BY Dan Gardella
On Mar. 26, SportsNet New York (SNY) partnered with Sacred Heart University, Yale University, Quinnipiac University, and the University of Connecticut (UConn) to announce the inaugural Connecticut Ice tournament. On Oct. 8, the teams along with the network announced the matchups for the tournament, which is to take place on Jan. 25 and 26.
Sacred Heart will face off with Yale University on Jan. 25 while the University of Connecticut battles against Quinnipiac University. The winners of each game will advance to the championship game of the tournament, which will take place on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.
“We are really excited to be a part of this inaugural event,” said Men’s Ice Hockey head coach CJ Marotollo. “I feel the state of Connecticut has a great love for hockey and that can really drive this event. It is a wonderful way to celebrate our great sport and hopefully continue to grow our game.”
All of the games will be played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Marotollo believes that while his team has familiarity with the arena, the other programs participating in the tournament will bring strong support sections throughout the weekend.
Along with the college hockey being played during the weekend, it was also announced that a Mites Cross-Ice Jamboree will be held at the same time. The jamboree will feature youth teams from across the state, with the three division championship games (Boys 12U &10U, and Girls 12U) taking place at the arena.
Marotollo credits Sacred Heart athletic director Bobby Valentine, who used to work at SNY, for the ultimate idea of the tournament and the partnership with the network.
“It’s been discussed for a couple years. SNY really grabbed a hold of it. Bobby V, who worked for SNY, knows a lot of people there quite well. They were talking about it, and it got some legs,” said Marotollo.
Marotollo added SNY soon began to talk with him and thus, began the process of making the idea a reality.
From a player’s perspective, the tournament creates an opportunity for each of the four teams to compete for a championship in the middle of the season, which is unusual for most teams.
“I think it is a great opportunity for us as a team,” said senior captain Jason Cotton. “It’s so rare that in the middle of the year where you can get the feel of playoff hockey, where it’s do-or-die, one loss and you go home. I think that it is going to give us a lot of experience when we get to the playoffs come February and March.”
In the team’s season opener, they took on UConn. After a back-and-forth game saw the Pioneers trailing with under a minute to play, Matt Tugnutt would put one in the back of the net with three seconds remaining to tie the game at three, which would ultimately be the final result. With a high-intensity game against a possible opponent in the tournament under their belt, both Cotton and Marotollo alluded to the fact that it could be foreshadowing what’s to come in the tournament.
“I think it’s the type of game you’re going to get in the tournament,” said Marotollo. “It is going to be an exciting weekend for sure. I think all four teams are going to get up for it because all four teams are going to want to win the first one.”