The Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs have been disappointing for Sacred Heart the last two seasons. Despite enjoying success during the regular season, the Pioneers have bowed out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals both years.
In 2005, Sacred Heart lost to Holy Cross 4-2 while last season the Pioneers fell to UConn by a 4-1 score.
This year was supposed to be different. After finishing second in the regular season and being the No. 1 seed in the tournament due to regular-season champion RIT not being eligible for postseason play this year, the Pioneers were looking to go deep and perhaps even make it to the NCAA playoffs.
Three years ago, the current seniors helped a young team all the way to the league’s championship game, in the inaugural season of the newly-renamed league.
“This senior class is a very special group,” said Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah. “They came in as freshmen and were part of a team that did get to the finals, fell short the last couple of years, and then came back with a fire and enthusiasm to do whatever it took to get back to that game and get a championship.”
The then-freshmen, led by Pierre-Luc O’Brien, pitched in almost a quarter of the team’s scoring that season and the future was looking bright. But the post season struggles since then have proved frustrating for the players.
The seniors took hold of this year’s team right from the start and led by example.
“They did such a great job of pulling the entire team together this year, get everybody on the same page, and working hard day in and day out,” said Hannah.
Having played their final game, this group of seniors have a special place on Hannah’s heart, and will for quite a long time.
“This group is a real special group for me as a coach,” said Hannah. “Anything we ever put in front of those kids, they took it, responded, and worked on it. They wanted to play hockey. It hurts a lot, more so than other times, because this group was such a fine group.”