Sacred Heart had itself a fine Thanksgiving holiday and finally got on the preferred side of the won-loss register.
The Pioneers broke out in dramatic fashion, too, against a local rival that happens to be one of the best teams in the country.
After losing its first 11 games of the season, Sacred Heart outlasted No. 8-ranked Yale, 7-6, on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving.
“We played tremendous and I couldn’t be prouder of our bunch of guys in our locker room tonight,” Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo (East Haven, Conn.) said in a game recap on the school’s website. “We battled. We struggled all year, but tonight we showed great mental toughness, great resiliency against a very good, high-octane Yale team.”
Marottolo was a longtime Yale assistant before taking on the Sacred Heart job three years ago.
The Pioneers followed the Yale win up with a loss to Niagara, 3-2, on Saturday night and then collected their first Atlantic Hockey point of the season with a 4-4 tie in a rematch with the Purple Eagles on Sunday.
Both the Yale win and the Niagara tie came at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., the team’s second home. The Saturday loss was at the Milford Ice Pavilion.
Sacred Heart is 4-1-2 at Webster Bank over the past two seasons.
The Pioneers surely hope the back-and-forth Yale game is a sign of good things to come.
They gave a nice indicator of the way the night might go late in the opening period. Down 2-1 with less than four minutes to go, an apparent Sacred Heart score was ruled no goal.
Senior forward Anthony Yelovich, with assists to freshman Ryan Stanimir and sophomore Neil Fachini (East Hampton, Conn.), scored five seconds later off the ensuing face-off.
“To me, the turning point was when we got that goal disallowed and we responded five seconds later with a goal,” Marottolo said. “For me, that said, ‘OK, we’re here. We are going to battle tonight.’”
That the Pioneers did.
They were outshot by a whopping 53-19 margin for the night, but got a 47-save performance from junior Steven Legatto and kept pace with the Bulldogs on the scoreboard.
In the end, sophomore Chad Filteau notched the game-winning goal, his second score of the contest, with less than five minutes to play.
Senior Matt Gingera and junior Ben Ketchum (Greenwich, Conn.) took care of the scoring in Sunday’s tie with Niagara. Each had a pair of goals, including one on the power play.
Gingera leads the team with 7-5-12 totals and is closing in on the century mark for his career (51-37-88). Freshman Brian Sheehan is second on the scoring sheet at 5-5-10.
With their first win and first league point, well, in the bank, the Pioneers will look for more this weekend in a home series against Robert Morris.
Game of the Week
RIT at UConn, Friday and Saturday
The Huskies are 2-0 in Atlantic Hockey games at home and open a seven-game homestand against RIT. The Tigers have won seven of eight games against UConn over the last two seasons.
RIT won all three games last year, including a 4-2 triumph in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals. The year before, the Tigers won three of the four regular-season games between the teams and then swept the Huskies out of the quarterfinals.
Atlantic Hockey power ratings
1. Air Force (7-4-2, 6-2-1 AHA). . . Senior defenseman Tim Kirby gets a pair of game-winners in sweep of UConn.
2. Mercyhurst (6-7-1, 5-1-1). . . . After two losses at Wisconsin, Lakers play at Army for two.
3. Canisius (4-6-3, 4-1-2). . . . Dan Morrison owns .970 save percentage, 0.99 GAA in league games.
4. RIT (5-4-2, 4-2-2). . . . Tigers put four-game league win streak on line at UConn.
5. Robert Morris (5-6-1, 3-2-1). . . . Colonials have earned five points in last three games.
6. Bentley (4-7-2, 4-2-1). . . . Falcons are 1-0 at home in league games, host Niagara for two.
7. Niagara (3-5-4, 2-3-3) . . . 11-game road trip continues at Bentley.
8. UConn (4-7-2, 3-4-1). . . . Huskies, 2-0 in Storrs, are home for the next seven.
9. Holy Cross (5-7-0, 3-4-0). . . . Canisius comes in for two on Friday and Saturday.
10. AIC (3-10-2, 2-5-2). . . . Yellow Jackets have two at home with Air Force after pair of 2-1 losses to Canisius.
11. Army (1-6-5, 1-4-3). . . . Black Knights take 50 shots in 3-3 tie at Robert Morris.
12. Sacred Heart (1-12-1, 0-8-1). . . . Pioneers get first win against Yale, first league point against Niagara.
Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.