After a 1-0 loss to Franklin Pierce University on Feb. 26, the Pioneers regular season came to a conclusion. The women’s hockey team will now compete in the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) tournament as the number four seed.
Four years ago, Sacred Heart was crowned as the first ever NEWHA champion when they defeated Saint Anselm in the inaugural season of the NEWHA by a score of 3-1.
Despite an up and down season that finished with a 15-14-12 overall record, their 10-8 play in conference matches is why head coach Thomas O’Malley has high expectations for the squad.
“If this team plays to their potential they will have a good chance to win the tournament,” said O’Malley.
Two players who have aided the success this season for the Pioneers just recently picked up NEWHA accolades as junior Alexa Ocel earned player of the week, and senior Frankie Sanchez took home goaltender of the week for the week of Feb. 15.
“It’s always a great honor to be recognized in the NEWHA league,” said Alexa Ocel. “It really speaks to the strength of all the forwards on the team as well because the points don’t come through a solo effort.”
As she suited up for her last regular season game, Sanchez made sure to leave everything on the ice.
“I have given it my all for this last shot,” said Sanchez. “I am very excited for the playoffs, this is my last chance to win it all.”
As a California native, Sanchez was worried that her parents would not be able to make senior night at the Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton, but she was met with surprise on the afternoon of Feb. 26.
“It wasn’t all that exciting for me, but I am very glad my mom was able to make it out and my dad will come to the playoffs next week!”
Another senior who has made an impact this season is senior Anna Klein. In the regular season, the Saint Paul, Minn. native amassed 36 points and 22 assists which were both league leading numbers.
“I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and love for everyone and everything that hockey has brought to me and I wouldn’t change one thing about this experience,” said Anna Klein. “In the past, I have always had upperclassmen to look up to to help me succeed, this year I had to push myself to achieve that same level of success.”
Klein knows that the lessons she learned on the ice will stick with her, even after she hangs up the skates.
“I never expected to go through so many twists and turns and endure so many emotions over 4 years,” said Klein. “This program has allowed me to be a leader for two years in a row and awarded me with skills that I will carry throughout my future life.”
The Pioneers take on Post University on March 1 in the quarterfinals, in hopes of bringing home a second NEWHA championship.
“The playoffs are the best time of the year, especially playing in the NEWHA league where it’s anyone’s game on any given night,” said Ocel. “It’s like you can feel the competitive nerves in the air and it’s a truly great experience.”
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this Article.