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JR Boucicaut

TRUE XC9 ACF - tcraig

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First off, I want to thank JR and the guys/girls over at True for giving me the opportunity to use and review this stick.  

Stick Specs: 
- 85 flex
- TC2 pattern (P92 clone)
- Grip

About Me: 
- 26
- 5'11"
- 215 lbs
- Shoots left
- Plays defense - lots of slapshots with some wristers and snap shots thrown in for good measure
- On the ice twice a week - play in an A/B/C league fall and spring, A/B only in the summer 

Recent sticks used: 
- True A6.0 SBP (most direct point of comparison)
- True A6.0
- CCM prostocks -- Spear Variable construction
- Easton Stealth CX

First Impressions
After using True sticks as my main weapons lately (the A6.0 and the A6.0 SBP), the XC9 ACF felt right at home in my hands.  It has the same shaft shape as the A6.0 SBP - very squared off corners with concave walls - which is a plus right off the bat in my book.  Appearance-wise it also fits in with the other True sticks, with a relatively subdued graphics package putting the dark carbon fiber of the shaft on display.  The hits of color add a nice contrast, and are essentially the reverse of what is found on the A6.0 SBP.  The colors used are still just silver and blue, but the areas that are silver on the A6.0 SBP are blue on the XC9 ACF, and vice versa.  

After taping it up in the same fashion as my other sticks (full heel to toe on the blade, minimal grip at the top of the shaft), I could definitely feel that the stick is slightly heavier and a touch more blade-heavy than the A6.0 SBP.  That's not to say it's heavy or poorly balanced - I'd still say it's lighter than the CCM sticks and Stealth CX that I've been using, and feels similar to those in balance.  It's just that when compared to the A6.0 SBP, everything else feels blade heavy.  While I've never used the original XC9, I've handled one in store, and this revision definitely feels better balanced. 

The stick arrived right as I was headed out the door to go to a stick/puck session, so I got to get some light use in right away.  It took a little while to adjust to the different balance point, but once I did stickhandling was fine and not a major adjustment from my A6.0 SBP.  Obviously the real test for that will come in my next game, but I don't forsee any major problems there.  I noticed that the kick point feels a little bit higher than the A6.0 SBP, necessitating a shift in bottom hand placement on slapshots.  I didn't get those quite dialed in, as there were a lot of younger kids at stick/puck and the goalies were both around 12 years old - didn't want to lay into any shots there.  Snap and wrist shots felt great.  The stick feels to play slightly stiffer than the A6.0 SBP, but not drastically so. I'd say to me the 85 flex A6.0 SBP plays closer to an 80, whereas this is closer to a true 85 flex. 

In terms of differentiation from the A6.0 SBP, the main point of emphasis is the XCORE insert in the blade, which is supposed to improve puck feel.  I was a bit apprehensive about this, as I generally gravitate towards lively "pingy" blades, and have never been a big fan of blades that others have lauded as being "well dampened", as I've always felt like they feel a bit dead.  An example of this is the Bauer One95 - many people loved that stick's blade feel, but I wasn't a huge fan.  This XC9 ACF blade is...interesting.  The best way I can describe it is similar in dampening properties to the One95, but still very lively feeling on shots.  Receiving passes, the puck just sticks to the blade, but I don't feel that "deadness" when shooting that I usually would on a very dampened blade.  Also, I'm not exactly sure how the insert works regarding increased puck rotation, as the insert is not on the surface of the blade (the face is a full sheet of carbon, just like any other stick.  However, whatever it is is essentially devil magic - my wrist shots in particular were flatter than I've ever seen, as were saucer passes.  I only got about 45 minutes of ice time in with the stick in that session, so I'll be really trying to put it through its paces a few times this week. Stay tuned...

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I've gotten several more sessions on the stick now, including a couple of games.  Nothing has changed in terms of blade or shaft feel - nothing is going soft in the blade, and the shaft still has it's original kick and slightly-stiffer than the A6.0 feeling.  The stick and pucks I've gotten to were considerably more empty than my initial outing, and combining those with the couple games I've gotten to play have given me the chance to really lay into some slapshots and one-timers.  The extra spin I noted earlier is still alive and well when it comes to slapshots - I'm taking some of the flattest shots I've ever taken with this stick, and have gotten accustomed to the slightly different lower hand placement that I need to use to maximize power in these situations (a couple of inches higher than the A.6.0 SBP in my case).  Something that I've noticed is my slapshots are consistently about 6-8 inches to the right of where they were with the A-series stick -- I've hit a grand total of 5 posts now going far (right) side dropping a shot from the point.  The fact that it's so consistent is good because I should be able to adjust to it within another couple of sessions, and has me wondering if it is something to do with the increased puck rotation, the slightly different kickpoint, or just me being consistently off a touch.  

