Setting the Scene...The Pioneers host the Bentley Falcons in what is both their home opener and Atlantic Hockey opener. Both teams are 0-4 and are looking for their first wins of the season.
Game Coverage...Video and audio of tonight's games will be available at www.SacredHeartPioneers.com by following the video and audio links on the men's hockey schedule page. Randy Brochu calls the play-by-play, and former Sacred Heart Pioneer Kyle Tyll ('08) handles the color commentary.
About the Pioneers...The Pioneers return their top two scorers from last year, senior winger Matt Gingera and junior center Eric Delong. Gingera led the team with 21 goals, third most in program history for a single season, and Delong led the team with 21 assists. The linemates tied each other for the team lead with 30 points. The Pioneers went 6-25-6 last year after reaching the Atlantic Hockey Championship game vs. RIT the season before. SHU beat Bentley in the First Round of the AHA Tournament, but were swept by the eventual conference champs Air Force in the best of three Quarterfinals.
Scouting the Falcons...Bentley was voted tenth in the Atlantic Hockey Association Preseason Coaches' Poll, one spot ahead of SHU. Justin Brenton leads the team and is tied for first in Atlantic Hockey with three goals. The Falcons have been solid on the power play, going 3-15 to start the season. Bentley opened the season with 4-1 and 5-1 losses at Michigan, and also lost 5-3 at Massachusetts and 6-1 at Quinnipiac.
All-Time Home Openers...Sacred Heart is 11-7 all time in their first home game of the season. The Pioneers lost 4-1 to Canisius last year on 11/22/10 in their first game at the Milford Ice Pavilion, and last won a home opener two seasons ago with a 5-3 victory over AIC on 10/27/09. Eric Delong scored his first collegiate goal in that game.
All Time vs. Bentley...The Pioneers lead the all-time series with the Falcons 20-17-3. Sacred Heart went 2-1-1 against Bentley last year, including a 6-3 come-from-behind win in Round One of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament on 3/5/11. The Pioneers trailed 3-1 in the third period in that game, but Matt Gingera helped lead the comeback with a hat trick in the final period for SHU's only win when trailing after two last year.
Take it to the Bank... For the second straight season, the Pioneers will call Webster Bank Arena home for several regular season games. After playing five home contests at the 8,500-seat home of the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers, SHU will play eight home games at Webster Bank Arena this season. SHU will play those home games in partnership with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers as part of single-admission doubleheaders, with the Pioneers' games either following or preceding a Sound Tigers home game. SHU faces off at 12:00 pm against RIT on January 15, at 4:00 pm on December 3 against Robert Morris, January 14 against RIT, February 4 against Bentley, February 11 against UCONN, and February 18 against Holy Cross, at 6:00 pm against Niagara on November 27, and at 7:00 pm against Yale on November 22. Webster Bank Arena is also the site of the NCAA Men's Hockey East Regional for the third time this season.
And the Leaders are...Eric Delong, captain, and Matt Ginera and Chris Bailer, assistant captains. Delong played every game last season, has already racked up 65 points (24 G, 41 A), and continues to be one of the team's strongest defensive forwards. Gingera enjoyed a break-out junior season thanks to a strong finish, scoring nine goals in the final six games, including a third-period hat trick in SHU's win over Bentley in the First Round of the AHA Tournament. Bailer, a stay-at-home defenseman, is a shot-blocking specialist who commands the respect of his teammates with his willingness to sacrifice his body.
Returning Forwards...The Pioneers return seven forwards who registered double-digit points. Junior Ben Ketchum (6-12-18), a fast-skating right wing with a hard shot, picked up his point total down the stretch in his first season with SHU after transferring from Quinnipiac. Junior right wing Kyle Verbeek (6-6-12), the son of former NHL great Pat Verbeek, displayed a knack for going to the net for rebound goals. Sophomore right wing Torin Snydeman played his way onto the top line with Delong and Gingera with a strong finish (6 points in final 4 games). Senior center Anthony Yelovich (4-7-11) looks for a breakout season after three years of playing various roles. Sophomore center Chad Filteau (3-8-11) looks to keep developing his play-making ability in the middle.
Bruisin' on the Blue Line...The Pioneers have added depth on the blue line with the addition of two transfers and the return of a medical red shirt. Jordan Ciccarerllo joins SHU for his sophomore year after sitting out last season following his transfer from Clarkson. Will Rayner restarts his freshman year after transferring from UMASS-Lowell with a reputation of being a good open-ice hitter. After going down with an injury three games into last year, 6-5, 225-pounder Bryan Felice returns as a medical red shirt freshman. Freshman Jared Eng joins the defense core from Coqutlam of the BCHL, where he tallied 23 assists. They join return seniors Chris Bailer and Ryan Miniaci, juniors Alex Stuart and Mitchell Stretch, and sophomore Neil Fachini.
In Net...Junior Steven Legatto and freshman Andrew Bodnarchuk are expected to see the majority of time in net. Legatto set the single-season school record with 19 wins in'08-'09 and played every minute of SHU's school record 12-game unbeaten streak that year. Bodnarchuk was the MVP of the SJHL with a 2.82 GAA and .916 save percentage for the Humboldt Broncos two seasons ago.
Exhibition vs. Ryerson...SHU beat Ryerson 5-4 Oct. 2 at the Milford Ice Pavilion in the team's lone preseason exhibition. The Pioneers and Rams racked up 68 combined minutes of penalties in a physical game. SHU received goals from Eric Delong, Matt Gingera, Tye Lewis, Alex Stuart. Steven Legatto made 21 saves through the first two periods, but Andrew Bodnarchuk earned the win with 10 saves in the third period.
Up Next...Sacred Heart continues Atlantic Hockey play on the road Friday, October 29 at 7:05 p.m. when the Pioneers take on AIC.