Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart men's ice hockey team opens up the 2017-18 season with a two-game series at No. 20/13 Northeastern.
Last Time Out... The Pioneers closed out 2016-17 with a game 3-2 double overtime loss to Bentley in the deciding game three of the Atlantic Hockey First Round. Jordan Minello picked up SHU's first goal for the 50th of his career halfway through the first period. The Falcons added two goals by Max French & Matt Riggleman to take the 2-1 lead. Ruslan Rakhmatov tied the game 2-2 with his goal at 12:53 in the third. After a scoreless 20 minute overtime, Bentley picked up the opening faceoff win. That set up Ryner Gorowsky to net the breakaway game winner just 30 seconds into the second overtime.
First Meeting... This is the first meeting ever meeting between the Pioneers and Hockey East member Northeastern. The Pioneers had a successful 2016-17 non-conference season against the Hockey East, going 2-1-1. The Pioneers picked up wins over Merrimack (W, 2-1) and UConn (W, 4-2). SHU fell to Boston University (L, 7-0) and came back to tie New Hampshire (T, 2-2).
Scouting The Huskies... Northeastern opens the year ranked 20/13. The Huskies finished last season 18-15-5, falling to Boston University in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Northeastern was picked to finish fifth in the Hockey East Preseason Coaches Poll. Zach Aston-Reese, the nations leader in points per game (1.66) & goals (31) last season graduated but the Huckies return plenty of fire power from the sixth ranked offense a season ago. Adam Gaudette & Dylan Sikura return for Northeastern after ranking among the top in five in league scoring. Gaudette put up 26 goals and assists a season ago while Sikura dished out a team leading 36 assists. Ryan Ruck returns in goal for the Huskies, the junior posted an 18-14-4 record in 2016-17.
Pioneers Picked Tenth In Preseason Poll... Sacred Heart was picked to finish tenth in the Atlantic Hockey Preseason Coaches Poll. Last season, Sacred Heart was 13-19-4 in Atlantic Hockey and finished ninth. SHU has recorded four straight seasons with double digit wins.
Returning Leaders.... The Pioneers return four of their top 10 scorers from a season ago including juniors Liam Clare and Stephen Hladin. Clare ranked fifth in Atlantic Hockey with 22 points. Hladin recorded nine goals and five assists. His two game winning goals was tied for team lead with fellow returnees Vito Bavaro and Austin McIlmurray. Brett Magnus also returns between the pipes for the Pioneers. Magnus has started 62 games over his first two seasons, recording 23 wins and a 2.79 goals against average.
Clare & Crocock Captain Pioneers in 2017-18... Junior blueliners Liam Clare and Mike Crocock will serve as team captains in 2016-17. Clare skated in all 37 games in his sophomore campaign, finishing second on the team in assists (21) and third in points (22). Crocock played in 36 games in his second season with SHU. He tallied his first career goal in the Pioneers game one 4-1 victory over Bentley.
Youth Movement... The Pioneers graduated one of the largest senior classes in the nation in 2017 (10). The veteran group for SHU had a combined experience of 1,249 career games and produced 518 points on 194 goals and 324 assists. The Pioneers added nine freshmen and two transfers for 2017-18. Five defensemen (Mike Lee, Marcus Joseph, Alex Bates, Michael Gilroy, Josh Allan) five forwards (Mel Melconian, Jordan Kaplan, Marc Johnstone, Marcel Godbout, Matt Tugnutt) and one goaltender (Matt Kenneally).
Schools Out...Camps In Session... Sophomore Ruslan Rakhmatov and freshman Mel Melconian both participated in the Columbus Blue Jackets development camp in July. Rakhmatov recorded 13 points his rookie season with the Pioneers, registering two goals and 11 assists in 35 games. Melconian joins the Pioneers after earning the 2016-17 OJHL Rookie of the Year award with the Aurora Tigers. He led all OJHL rookies in scoring with 59 points on 29 goals and 30 assists.
Three members of the Class of 2017 join the Pro Ranks... SHU Hockey Alumni Justin Danforth, Evan Jasper and Mitch Nylen embark on their first full season of professional hockey after successful tenures with the Pioneers. Danforth joins the Rochester Americans (AHL-Buffalo). Danforth closed out the year with the Americans tallying his first two AHL goals against the Utica Comets and Toronto Marlies. Evan Jasper skated in 11 games for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (ECHL NYR). He recorded an assist on March 18 and netted one goal on March 30. He resigned with the Swamp Rabbits this summer. Two-year captain appeared in two contests for the South Carolina Stingrays. He was aquired by the Fort Wayne Comets (ECHL-Arizona).