March 14, 2007

Pioneers Travel to Rochester for AHA Final Four

March 14, 2007

Setting the Scene... The Pioneers travel to Rochester for the 2007 Atlantic Hockey Final Four at Blue Cross Arena with the semifinals set for Friday and the championship to be decided on Saturday. Joining Sacred Heart are Army, UConn and Air Force. The Pioneers will meet Air Force in the first semifinal game at 4:00 pm with the Huskies and Black Knights matching up after that. The winners meet in the championship Saturday night. The Pioneers beat AIC in the quarterfinals last weekend in Milford 4-0, while Air Force dispatched Holy Cross, 3-0, in its first round game at home. Meanwhile, Army beat Bentley, 6-2, and UConn held of Mercyhurst in Storrs by a 5-4 score.

SHU vs the Field... Sacred Heart went 2-4-4 against the other teams in the AHA Final Four. The Pioneers and Falcons played to back-toback ties in Colorado Springs in December. Friday night SHU scored the game tying goal late in the third period to steal a point and Saturday both teams scored in the first period and played even from their. Against Army the Pioneers split eight points, posting a win, a loss and two ties. The teams skated to two draws early in the season, before splitting a series on the final weekend of the regular season, with each team winning on the road. Connecticut was one of only two teams to win the season series outright from Sacred Heart. The Huskies won three out of four meetings, including a weekend sweep in early February. The Pioneers have never beaten Air Force, posting an 0-3-3 record in six meetings. Four of those meetings have come in Colorado Springs with the other two on neutral ice. The Pioneers lead the all-time series with Army 17-10-2, while UConn holds a 19-12-3 edge over Sacred Heart.

Pioneers Sting Yellow Jackets in Quarters... The Pioneers posted a 4-0 victory over AIC Saturday night in the AHA quarterfinals. Bear Trapp scored two goals to tie for the team lead with 16 on the season. Jason Smith made 16 saves to earn his first shutout of the season. It was the first playoff shutout for a Sacred Heart goaltender since Kevin LaPointe shutout UConn in the quarterfinals on March 13, 2004. It was the first playoff victory for SHU since beating Mercyhurst in the semifinals on March 14, 2004. The victory was the 21st of the season for the Pioneers, tying the school record for wins in a season, set last year.

Scouting the Falcons... Air Force finished the regular season with a 17-15-5 overall record and a 13-10-5 mark in league play, making them the fourth seed in the tournament. The Falcons are anchored by their junior phenom, Eric Ehn, who leads the nation in scoring with 62 points, including 24 goals and 38 assists. Flanking Ehn are senior Andrew Ramsey and sophomore Mike Phillipich. Ramsey has 20 goals and 24 assists on the year for 44 points, while Phillipich has lit the lamp 14 times and added 24 helpers for 38 points on the year. In goal, seniors Peter Foster and Ben Worker have split time, with Worker playing against Holy Cross last week. In 12 games, Worker has turned in a 6-5-1 record with a 2.13 goals against average. Foster has a 3.01 goals against in hsi 15 games in net. The Falcons are known for their tight team defense and have a reputation for blocking shots high in the zone before they can get through to the net.

Scouting the Black Knights... The Black Knights of Army have had one of the most successful years in school history, posting a record of 16-11-5 and a 15-8-5 mark in league play. Army beat Bentley 6-2 in the quarterfinals last weekend and is unbeaten in five of their last six. Sophomore goaltender Josh Kassel has been the Black Knight's MVP, posting a league-best 2.31 goals against average with a 9.14 save percentage in 30 games between the pipes. Junior Lule Flicek leads Army offensively with 14 goals, 20 assists and 34 points. Sophomore Tim Manthey provides the spark from the blueline, tallying 24 points with nine goals and 17 assists on the year. On special teams, Army's penalty kill has been excellent, working to an 84 percent rate. The Black Knights are also extremely disciplined, having just 405 penalty minutes on the season.

Scouting the Huskies... The Huskies had an outstanding February, going unbeaten in seven of their last eight games to finish 16-17-2 and 15-11-2 in the league and grab the third seed. UConn has a highpowered offense, with two of the top five goal scorers in the league. Senior Matt Scherer leads the way with 22 goals, second most in the league and 14 assists for 36 points. Sophomore Chris Myrho is fourth in the league with 19 goals. Senior Trevor Stewart has a team high 23 helpers on the year. In goal, freshman Beau Erickson has been a big part of the huskies resurgence, posting a 2.92 goals against average while starting 20 games, mostly in the second half of the season.

Hobey Nominees... Senior Pierre-Luc O'Brien and sophomore Bear Trapp have been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, presented to the most outstanding player in college hockey. Fans now have the opportunity to select their favorite candidate for the list of top ten finalists on the new Hobey Baker Award website, www.hobeybaker.com.Voting in phase one will end on March 4. Fans may vote for one candidate at a time, but can vote multiple times per day. The standings will run concurrently on the Hobey Baker website. Phase two will begin on March 15 after the top ten finalists have been announced. To vote, visit the Vote For Hobey link on the Hobey Baker website, or just click on the Vote For Hobey button on the site's homepage.

For a Good Cause... Over the last three weeks, the Sacred Heart men's ice hockey team has raised more then $10,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation for childhood cancer research. With just 24 hours remaining until the team has their heads shaved, the Pioneers are closing in on their goal of rasing $15,000. On Wednesday, March 14th beginning at 7:00 pm at The Field Restaurant in Fairfield, all 27 members of the team will have their heads shaved as a sign of solidarity. The team is part of a collective group named Team Brent, in honor of Brent McCreesh, a four year old Southport boy diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma in September 2004.

Up Next... The winner of the Atlantic Hockey Championship receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The field will be announced Sunday afternoon with regional competition beginning Friday.