BY Asia McCray
The Sacred Heart University men’s ice hockey team are in the final stretch of their regular season. They have won six of their last seven games, and their record in conference play is 12-10-2, good for fifth place out of 11 teams in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
Head coach C.J. Marottolo, has credited the team’s record due to their chemistry.
“There’s a big belief within our team right now that we’re able to handle adversity within a game no matter when it might hit,” said Marottolo. “We’ve become mentally stronger to deal with situations in a game and believe in each other that we are going to get it done at the end of the night.”
The team began this stretch on Jan. 29, when they defeated the University of Connecticut, 2-1. They then took two games against Robert Morris from Feb. 1-2, two against Niagara from Feb. 8-9, and a split against Rochester Institute of Technology from Feb. 15-16.
For senior defensive captain, Liam Clare, the key for the team has been trusting one another.
“The two biggest things have been our work ethic and commitment to play for our teammates in the locker room,” said Clare. “It really has been a ‘next man’ up mentality, in that we feel confident and we can compete any night with whoever is dressing for the game.”
The team has seven juniors and seniors on their roster who have embraced the leadership role in guiding the underclassmen.
“The upperclassmen have been great and we’ve been trying to lead by example and show how to play the right way and the results have been showing for us,” said senior Michael Crocock. “We’re not satisfied yet though, and we’re going to need the underclassmen down the stretch to reach our end goal.”
Marottolo expects his upperclassmen players to be the best role models they can be for the underclassmen on and off the ice.
“Our seniors have done a great job creating the culture that we want for our group, they are very experienced, so they are able to help our younger guys navigate the tough times,” said Marottolo. “Their leadership at all levels has been tremendous and without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue on the path that we are on right now.”
First-year forward Austin Magera said that the team’s success goes back to their struggles.
“We started off with some ups and downs, but as the season has progressed, we’ve stuck to a workhorse mentality and have been playing the hockey we want to play, and Coach has emphasized that as of late,” said Magera. “With the season coming down to grind time, we want to continue winning and putting ourselves in the best possible situation to make a run at the Atlantic Conference championship and ultimately play in the NCAA Tournament.”
The team has their final home game of the season on Feb. 22, against Army West Point, in what will also be their Senior Day. Along with Clare and Crocock, the team will also recognize defenseman Mike Lee, forwards Stephen Hladin, Zach De Concilys and Jackson Barliant, and goalie Brett Magnus.
After that, they’ll hit the road for their final three games of the regular season. They’ll go to Army the next day, Feb. 23, and will end the season with a two-game series at American International College in Springfield, Mass. Those games will be on Feb. 28, and March 2, respectively.