The Sacred Heart men’s hockey team was selected second in the 2020-21 Atlantic Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Tuesday, Nov. 10. This is the highest preseason ranking the Pioneers received since the 2006-07 season, when they were also picked second that year.
Last season, the Pioneers finished with a 21-10-3 record for its seventh straight season with double-digit wins while recording an 18-8-2 conference record that propelled them to the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals.
For this coming season, the Pioneers will have 22 returning players, including key player, sophomore forward, Braeden Tuck. Tuck is the top returning point scorer from last season.
According to Sacred Heart Athletics, Tuck recorded 28 points and finished second on the team with 23 assists. He was also named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year.
“I was honored to win Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year last year and I have to thank everyone around me last year for helping me achieve that,” said Tuck.
After being selected second in the preseason polls, head coach, C.J. Marottolo, and his staff are making sure that it does not go to the team’s heads and that they are focusing on the season ahead.
“To be perfectly honest, we did not think about at all where we would end up in the coach’s poll,” said C.J. Marottolo. “It’s an honor to be chosen so high–but our group is motivated to continue to build off of last year’s work and reach our potential as a team at the end of the year.”
The team is continuing to adapt to an ever-changing schedule due to COVID-19 regulations, with the first four games of the season having been postponed due to the rise in cases. The team was scheduled to play against American International and Army West Point in the first four games of the season.
“Although COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes, our focus and goal remain the same,” said sophomore defensemen Jeppe Urup. “Every time we hit the ice, our focus is on getting better and improving the details in our system.”
Marottolo noted that in preparation for the season, the team will be focusing on different things during each phase, such as strength and conditioning, skill development–both individually and positionally–and building their system play.
Their first four games were postponed due to COVID-19. However, the first game that is tentatively scheduled for the season is slated for Dec. 4 against Holy Cross.