Oct. 8, 2008
Milford, CT -
When a team loses two of the most outstanding players in school history in back-to-back years they might be expected to take some time to recover. However, entering the 2008-09 season, despite the graduations of Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Alex Parent the last two years, Sacred Heart is a team built to win now. With 16 juniors and seniors in the fold, the Pioneers are ready for a run at the Atlantic Hockey Championship that has eluded them until now.
"We're a veteran team this year," head coach Shaun Hannah said. "We have a lot of guys who have been through the rigors of a long season and bring the experience that comes with that."
Leading the Pioneers this year is senior captain Dave Grimson. The defenseman has played every game the last two years and is one of the best offensive defensemen on the team. He has led all Pioneer defensemen in scoring the last two years and has 13 goals and 38 assists, 51 points.
"There is no doubt that Dave has natural leadership ability," Hannah said. "He will be someone that will make a significant impact on and off the ice."
Junior Matt Gordon will be one of two assistant captains. "Matt is a heart and soul kind of player, Hannah said. He plays the game with a lot of toughness and grit and that's what we look for in a leader.
For the third straight year the Pioneers will have a senior forward that will go down as one of the most prolific scorers in school history in Bear Trapp. Trapp, who is on pace to break several school records this year, tied for the team lead and was second in Atlantic Hockey in scoring last year with 40 points, 13 goals and 27 assists. His play earned him Second Team All-Atlantic Hockey honors and a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award. He begins his senior season ranked fourth in career assists (77), and fifth in points (123). Trapp will be an assistant captain for the Pioneers this year.
"Bear has been a dynamic offensive player for his entire career and this year should be the same," Hannah said. "He knows how to generate offense and to make all the plays necessary to score goals."
Behind Trapp, the Pioneers return their next seven leading scorers. A large junior class includes the trio of Dave Jarman, Nick Johnson and Erik Boisvert. Jarman and Johnson each scored 12 goals a year ago while Boisvert found the back of the net 11 times. Jarman was second on the team with 22 assists while Boisvert registered 21 helpers. Three other seniors will play prominent roles in the Pioneer line-up as Eric Giosa and Kyle Tyll return up front while Paul Ferraro is back for his final season on the blue line. Giosa is a dynamic offensive player who scored 10 goals last year. Tyll has centered the Pioneers' top checking line for three straight seasons, shutting down some of the top players in Atlantic Hockey. Ferraro's strong slap-shot is a vital weapon on the SHU power play, having scored 10 goals in 50 games in his career. Last year, the Pioneers fourth line was made up of three freshmen in Adam DeJong, Dave Berube and Patrick Knowlton. All three are back for their second season and will be counted on to step up. DeJong led all the freshman last year with six goals and six assists.
In net Stefan Drew will try to a build on a solid first season as a starter when he takes the cage for his senior year. Drew was fifth in the league last year with a 2.83 goals against average. He had 16 wins last year, posting four shutouts along the way.
In front of Drew, the Pioneers return a group of experienced defensemen, led by Ferraro and Grimson. Juniors Gregg Rodriguez and Corey Laurysen, along with sophomore Chris Brown form a group of five returning defensemen who saw significant playing time last year.
SHU will welcome five new skaters to the varsity squad when the team takes the ice this fall. The group includes two forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.
Leading the group of Pioneer recruits is Winnipeg, MB native Matt Gingera. Playing for the Winnipeg Saints, Gingera led the Manitoba Junior League in goals last season with 66. During his three seasons with the Saints Gingera established a new team record for goals in a career with 149. Also joining the Pioneers up front is Anthony Yelovich. Yelovich piled up 30 points, 12 goals, and 18 assists for the Springfield Junior Falcons of the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season.
Defenseman Chris Bailer is one of two new faces joining the Pioneer defense this season. An excellent defensive defenseman, Bailer led his Albert Junior Hockey League team, the Olds Grizzlys, with 100 block shots last year. The other new member of the Pioneer defense core is Ryan Miniaci . A local product, Miniaci played for Fairfield Prep High School during the 2002-03 season. The final new member of the SHU squad is goaltender Angelo Tsaganeas. Tsaganeas will be a junior in the John F. Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart this fall. He has played for the Sacred Heart club hockey team and will serve as the Pioneers third goalie next season.
"This is a group of young men who are academically focused, with a strong work ethic and solid character, Hannah said. "We expect that they will fit in well with our returning players and each will contribute in their own way in our quest to win the Atlantic Hockey Championship."
Sacred Heart will open their season with a tough match-up right out of the gate, as they welcome defending AHA champion Air Force to the Milford Ice Pavilion on October 10 and 11. After facing the defending league champions, the Pioneers travel to Indiana for a series against national runner-up Notre Dame October 17-18.
As October comes to a close league play heats up as the Pioneers host AHA rival RIT October 24-25 then face defending regular season champion Army in a home-and-home series on October 31 and November 1. After a weekend off, the Pioneers face AIC in a home-and-home set November 14-15 and travel to Air Force the weekend before Thanksgiving. During the holiday weekend, the Pioneers will play a pair of matinees with Holy Cross on November 29 and 30. A midweek date with Connecticut on December 2 concludes the first half schedule for Sacred Heart.
During the holiday season SHU will play two non-league series against two national powerhouses. The Pioneers visit Colorado College December 19-20. During the first weekend of 2009, SHU hosts Niagara for a weekend set at the Milford Ice Pavilion on January 2 and 3.
The Pioneers kick-off the second half of the Atlantic Hockey season against UConn on January 6. SHU will then travel to Erie for a two game set at Mercyhurst January 16-17 and then host Bentley for a pair of games the following weekend.
As January ends and February begins, the Pioneers will log a lot of miles traveling through New York State. Back-to-back weekend trips to Canisius and RIT are followed by a home and home set with Army. Two game, home-and-home series with AIC and Holy Cross close out the regular season for the Pioneers.
Atlantic Hockey has once again tweaked its playoff format for 2008-09. Seedings will be determined by the final regular season standings. The seven through ten seeds will play a single elimination, first-round game on March 7. The winners of those contests will advance to the quarterfinals with the other top six seeds. The quarterfinals will be a best-of-three format, held March 13-15.
The four quarterfinal winners advance to the AHA Final Four in Rochester, NY. The semifinals are set for March 20 with the championship game slated for March 21 at the Blue Cross Arena.