Feb. 25, 2010
Setting the Scene... Sacred Heart heads west to conclude the regular season with a weekend pair against the Air Force Falcons. The Pioneers have won five straight games and are 15-1-2 in their last 18 contests. SHU has locked up the #2 seed in this year’s Atlantic Hockey tournament, securing both a first round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals. The Pioneers are coming off a home and home series sweep of Holy Cross while Air Force was swept by RIT in Rochester last weekend. The Falcons are struggling down the stretch, winless in their last six games.
The Series... Air Force leads the all-time series over the Pioneers with a record of 11-4-3. But Sacred Heart swept the Falcons for the first time in program history earlier this season with 4-1 and 5-1 victories at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Air Force knocked SHU out of last year’s AHA tournament in the final game of a best of three quarterfinal series in Colorado Springs.
Pair of the NCAA’s Best... Senior Nick Johnson (Windsor, CT) currently leads the nation with 25 goals after breaking the SHU single season record in the Pioneers last game against Holy Cross. Johnson also holds the national lead with seven game winning goals in 2009-10. Teammate Dave Jarman (Toronto, ON) is tied for the NCAA lead with 34 assists this season and ranks fifth in points with 45.
Senior Night Drama... The Pioneers came away with a 3-1 late come from behind win Friday night on the team’s senior night at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Patrick Knowlton (Colorado Springs, CO) tied the game at one with just ten minutes remaining in regulation. It was then freshman Eric Delong (Oakville, MB), the reigning AHA rookie of the week, who would take center stage. Delong netted Sacred Heart’s final two goals down the stretch, both with assists from senior Erik Boisvert (Drummondville, QC) to propel the Pioneers to the victory.
On the Road Again... Sacred Heart takes to the road outside of Connecticut for the entire weekend for the first time since early December, being swept at Army. The Pioneers are 8-8-2 away from the MIP this season and have won their last six road contests. SHU will look to win a series at Air Force for the first time in school history.
Stretch Run... With just two games remaining in the regular season the Pioneers will enter the AHA tournament as the #2 seed, regardless of the outcomes this weekend. However, Air Force, Mercyhurst, and Canisius are bunched tightly together behind SHU, each fighting for home ice in the quarterfinals, which is given to the top four seeds. RIT has clinched its third AHA regular season title and owns the #1 seed in this year’s conference tournament. Air Force does not own the tiebreaker with either Mercyhurst or Canisius, meaning they will win to defeat the Pioneers and get help to move up the standings.
Scouting the Falcons... Air Force comes into the weekend series against Sacred Heart tied for fourth in the Atlantic Hockey standings. The Falcons boast the nations top penalty killing unit, dispensing power plays at a 88.1% clip. The Air Force attack is led by junior Jacques Lamoureux, a balanced scorer posting 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 total points in 2009-10. However, the team’s captain and active scoring leader, Jeff Hajner will be forced to miss the remainder of this season. The Falcons are anchored between the pipes by senior Andrew Volkening who has a 2.56 goals against average this year, third in Atlantic Hockey. Volkening also ranks third in the conference in save percentage at .914.
Plenty Of Firepower... Sacred Heart currently leads the AHA and ranks seventh in the nation scoring 3.62 goals per game. Nick Johnson leads the nation with 25 goals this season while Dave Jarman (Toronto, ON) is tied for the NCAA lead in assists with Gustav Nyquist of Maine, each posting 34 helpers this season. Sacred Heart has not been shutout in the 2009-10 campaign and has scored at least five goals ten times this season.
Finishing Strong... Over the last five seasons the Pioneers are just 1-4-0 in their final game of the regular season. However, that one win came last year as SHU upended Holy Cross 4-3 in overtime before entering the post season.
In the Polls... For the fourth straight week Sacred Heart received votes in the USCHO division I poll. The Pioneers received 7 votes, ranking them 27th in the nation. The Pioneers also received one vote in the USA Today poll, which ranks just the top 15 teams in the nation.
Up Next... Sacred Heart will have a bye week next weekend as they gear up for the AHA quarterfinals on their home ice as the tournaments #2 seed.