Almost every year, the Sacred Heart Pioneers are near the top of the Atlantic Hockey standings. Losing the likes of Pierre-Luc O’Brien and Jason Smith hasn’t set Sacred Heart back in recent seasons, and the same will probably be the case this time around, as Alexandre Parent graduated and took his 141 career points with him.
The Pioneers are again expected to challenge for the AHA title.
“I think it’s the consistency of having good balance year in and year out,” said coach Shaun Hannah. “We’re pretty balanced in terms of class size, so we don’t lose a lot of guys in any given class. Of course, replacing a 40 point guy (Parent) is never easy but we have other guys that will step up.”
Bear Trapp is an obvious choice. He matched Parent’s 40 points last season and is set to become the AHA’s all-time leading scorer this season.
Trapp leads a well-balanced (there’s that word again) attack that includes four other players who were in double digits for goals last season: Dave Jarman (12), Nick Johnson (12), Eric Boisvert (11) and Eric Giosa (10).
The Pioneer defense looks solid with senior captain Dave Grimson leading the way, and Stefan Drew (who was ably backed up last season by Olivier St. Onge) returns for his senior season in net.
“We’ve got the experience and the talent,” said Hannah. “The key is getting everybody together and going in the right direction.”
Hannah says two things have kept his team, which has bowed out in the AHA semifinals the past two seasons, from reaching its ultimate goal.
“Consistency (of play) and winning on the road,” he said. “You have to bring your best effort every night, and especially on the road, where it’s so hard to win in this league. Everybody’s rink is a little different, and we have to adjust to those conditions.”
The Pioneers will play four teams that made the NCAA tournament last season, including trips to Colorado College and Notre Dame, as well as hosting Niagara for a pair of games.
“It’s great for the league to get some of these games in our barns,” Hannah said. “We’re seeing more and more of it and I think it will help with (the league’s) nonconference record.
“Plus, if we’re fortunate enough to find ourselves in the national tournament, we’ll have that experience.”