Setting the Scene...The Pioneers travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Air Force Falcons in a two-game Atlantic Hockey series.
Game Coverage...Video of tonight's games will be available at www.SacredHeartPioneers.com by following the video links on the men's hockey schedule page.
About the Pioneers...Brian Sheehan leads Pioneers with 4 goals and 5 points. SHU returns its 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. Both players have four points this season.
Scouting the Falcons...The reigning AHA Champions are currently first in the conference with 5 points and are picked to finish second in the preseason coaches' poll. The Falcons are 1st in both scoring offense (3.29 gpg) and scoring defense (2.42 gaa). Cole Gunner leads the league with 11 points and 9 assists, while Kyle DeLaurell leads the league with 6 goals and is second with 10 points. Stephen Caple leads the league with a 1.91 GAA among goalies who have made multiple appearences.
Last Time Out...Sacred Heart lost 7-4 at AIC Friday night. Brian Sheehan scored twice for SHU, while Matt Gingera and Tye Lewis also netted goals. Steven Legatto stopped all 15 shots he faced in third period relief.
All Time vs. Air Force...The Pioneers are 6-15-4 all time against the Falcons. SHU went 1-1-2 last year against Air Force, with both loses coming in the AHA Quarterfinals. They have faced off three straight years in the playoffs, and four times in five years.
Sheehan Named Rookie of the Week...Freshman winger Brian Sheehan was named Travel Team USA AHA Rookie of the Week this past Monday. Sheehan scored twice against both Bentley and AIC for a four-goal week. He now leads the team with four goals and five points, topping off a week in which his hometown St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.
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.
Freshman Orientation...The Pioneers added five freshman forwards this season: Ben Lake, Ryan Stanimir, Brian Sheehan, Chad Barthelmess, Drew George. Head Coach C.J. Marottolo provided a scouting report on his new recruits up front:
Lake comes to SHU known for being a fast, strong, two-way center who is very good in face offs. "He'll bring grit, intelligence, and speed," said Marottolo. The past two seasons for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL, he scored consistently. He followed up his 2009-10 scoring line of 24-27-51 in 58 games with a 2010-11 scoring line of 23-29-52 in 53 games.
Sheehan begins his collegiate career after tallying a line of 23-44-67 in 44 games for the Jersey Hitmen of the EJHL. "He is extremely skilled with a great, quick stick, said Marottolo. "We're looking for him to a point producer."
Barthelmess also come to SHU by way of the EJHL, after totaling 24-23-47 in 42 games for the Springfield Pics last year. "He is strong, fast, and can really shoot a puck," said Marottolo.
Stanimir looks to build on a season in the BCHL in which he produced nearly a point per game (20-35-55 in 56 games) for the Nanaimo Clippers. "He has a good stick, very good hockey IQ, and great offensive instincts," said Marottolo.
Drew George comes to the Pioneers by way of the Weyburn Red Wings of the SJHL, where he put up a scoring total of 21-36-57 in 47 games. "He is highly skilled, and a great play-maker who can make those around him better," said Marottolo.
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 Ciccarello 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 Coquitlam 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.
Couple of Firsts...Brian Sheehan and Ben Lake both earned their first collegiate points against Clarkson on 10/15, assisting a goal by Neil Fachini. Sheehan also scored his first two goals against Bentley on 10/25.
Up Next...Sacred Heart continues Atlantic Hockey play next weekend, hosting Army at the Milford Ice Pavilion Friday, 11/11 before traveling to Holy Cross.