Setting the Scene…The Pioneers return from the 25-day semester break for a two-game Atlantic Hockey Association series against the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Game Coverage...Audio of this weekend's games will be available at www.SacredHeartPioneers.com by following the audio links on the men's hockey schedule page. Randy Brochu calls the play-by-play.
About the Pioneers…Senior Matt Gingera leads SHU and is tied for third in the AHA with eight goals. He, senior captain Eric Delong, and freshman Brian Sheehan are tied for the team lead with 13 points. Ben Ketchum has contributed six goals and four assists for 10 points. Steven Legatto has seen the majority of time in net this year, making the fifth most saves in the AHA (439).
About the Lakers…After an 0-4 start, Mercyhurst is 10-4-2 over its last 16 games and is now tied for second in the AHA with 16 points behind a 7-2-2 conference record. The Lakers are led by their goaltender Max Strang, who leads the AHA with 566 saves and is second with a .928 save percentage. Chris Bodo and Nardo Nagtzaam are tied for the team lead with 15 points, and Derek Elliot leads the team with nine goals. Mercyhurst also has the second best power play in the AHA (22.5%), while they are also the second least penalized team in the conference (10.8 pim/g).
Gingera Closing in on 100…Pioneer assistant captain Matt Gingera has scored a team-best eight goals and is tied for the team lead with 13 points, putting him at 52 goals and 37 assists for 89 points in his career. He is now three behind fifth place (Garrett Larson-55) and four behind third place (Bear Trapp-56) on the all-time SHU hockey goals list. He is 11 points away from becoming the 11th player in Pioneer Hockey history to accumulate 100 points or more for a career.
All-Time Vs. Mercyhurst...SHU is 19-15-5 all-time vs. Mercyhurst. The Pioneers have taken three of the last four meetings, including a 3-2 victory at the Milford Ice Pavilion on 12/4/10 the last time they met. Eric Delong and Kyle Verbeek scored in that win for SHU, and Steven Legatto made 39 saves.
Last Time Out...Sacred Heart dropped two non-conference games in their last weekend of action before the semester break, following a 6-1 loss at Quinnipiac on 12/9 with a 4-1 defeat at Dartmouth on 12/11. Will Rayner scored SHU's lone goal against the Bobcats, while Drew George accounted for the Pioneers' only goal against the Big Green.
Pioneers Upset of #8 Yale 7-6…The Pioneers pulled off their greatest ever upset, beating # 8 Yale 7-6 Tuesday night, 11/22/11 at Webster Bank Arena. It is the first time in school history SHU beat a ranked opponent, and also is the team's first win of the year. Chad Filteau lead SHU with two goals, including the game-winner with 4:14 left in the third period. Steven Legatto made 48 saves in net for the win.
Doubling Up...Six times this season, a Pioneer has scored twice in the same game. They are: Brian Sheehan, 10/25 at Bentley and 10/28 at AIC; Chad Filteau, 11/22 vs. Yale; Matt Gingera and Ben Ketchum, 11/26 vs. Niagara; Eric Delong, 12/3 vs. Robert Morris. No Pioneer has registered a hat trick this year, the last one coming from Gingera who scored three in a come-from-behind 6-3 win at Bentley in last season's AHA First Round Playoff game on 3/5/11.
And the Leaders are...Eric Delong, captain, and Matt Gingera 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.
Return of the Mac...Reid MacLeod returns to the line-up for his first games of the season. The junior winger has registered seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 36 career games. Freshman defenseman Jared Eng also returns to the line-up after missing all but two games first semester with an injury.
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.
A Few Firsts...Brian Sheehan scored his first two goals against Bentley on 10/25, while Will Rayner, Ben Lake, and Drew George all scored their first career goals at Holy Cross 11/12.
Take it to the Bank... For the second straight season, the Pioneers will call Webster Bank Arena home for several regular season games. SHU is 4-2-2 in their last two seasons of home games at WBA, including an upset 7-6 win over #8 Yale this year. 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, with the Pioneers' games either following or preceding a Sound Tigers home game as part of a single-admission ticket. SHU faces off later this season 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. Webster Bank Arena is also the site of the NCAA Men's Hockey East Regional for the third time this season.
Up Next...Sacred Heart returns to Webster Bank Arena next weekend to host RIT for two games. The Pioneers host the Tigers on Saturday, 1/14 at 4:00 pm and again on Sunday, 1/15 at 12:00 pm.