I'm not having any problems stickhandling, in fact I found myself being a bit TOO comfortable in my last game stickhandling through traffic.  There were several times where I stickhandled through two guys and should have taken a shot, but unwisely decided to try and beat a third to get a clean break...which consistently failed.  Disclaimer: I have absolutely no semblance of hands -- I'm much more reliable strictly moving the puck up through crisp passes, making getting around one guy. Using this stick, I have more confidence in traffic, likely due to the dampened nature of the blade.  When I consciously think about it, I still prefer the pingier feeling blades, but in a game situation the dampened nature of the XC9 ACF seems to be better for me.  I'll have to switch off back to the A6.0 SBP for a little bit my next time on the ice to see if my new and apparently improved hands carry over to it, or if it really is a product of the Xcore insert in the blade.  

I'm still loving passing with this stick - my pass accuracy is just as good as it was, and receiving hard passes is incredibly simple due to the way pucks just "stick" to the blade.  I've also noticed flatter saucer passes, which is great.  They look cooler that way ;) 

More to come...

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I've gotten a couple more weeks of use with the XC9 ACF under my belt, and my feelings on it are largely unchanged.  I really like the stick, but I'm not in love with it...every time I go back to the A6.0 SBP for a few minutes, it feels like "coming home", if that makes sense.  I think that the largest differentiator for me between the two is the balance - I keep coming back to how ridiculously well balanced the A6.0 is, and as much as I like the XC9 ACF it just doesn't quite get me there.  The two are very similar in shooting - the XC9 shaft has softened up slightly and I don't have any issues switching between the two sticks on the fly in terms of shooting anymore - the slightly higher kickpoint doesn't affect my lower hand placement like it did at first (or I've just adjusted to it and subconsciously adjust my hand placement on slapshots when switching sticks).  I am still enjoying the added puck spin on the XC9 - I'd love to get an actual scientific (not marketing) take on that, because the effect of the insert on shot rotation is pretty neat.  

In terms of durability, nothing has really changed.  It's definitely gotten some nicks and scratches, and I thought it was a goner after my last game when another player stomped on the blade trying to draw a tripping call, but it keeps trucking along without changes in performance.  I'll keep updating at least every other week, but I don't forsee any major chances coming with the way that it has been performing.  It's been consistent in performance, which is always appreciated, and while I can't say I'd rush out to get myself another one (mostly due to my balance preference), I would highly recommend that anyone considering a stick in the high tier pricepoint to check it out.  I can definitely see it appealing to a lot of people, especially those who don't like freakishly blade-light feeling sticks.  

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I've gotten on the ice about 10 more times with the XC9 ACF since the last post, and my feelings towards it are largely the same.  I'm happy to report that I haven't noticed any real changes in terms of performance and stiffness - this is around the point where I tend to notice sticks starting to get a bit whippier and lose their kick on shots.  This hasn't happened yet in any notable fashion here - slapshots, snap shots, and wrist shots all feel the same as the day I received it.  Also, durability has been a welcome surprise - I haven't had any issues through multiple rough games where the stick has taken some pretty hard two handed hacks, as well as a few shot blocks off of the shaft of the stick.  I'd been interested to see how the blade would hold up in terms of the urethane insert staying in place, and I have yet to notice it getting lose, the blade cracking, or anything other than the minor cosmetic chips that come along with normal play.  

It's still not my favorite stick, but again that's strictly due to personal balance preferences and I can't find any major faults with its performance.

I'll update again after a few more sessions with any changes that I notice. 

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I've been using this since my last post, intermingled with using a couple of other sticks.  There still have been no major changes in performance, which is great news - as my last update was around the time I usually notice sticks losing their kick, the fact that this still hasn't happened yet in the XC9 ACF has been a welcome surprise, and really makes me appreciate the construction of True's shafts.  

Cosmetically, it's looking fairly beaten up, with a good amount of surface chipping along the shaft, particularly in the lower third where a lot of stick-on-stick contact happens.  Also, i took an extremely vicious two-hander across the top of the shaft about 2 weeks ago, which took out a decent chunk of surface material (and I was sure was going to result in the stick exploding on the next shot).  However, all that seems to have happened is the stick has developed a small rattle inside - oddly enough I cannot find the source.  I took the end plug out of the shaft and tried to dump out any material that had broken loose, but nothing comes out.  Also, the "rattle" seems very low in the shaft- around the top of the blade.  I'm not sure if there is some foam that broke off in there that is trapped, or if perhaps the urethane insert is the cause of the noise.  Either way, I haven't noticed a change in performance. 

My thoughts on the balance remain unchanged, and it is really the thing holding me back from playing with this every shift.  I just really prefer the balance of some other sticks at my disposal.  However, as I've mentioned several times, that is completely personal preference, and I don't expect many people are as weird about it as I am.  The stick itself is still great, and I'm really impressed at how long it is lasting with the abuse that it has taken.  Now that my other league has started (A/B), it's in for some extra abuse -- some of these guys go really over the top with their stick work.  I'll update with any changes as they occur.  

