Hockey’s New Home: If You Build It, They Will Come On the Men’s Side

4,103 fans packed the Martire Family Arena (MFA) for the first time on Jan. 14, as the Sacred Heart University Division 1 men’s ice hockey program played host to Boston College (BC).

While the Pioneers fell 3-2 in overtime, there was no shortage of electric college hockey energy in the new state of the art arena.

“It feels great to be supported by our Sacred Heart community and beyond,” said Head Coach CJ Marottolo. “I told my players when they go out for the anthem to just look around, take it in, enjoy it and then when the puck drops your hockey instincts take over.”

The score remained 0-0 until 2:07 into the second period when sophomore Conner Hutchison blew the roof off the building with the first goal ever scored at MFA.

“I kinda just blacked out,” said Hutchison. “It was really exciting and the place went nuts. It was a really cool moment.”

The Eagles tied it up a little while later then went up 2-1 early in the third period.  Senior Kevin Lombardi tied it up on a deflection goal at 7:27 of the third period.

However, BC spoiled the Pioneers’ historic opener as they scored the game winner at 1:01 of overtime.  Despite a disappointing finish, Sacred Heart has a lot to be proud of with their performance against a nationally ranked opponent.

“We can play with anybody in the country, but what I took away from that game was our resiliency,” said Marottolo. “We got up early, then went down two. We got the equalizer and pushed it to overtime. We had a good chance in overtime, we missed. They got a good chance and they scored. It’s three on three hockey that’s what happens.”

The following weekend, the Pioneers welcomed Holy Cross to the MFA and sent them packing with a 2-2 (OT) shootout victory on Friday, Jan. 20 and a 4-1 victory on Saturday, Jan. 21.

On Friday, the Pioneers rallied back from being down two goals and were led by a big performance in net by senior Luke Lush.

Sophomore Daniel Ebrahim and graduate student Julian Kislin scored for Sacred Heart in regulation.  Ebrahim also scored the shootout winner.

Lush conceded just one goal in the shootout, making a big stop to give the Pioneers an opportunity to get their first win at MFA.

“I tried to keep things pretty simple and didn’t try to do too much,” said Lush. “My hope is just to stop the next puck. That’s kinda how I approach things.”

The next night, the Pioneers went down early, but an explosive third period lifted them to victory.

 Lombardi tied it up on the powerplay just as the second period was about to expire then Sacred Heart added two more goals from Ebrahim and Hutchison.  Lombardi iced the game with an empty net goal for his second of the night, his third at MFA in three games.

“I think I’m just playing with confidence right now,” said Lombardi. “When you’re playing with confidence anything can happen and pucks will go in the net.”

The team is currently in second place and will be back at the MFA on Feb. 4 for the second game of a home and home series with Atlantic Hockey rival American International College.

 Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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