Setting the Scene...The Pioneers take on the Bentley Falcons in a home-and-home weekend series. SHU travels to Ryan Arena for Friday night's game, where they lost 6-2 on Nov. 3. SHU then hosts Bentley at Webster Bank Arena (formally the Arena at Harbor Yard), where they are a perfect 2-0 this year.
Game Coverage...Audio for Friday's game and video for Saturday's game will be available at www.SacredHeartPioneers.com by following the video/audio links on the men's hockey schedule page. Randy Brochu and Brendan Flynn have the call Friday through Stretch Internet Game Central, while Randy Brochu and Kyle Tyll have the call of Saturday's contest through the America One Network.
About the Pioneers... Senior captain Patrick Knowlton leads the Pioneers with 17 points (5 g, 12 a) this season. Sophomore center Eric Delong (5-11-16), junior winger Matt Gingera (9-6-15), and senior forward David Berube (6-8-14) have been productive as well this season. Gingera scored two goals last Friday night against AIC to add to his team lead in goals.
Scouting the Falcons...Bentley is coming off a three-point weekend against Army at home last weekend. Freshman goalie Branden Komm won AHA Co-Goaltender and Rookie of the Week honors, allowing just two goals while making 53 saves in a win and a tie against the Black Knights. Erik Peterson (9-8-17) leads the Falcons in scoring, followed by Dustin Cloutier (5-10-15), Brett Gensler (8-4-12), Dan Koudys (6-6-12), Aaron Stonachek (5-7-12). Jamie Nudy has 10 assists.
Last Time They Met ...The Pioneers fell to the Falcons 6-2 at Ryan Arena on 11/3. David Berube (1-1-1) and Ben Ketchum (0-2-2) recorded multiple points in the game. Dan Koudys and Erik Peterson both scored twice for Bentley, while Herbie Kent added two assists. Joe Calvi made 27 saves in net for the Falcons, who outshot the Pioneers 38-29.
Last Time Out...The Pioneers were swept in a two-game weekend series against AIC last weekend by scores of 6-4 and 2-1. Friday night at the MIP, Matt Gingera scored twice and the Pioneers cut 4-1 and 5-2 deficits to a one-goal game before Nielsson Arcibal's empty-net goal sealed victory for the Yellow Jackets. Tommy Castonguay and Evan Mladenoff also scored for SHU. Saturday night in West Springfield, Eric Delong scored SHU's only goal despite outshooting AIC 37-30. Olivier St. Onge 28 saves, but was bested by Ben Meisner's 36 stops.
Special Teams Struggles...The Pioneers have scored two power play goals in their last 26 opportunities, and are in 11th place overall in the AHA on the season at 12.4%. The penalty kill also has struggled, currently last in D-I college hockey at 68.1%.
Late Leads Prove Slippery... Sacred Heart has had trouble holding on to a lead. In each of their five ties, the Pioneers have held the lead at one time or another. Against Robert Morris, Army, RIT, and Air Force, SHU has held a lead in the third period. Most recently, Sacred Heart lost the lead against Air Force with less than one second left in the third. Against the Black Knights they held a one-goal edge with seven plus minutes to go and went into the third period with a two-goal lead on the Colonials.
Playoffs?...Despite sitting in last place in the Atlantic Hockey Association standings, Sacred Heart stands just five points out of earning a first-round bye in the AHA playoffs. With Robert Morris and Niagara joining the conference this year, seeding in the first round of the playoffs is now broken up into eastern and western pods. Connecticut, Army, Holy Cross, Bentley, Sacred Heart, and AIC make up the east, while RIT, Niagara, Robert Morris, Air Force, Canisius, and Mercyhurst make up the west. The top two seeds in each pod receive a first-round bye, after which the teams are reseeded based on overall point standings. Sacred Heart's remaining eight games are all home-and-home weekend series against the five teams they are battling in the east.
Pioneers at Harbor Yard... At a press conference at Webster Bank Arena (formally the Arena at Harbor Yard) on November 3 the partnership between Sacred Heart and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, was officially announced. The two organizations have teamed up to play five doubleheaders at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport throughout the season. The Pioneers will also play games in Bridgeport on January 8 vs. Air Force, February 5 vs. Bentley, and February 20 vs. Holy Cross. The team's senior day will also be held at the arena on February 26 against Army.
Up Next...Sacred Heart hosts UCONN at the Milford Ice Pavilion next Friday night at 7:05 p.m., and then takes on the Huskies outdoors at Rentschler Field Sunday at 1:00 p.m. as part of the Whalers Hockey Fest.