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In my last post, I said I'd update with any changes that occurred...well, I lied.  Because I'm posting,  but nothing has changed.  Except, possibly, my appreciation for this stick.  It has actually increased in getting use a bit over the last couple of months, as I have picked up a couple of other sticks and have been using it as the benchmark that I judge newcomers against.  I haven't used these others long enough to post dedicated reviews, but I will say that every time I make a comparison, or lose an element of my game (likely due to twig-swapping so often...), I come back to the XC9 ACF to "re-center" myself in terms of stickhandling, passing, and shooting.  While my initial criticisms on balance are still there, I appreciate the stick for what it is more than ever as I find myself wandering back to it when I feel that my passing is just a bit off, or my stickhandling isn't up to par (well, up to my usual low standard of acceptable at least).  And this stick is still the only one I have that I can get off a sweet saucer pass with almost perfect consistency. I can't explain why, but they're so much flatter so often with this stick than others in the same/similar pattern, that it's ridiculous.  The only thing that has really changed since my last post is that it looks even more beaten up, and that the rattle that had developed seems to come and go...so I'm assuming there's a piece of foam or carbon floating around in there that lodges/dislodges itself.  It still hasn't affected performance, so it's more an element of character for the stick at this point than a concern.  

As I've been using this stick regularly since last February, I'm going to treat this as more of a wrap-up and give some categorical ratings compared.  For reference, the sticks I'm currently rotating with this are the True A6.0 SBP and Warrior Alpha QX and QRL - just so you know where my head is at when I'm thinking about how the XC9 ACF stacks up.  

Blade: 8.5/10
As noted in my initial review, I really tend to gravitate towards stiff, pingy blades, however I've grown to really appreciate the dampened feel that this stick provides while still maintaining a stiff shooting face.  That's the key there, I never feel like a shot comes off "flat". They fly off the blade, which is what I dig about pingier blades, but still have that dampened feel when passing/stickhandling.  I'm docking a point for the balance "issue" I have, which must be due to the blade insert considering how well balanced the A6.0 is.  

Shaft/Flex: 9/10
I love the shaft shape - boxy corners with concave sidewalls is my jam.  Also, I feel that this stick plays true to the flex rating, as opposed to the A series that tends to play around 5 points softer than rated in my opinion.  Also, I'm a big fan of True's take on grip.  The docked point is due to the fact that this thing looked pretty worked over quickly, with small chips and chunks getting taken out with relatively little abuse, and that has just compounded with use.  It looks like it's seen some serious battle, but keeps on chugging along. 

Stickhandling/Passing: 10/10
For me, this is where this stick has really been a shining example of a perfect match to my playing style and stone hands.  Passes continue to stick to the blade when I receive them, and DAT SAUCE.  I really do think there's something to the "added spin" from the insert...it's either totally psychological, or magic. Because I can elevate and drop pucks close to where I want them with most sticks, but not with the consistent level of flat spin that I get from this guy. 

Shooting: 8.5/10
Shooting is one of my favorite things to do, and honestly my least favorite thing to do with this stick.  It isn't that it's bad (obviously...the score here is still good!), it's just that it isn't better here than with other sticks in my opinion.  I have started to gravitate towards lower kick points, and prefer the shooting characteristics of my other sticks to this one probably for that reason.  This thing still shoots rockets, which is impressive with how long it has been in service...it hasn't whipped out, and I love blasting clappers from the point...but the shooting experience doesn't stand out for me. I might have unrealistic expectations though; if it made me shoot as good as the saucer passes I throw with it, we'd be having a different conversation! 

Weight/Balance: 7/10
I don't really need to go into detail here...you know my feelings on the slightly awkward balance I feel this stick has. I understand why it does, and it isn't bad by any stretch, it just isn't great for my tastes. 

Durability: 8/10
This stick has been a tank, and survived some falls/hacks/being stepped on that I thought for sure would kill it.  I'm docking some points for how quickly it fell apart on the outer layer -- while that's mostly aesthetics, there are a lot of shallow chunks missing.  I'm not sure if there's a bonding layer issue there specific to True's construction process (the A6.0 SBP also exhibits this, albeit to a lesser degree in my case), or it's just an outer carbon layer issue, or what, but that took some points away.  In terms of just lasting not matter if it looks like it should or not, this stick has been great though. 

Intangibles
This stick ALWAYS goes with me to the rink. I usually take 3 sticks each game, and it always makes the trip.  I may not use it every game, but I find myself grabbing it often when I just need to reset myself.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone that doesn't only like ultra-low kick sticks, even with my balance nitpicking.  It's a really great all around stick.  

Conclusion: B+ (8.5/10)
While I've made no secret that this isn't my favorite stick of all time (that's still the Stealth CNT, thank you very much...#nostalgia), it's an extremely solid, dependable workhorse.  Honestly, I think for me it falls into the "jack of all trades, master of none" line of thinking...except for dishing sauce.  Unfortunately, for my game, that's not the top priority. However, this stick is always there when I need it, and I appreciate that.  It's a quality stick that I would wholeheartedly recommend that everyone check out.  It might not be everyone's ideal match, but I'm willing to bet that there are a whole lot of people out there that it really is perfect for.  Those people will absolutely love it, and I think almost anyone else would like it enough that they wouldn't regret picking one up. 

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