Fairfield, Conn. - The Sacred Heart Pioneer Men's Ice Hockey team begins its 2010-11 season looking to build off a successful previous year that saw them tie the program record for wins in a season (21), set the school record with a 12-game unbeaten streak, and reach the Atlantic Hockey Association championship game as the conference's second-seeded team. C.J. Marottolo begins his second season as head coach of the Pioneers after winning the Bauer Coach of the Year for the AHA in his first season.
The Pioneers open on the road Friday night, October 8th with a two-game weekend series at Union College. The Pioneers take on a Dutchman team out of the ECAC that is ranked 19th in the USCHO.com poll, beginning a season in which Sacred Heart will take on a number of solid non-conference programs out of the ECAC. SHU won't have to go far to take on this year's pre-season sixth ranked team when they travel to New Haven's Ingalls Rink to face the Yale Bulldogs November 23. The Pioneers also play on the road against Colgate on October 30 and Princeton on January 25, and host Clarkson on December 12 and St. Lawrence on January 3 to round out the non-conference schedule.
Sacred Heart will also experience a new chapter in program history when they take the ice as the home team in five regular season conference games in Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard. The Pioneers will play as a part of a doubleheader billing with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers on November 6 at 3:30 against AIC, January 8 at 4:30 against Air Force, February 5 at 3:30 p.m. against Bentley, February 20 at 12:00 p.m. against Holy Cross, and February 26 at 3:30 p.m. against Army. Another highly anticipated date is February 13, when Sacred Heart plays UCONN outdoors at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT as part of the week-long "Whalers Hockey Fest". While the Pioneers and Huskies will go back to the roots of "pond hockey" for this Sunday 1:00 p.m. faceoff, the game is indeed a regular season game and will count towards the standings.
Sacred Heart begins conference play October 22 when they host Canisius in the first of a two-game weekend series at the Milford Ice Pavilion. The Pioneers get their chance at redemption against RIT, the team that beat them in the AHA Championship game last year, when they travel to Rochester, NY over Thanksgiving weekend for a two-game series November 26 and 27. The Pioneers also will host Air Force, previously the conference's three-time defending champions whose season they ended on Patrick Knowlton's memorable goal with 42 seconds remaining in regulation of the AHA Semi-Finals, on January 7 and 8.
Knowlton (Sr. F, Colorado Springs, CO) will serve as this year's Pioneer captain, and is the leading returning scorer with 39 points on 13 goals and 26 assists. Evan Mladenoff (Sr. F, Leawood, KS) and Eric DeLong (So. F, Oakville, MB) are the assistant captains. Mladenoff registered six goals last year and is known as a hard-hitting winger, while DeLong was named to the AHA All-Rookie team last year and led all conference freshmen with 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists. Other key returners include Matt Gingera (Jr. F, Winnipeg, MB), who scored 23 points on 11 goals and 12 assists, and David Berube (Sr. F, Quebec, QC) who contributed ten goals and seven assists.
Sophomore goalie Steven Legatto (Kelowna, BC) looks to continue where he left off, setting the record with 19 wins as a freshmen while posting a 3.10 GAA and .907 save percentage. Freshmen defenseman R.J. Boyd (Punta Gorda, FL) joins the team as only the second NHL draft pick in AHA history, after being selected in the seventh round by the Florida Panthers this past summer.