year, with 29 coming in one game against Brown.
Senior Year (2012-13)
This year Axell is poised to do even greater things. He played injured last season and hopefully will return to the Big Red as healthy as ever. In addition to being one of the seven seniors on the roster this year, Axell was named as one of the tri-captains along with defensemen Nick D'Agostino and Braden Birch. Axell's leadership clearly exists in a way that his teammates chose to honor him by voting him one of their captains for this year. His contributions to the team are far more than just numbers on a box score, as he generates numerous scoring opportunities in addition to providing confidence, strength and leadership on the ice.
Axell's leadership will be crucial to navigating the first portion of the season as players who have had not ice time mature and adjust to their roles within Schafer's system. Axell's confidence will be contagious as it was in Green Bay. His leadership and the sense of self-assuredness that he brings to the Big Red's game will be essential in a team that aspires to reach the apex of the college hockey world this season.
We at WAFT know that he will do great things for Cornell as a senior. 21 days!