Prior to the start of the 2023 men’s hockey season, Sacred Heart University (SHU) was picked to finish second in their conference. Despite the favorable prediction and this being the first full season at the Martire Family Arena, the team has had an underwhelming start, losing four of its first five games.
After a slow start to the season, the team found a rhythm, winning five of their last six games, now sitting at an 8-6 record.
“I think our guys are starting to come together as a group,” said Head Coach CJ Marottolo. “We are starting to understand each other a little bit better, we are starting to understand our system play a little bit better, and when that happens you start to play faster you don’t think.”
The team’s recent success coincides with graduate student Kevin Lombardi’s recent performance on the ice.
This season, Lombardi is tied for the team lead in goals scored and has scored goals in each of the last four games.
“I think just playing with confidence is the biggest thing,” said Lombardi. “I’m playing with two really good players, and we are starting to click more so I think just obviously playing with two good players has been big for me.”
Along with the high level of play from Lombardi, graduate student TJ Walsh has also been a key factor in the team’s success. Walsh leads the team in points and is tied with
Lombardi for the team lead in goals scored. “I wish I could take all the credit, but I don’t think I can,” said Walsh. “I play with a
lot of good players, and I have been put in positions where I can be successful and luckily I’m finding the back of the net a little bit and so are my teammates, so a lot of props goes to them.”
This season is important since it’s the first full season that SHU is playing at their own on-campus arena. The new Martire Family arena has provided an added spark for the team in the early portion of this season.
“Our guys are able to hang out and eat after practice, play ping pong after practice, and they study down there,” said Marottolo. “I think those types of things helps create team bonding.”
With a lot of time still left in the season, the team is looking to maintain and build off their momentum as they look toward their next stretch of games.
“I think we just have to keep building off of our past couple weekends here,” said Lombardi. “Obviously winning games is the main goal, and we won’t be satisfied until we reach our end goal.”
SHU plays their next game at Martire Family Arena on Dec. 8 against Princeton.
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.