By Pat Kelleher
This season, the Sacred Heart University men’s ice hockey team officially put their name on the map as one of the top hockey programs in the nation. It is the first time in school history that the Pioneers entered the national rankings.
This past January, Sacred Heart won the first inaugural Connecticut Ice Tournament. During this tournament, the four main Division I hockey programs in the state faced off on the weekend of Jan. 25–26. Sacred Heart defeated Yale 6-2 and then Quinnipiac 4-1 to claim the crown.
Head coach C.J. Marottolo is wrapping up his 11th season as the head coach of the Pioneers. Sacred Heart just concluded the regular season on Feb. 26 with a 5-3 victory over American International.
Marottolo explains that now the regular season is over, the skaters turn to accomplishing bigger and better things.
“Our team is in a really good place mentally and physically. We finished the regular season and have complete clarity in what we want to accomplish,” said Marottolo.
Marottolo mentioned his two captains who have led the way to the best season in program history up to date.
“The main reason we have had a successful season to date is because our captains, Jason Cotton and Marc Johnstone have done a tremendous job in leading our group,” said Marottolo. They have set the tone from day one in how we go about our business on a day to day basis both at the rink and away from the rink. They both bring an infectious passion that has taken over our team.”
Senior Mike Lee has established himself as one of the top defenders in the conference with 33 points, and an incredible +23 goal differential while he is on the ice.
“One main reason for the success we are having this season is everyone is buying into what the coaches have been preaching,” said Lee. “Making team first decisions, holding each other accountable, and respecting one another. That has been the foundation for this year, and once we started to change the culture, we started to excel on the ice.”
What makes this team unique is that every player on the roster has been a key contributor to the success of the team.
“We have a deep team, which allows us to play four lines. We play fast and teams cannot handle our speed. Those things have really helped us be successful this season,” said Lee.
Among those other key contributors, sophomore forward Austin Magera has followed a breakout freshman year with 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points this season as he and the rest of the team prepare for tournament play.
“I think our mindset has to stay the same as it has been all year. We know what we have to do coming into each game in order for us to get the job done,” said Magera.
The Atlantic Hockey Conference Tournament starts tomorrow, March 12.
“The games will become harder and the play will get ramped up. This is when it really gets fun for our group as we put all our efforts in hunting down a championship,” said Marottolo.