December 26, 2007

SHU Heads West For Denver Cup

Dec. 26, 2007

Setting the Scene... The Pioneer men's ice hockey team is set to travel to Denver to participate in the 2007 Wells Fargo Denver Cup. Sacred Heart will face the host Pioneers of Denver Univeristy in the first round game, Friday night at 7:35 MT. Dartmouth plays Northern Michigan in the other first round game. The winners meet in the championship game Saturday night at 7:05 MT. The losers of the first round games will face each other in the consolation game Saturday at 4:05 MT. Friday's SHU game can be heard on WICC 600 AM with Saturday's game on SacredHeartPioneers.com. The Pioneers have been off since beating Bentley on December 5. SHU starts the tournament 6-6-2 overall and 6-2-2 in Atlantic Hockey, in second place in the standings.

Pioneers Hold off Bentley... The Pioneers posted a 6-5 win over Bentley on December 5 in their last game. Senior Alex Parent had two goals and two assists while Dave Grimson had three helpers to lead the SHU attack. Parent's two assists give him 71 for his career, moving him into fourth place all-time in assists. Sophomore Nick Johnson had two assists to extend his point scoring streak to 10 straight games. Bear Trapp had an assist while Erik Boisvert had two points. Both players have now recorded points in eight of nine games. Junior Stefan Drew made 31 saves in net and has now stopped at least 25 shots in 11 of his 12 starts.

The Denver Cup... Now in its 16th year, the Denver Cup continues its tradition as one of the nation's finest college hockey tournaments. The tournament was founded by former Denver Director of Athletics Jack McDonald in the fall of 1992. McDonald and former Pioneer coach Frank Serratore identified a need for an event for college sports fans in Denver between Christmas and New Year's Day. McDonald and Serratore's visions proved accurate as the tournament has grown to become the premier sporting event in Denver during the holiday season. In 1996, a record opening- round crowd of 10,317 watched Yale beat Air Force, followed by DU's terrific 4-3 overtime win over Maine. In addition, a two-day attendance record of 23,187 was set at the 1999 showcase. In 1995, the championship game set an all-time record for attendance at a college hockey game in the state of Colorado when 16,061 - a sellout crowd - witnessed Denver's 3-2 win over Colorado College in the title game on Dec. 28.

The Series... Sacred Heart has never faced Denver Univeristy or Northern Michigan. SHU has only faced one other WCHA team, dropping a pair of games to St. Cloud State in January of 2005. The Pioneers are 1-6 against teams from the CCHA most recently losing to Michigan State in East Lansing last year. Sacred Heart's only win over a CCHA team came in February 2003 when they beat Miami (OH). The Pioneers have faced Dartmouth in each of the last two years, falling in Hanover by scores of 4-2 and 4-3, respectively. SHU is 5-14 against ECAC teams, including 0-2 this season, falling to Colgate and RPI. This weekend marks the final non-conference games of the year for the Pioneers. SHU is 0-4 in non-league play this year. The Pioneers have gone 3-3 in non-conference games in each of the last two years.

Tourney Time... The Denver Cup marks the fourth time in the last five years that the Pioneers have participated in an in-season tournament. In their Division I tenure, SHU has compiled a 2-5-1 record in four previous tournaments. In December of 2005, SHU went 1-1 in the Providence Holiday Tournament, beating Brown before losing to the host Friars. The Pioneers lost to Air Force and Robert Morris in the 2004 RPI Tournament. In the 2003 UConn Tournament, SHU played Air Force to a 2-2 draw before losing to Bentley on the second day. The Pioneers picked up their first tournament win over Findlay in the 1999 UConn Holiday Tournament before falling to the host Hukies in the championship game.

Scouting the DU Pioneers... Seven-time NCAA Champion Denver Univeristy is ranked third in the latest USCHO national rankings. The Pioneers of DU have nine NHL draft picks on their roster and have posted a 14-4 record over the first half of the season and an 11-3 mark in WCHA play. The top four scorers for the Pioneers are underclassmen, led by sophomore Brock Trotter who has 10 goals and 11 assists, 21 points, on the year. A balanced Pioneer attacked has seen 13 different players find the back of the net. Senior Peter Manino has been a fixture in goal for Denver for the last four years. The 2005 NCAA Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player, Manino ranks eighth nationally with a 1.80 goals against average, having played in every game thus far. His .932 save percentage is the 11th best in the country. Denver's scoring defense is second best in the nation. Their penalty kills is ranked eighth in the nation at 88.5 percent.

Scouting the Wildcats... The Wildcats of Northern Michigan have been a hot team lately, going unbeaten in seven of their last nine games after getting off to a 1-8 start early in the season. The Wildcats are led by junior Nick Sirota who has 12 goals and 10 assists, for 22 total points on the season. Vancouver Canucks prospect Matt Butcher has a goal and 10 assists on the year. Three different players have seen time in goal for NMU, led by sophomore Brian Stewart who has posted a 4-6-1 record in 12 games. Stewart has a 3.12 goals against average and an .886 save percentage to his credit this season. Northern Michigan has struggled on the penalty kill this year, posting just a 70.5 percent mark when skating a man down. That number is ranked second-to-last in the country.

Scouting the Big Green... Early in the ECAC Hockey season, Dartmouth is off to a 4-4-1 start, posting a 2-4-1 mark in league play. A pair of senior NHL prospects lead the Big Green attack. Montreal draft pick J.T. Wyman has a team high six goals and six assists for 12 points while Pittsburgh prospect Nick Johnson has three goals and five assists for eight points. Senior Mike Devine, a fixture in goal for Dartmouth the last several seasons, has started eight games posting a 2.62 goals against average and .912 save percentage early in his final season in Hanover. The Big Green's penalty kills is ranked ninth in the country, killing 89.5 percent of their opportunities.

Balancing Act... Twelve players have scored goals for SHU already this year. Sophomore Nick Johnson and junior Eric Giosa each have five goals on the year. Meanwhile, Trapp and sophomore Dave Jarman each have four goals. Johnson and Trapp each have 14 points to share the team in scoring. Defensively, juniors Paul Ferraro and Dave Grimson each have two goals and five assists, seven points on the year.

Streaks and Trends... Johnson has now registered a point in ten straight games while Boisvert and Trapp have tallied a point in eight of nine games...Trapp has moved into a tie for fifth in the league in assists, and needs just three more points to reach the 100 point mark for his career...The Pioneers have the 13th ranked penalty kill in the country at 87.5 %. The Pioneers have the second best combined special teams at 58.4%

The Road Back Home... The Pioneers are in a stretch in which they will play 10 of 11 games on the road. SHU's went 2-4-1 on a seven game road trip during November. The Pioneers do not have another home game until January 4. The schedule turns in SHU's favor in the second half, with 10 home games over the season's final nine weeks. The second half includes a pair of stretches where the Pioneers will play five of seven games on home ice in Milford.

Up Next... The Pioneers begin the second half of the Atlantic Hockey season with a four game homestand in the next two weekends. With nine weeks left in the regular sesason, the Pioneers still have 10 home games remaining in their final 18 conference games. SHU will host Air Force January 4-5 at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Face-off both nights is 7:05 pm. Coverage of Friday's game can be heard on WICC 600 AM with Saturday's game available on SacredHeartPioneers.com. Both games will be available on the B2 Networks as well.