BY CAROLINE BOLLETINO
On Friday, the Sacred Heart men’s ice hockey team had their 2018-19 season come to an end in the Quarterfinals of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. They lost to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), in a three-game series, 2-1.
The two teams had faced each other during the regular season, on Feb. 15 and 16. Sacred Heart fell to them in the first game 2-0, and won the second game in overtime when Austin Magera scored the game winning goal to clinch the win 4-3.
Last season, the teams faced each other in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament in the first round, and Sacred Heart took the series 2-1, with a game winning overtime goal by Jackson Barliant, sending the team to Quarterfinals against Mercyhurst.
In this year’s playoffs, Sacred Heart won the first game of the series 9-4, but then fell in the second game 7-3.
The Pioneers struck early in the third game as redshirt junior forward Jason Cotton, scored a goal two minutes and 14 seconds into the game.
RIT tied the game in the second period, and the game remained that way until the 17:39 mark of the third, when RIT scored the go-ahead goal. They’d add another one for good measure, and hold on to win, 3-1.
“I think our team really showed resiliency this year,” said junior defenseman Max Luuko. “Throughout a season there are plenty of ups and downs that a team goes through and I think, as a group, we managed the roller coaster ride that a hockey season is well.”
Sacred Heart went 16-17-4 overall during the season and went 15-13-3 in conference play. They finished in fourth place in the Atlantic Hockey Association with 31 points. American International College, Bentley and Air Force were the three teams that finished ahead of Sacred Heart, with American International finishing at the top with 35 points.
Sacred Heart found the most success in February, going 7-1-1 for the month. They won four straight games during that month, which was part of a five-game win streak that stretched back to Jan. 29. This helped bring them to their best regular season finish since their 2009-10 season.
Sacred Heart will be bringing back some key players next season who will look to continue to step up. First-year forward Austin Magera was named to the Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie Team, as well as first-year goalie Josh Benson.
Magera led the team with 14 goals and 27 points. He is the only Pioneer to reach double-digits in the goal-scoring category. Magera was also selected to the Atlantic Hockey Third Team. He entered the Quarterfinal round with a plus-4 rating.
Benson played in 24 games for the Pioneers, with a 2.54 goals against average.
The team is looking to bring in some more key players through recruitment.
“When we stay disciplined in our structure in all areas of the game we find success so we need to continue to do that well,” said Luukko.