By: Ryan Sanudo
The Sacred Heart University men’s ice hockey team opened their season on Oct. 6, at Northeastern University, while the women’s team will start at home on Oct. 20 against Saint Anselm College.
This year, the men’s team will experience a youth movement, as the Pioneers graduated one of their largest senior classes in 2016-17.
Junior defenseman and captain, Liam Clare, had taken notice of what a young team can bring forth before the season had even started.
“We found ourselves focusing this year on offseason development. We have a summer workout program every year. This allowed us to bond as a team early on,” said Clare. “We make the new players feel welcomed as a part of the team. It’s great to have all these new faces while simultaneously rejuvenating the program.”
Head coach, C.J. Marotollo, is already aware of the willingness his team brings to the table during practices.
“Their enthusiasm and thirst for learning has been terrific,” said Marotollo. “There’s been a lot of teaching and video reinforcement going on. The atmosphere has been high-paced, from players to coaches.”
Last year, the team finished 13-19-5 under Marotollo. This resulted in the team being ranked 10th out of 11 teams in the Atlantic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll. Progressions will need to occur heading into the new season.
“One area we need to improve on is our power play. We have to score more goals. Special teams play a big part in winning or losing, at any level,” said Marotollo. “I’d like to improve on limiting the amount of shots on defense as well. If we do that thenwe’ll put ourselves in a better position to be on the right side of the ledger at the end of the night.”
Junior defenseman and captain, Michael Crocock, sees the Atlantic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll as an inspiration.
“Obviously it’s not where we see ourselves as a team,” said Crocock. “But then again it’s added motivation. People doubt us. We have a lot of new people on this team that can improve our team as a whole.”
This year’s women’s team would like to replicate their last season’s goals and more, as they finished 18-9-2. Head coach Thomas O’Malley, has a lot of praise for the areas his team works on.
“There’s a lot of solid offensive players on our team,” said O’Malley. “We have a really fast team that is five lines deep. Our goaltending has also stepped up.”
Senior forward, Taylor Moreland, is impressed with the intensity her team has shown her over the course of her career.
“The commitment and work ethic in lift and practice is remarkable,” said Moreland. “We show up every day to grow as individual players and as a team. We’re so excited to see our dedication pay off when we host Team China for our home opener.”
The Pioneers have plenty of returning players coming back for the 2017 season, which bodes well for the team’s success according to senior forward, Brittany Smith.
“With so many returners it should be easy to continue to build from last season,” said Smith. “We are already implementing skills and systems into our practice that we had perfected at the end of last season.”
Assistant coach, Katherine Pauletti, is credible for the success in the team as well.
“Katherine’s on the ice every game,” said O’Malley. “During the game, she primarily runs our defense. She’s a wonderful recruiter, and is great with film breakdowns, influenced from her hockey background.”
Despite the success they had last year, the team is now focusing on the season in front of them.
“We’re not looking to settle on how good the season was last year,” said O’Malley. “We want to be even better this year.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams have games scheduled for their regular seasons through February 2018.