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College Hockey:
Goaltending, penalty kill in focus as Sacred Heart seeks improvement

The reasons for Sacred Heart’s lack of success last season were obvious: an average offense paired with a defense that was the worst in the league by almost a full goal per game (4.52 goals against average).

Some of that was due to an ineffective penalty kill, and some to goaltenders struggling, especially early in the season.

“Our penalty kill put us in trouble all season,” Pioneers coach C.J. Marottolo said. “It was discouraging because it had been a strength. I think the season before we went 31 [chances] straight without allowing a power-play goal. We didn’t get those kind of streaks at all.

“Things got better as the season went on and we’ll build on that. [Freshman goaltender] Andrew Bodnarchuk and [junior] Steven Legatto battled it out all season but in our last 10 games we went 5-5 and Bodnarchuk was in net for that stretch.”

That means the now-sophomore will get the benefit of the doubt for now.

“He’ll get that first chance for sure,” Marottolo said.

Rookie Fredrik Melander, a Swede who played at Trinity-Pawling last season, may also be in the mix. Sacred Heart also picked up goaltender Alex Vazzano, a transfer from Vermont who won’t play this season.

A transfer who will play is Nick Curry, who moved from Massachusetts-Lowell and sat out last season. Marottolo hopes he’ll pick up some of the scoring load now that Matt Gingera (109 career points) has graduated.

“Nick has a very good hockey IQ and very good hands,” Marottolo said. “He’s got D-I experience already (16 games at Lowell, picking up two assists) so he can play right away.

“Matt [Gingera] had to put the team on his back offensively the past two seasons, and we have to spread things around more to be successful. I think we have the ingredients for two good scoring lines, a third line that will be hard to play against and a high-energy fourth line. That formula spells success, provided we can keep the puck out of our net on a consistent basis.

“The league will be tight again, so everybody is going to get their chance,” Marottolo said. “Every point is so valuable, whether it’s October or March.”

About the Pioneers

2011-12 overall record: 6-28-3

2011-12 AHA record: 4-20-3 (tie, 11th)

2012-13 predicted finish (coaches poll): 12th

Key losses: F Matt Gingera

Players to watch: F Drew George, F Brian Sheehan, F Eric Delong

Impact rookie: Although not a rookie, new to SHU is Nick Curry, who played 16 games at Massachusetts-Lowell in 2010-11.

Why the Pioneers will finish higher than the coaches poll: Sacred Heart was young last season and was forced to put rookies into key roles. That could pay dividends this season.

Why the Pioneers will finish lower than the coaches poll: You can’t get any lower, but a return to the basement is possible unless the Pioneers can stop the puck.


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