Sacred Heart celebrates the inaugural CT Ice Festival Championship. Credit- Steve McLaughlin

Sacred Heart Tops Quinnipiac, Claims CT Championship

Bridgeport, CT- Sacred Heart University transformed the expectations for their program across one weekend. On Saturday night, the school announced the imminent construction of a new on-campus ice arena. Later that night, the Pioneers took to the ice at Webster Bank Arena and demolished the Yale Bulldogs. Sunday night offered a beautiful cap to a program-altering weekend against the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Sacred Heart seized the chance. Not immediately though.

Quinnipiac looked dominant for the duration of the first period. Until a Karlis Cukste interference minor with 2:16 left, the Bobcats outshot the Pioneers 11-2. Before the penalty, Cukste gave QU a 1-0 lead on a blast from the blue line. Sacred Heart’s offense woke up with the power play but not enough to get on the board before intermission.

The Pioneer offense kicked into high gear for the second period. Ryan Steele tied the game 5:19 into the second. SHU kept up the pressure and broke the Quinnipiac defense in a 1:06 long stretch. At 12:33, Todd Goehring took a drop pass from UConn transfer Evan Wisocky and beat Keith Petruzzelli for the lead. At 13:39, Jason Cotton scored his 17th goal of the season to seemingly put a stake in Quinnipiac’s heart.

The Bobcats provided pushback in the third, outshooting Sacred Heart 7-5. However, Josh Benson stopped every shot in the third to stave off a QU comeback. Braeden Tuck ended the night with an empty-net goal to secure a 4-1 Pioneer victory and the inaugural Connecticut Ice Festival Championship.

Senior Jason Cotton was awarded the Gordie Howe MVP Award. He scored a goal and two assists across the weekend, including the dagger goal on Sunday night. Jason Cotton’s 17 goal output is tied for second in the nation with Colorado College’s Chris Wilkie, Providence’s Tyce Thompson, and Massachusetts’ John Leonard. Only Northern Michigan’s Griffin Loughran (19) has more.

“All weekend, our fans were there,” commented Cotton. “They completely changed the momentum. We scored and there was a new life on the bench. The growth of the program from where it was to where it is now is remarkable.”

Jason Cotton is awarded the Gordie Howe MVP Award for the CT Ice Festival Collegiate Tournament by Marty Howe. Credit- Steve McLaughlin

Quinnipiac drops to 17-9-1 on the season. Head Coach Rand Pecknold was highly critical of his team’s performance.

“We’ve had issues all year with our age. We played three games tonight. I thought the first period was pretty good. The second period was atrocious and the third period was poor. When I’ve had great teams, we’ve played 60 every night. Hopefully, we figure it out. It’s getting close to playoff time.”

The Connecticut College alumnus praised the tournament organization and his opponent for their performance.

“I want to thank SNY for sponsoring the tournament. I think it’s great for Connecticut youth hockey and Connecticut hockey generally. Second, I want to congratulate CJ and Sacred Heart. I thought they played great tonight. I’ve known CJ for a long time.  Certainly disappointed with how we played, but I’m happy for him. He’s a great guy. They’ve got that program rolling in the right direction. That’s a good hockey team over there and they deserved to win tonight.”

Keith Petruzzelli stopped 16 of 19 shots faced.

The Bobcats return to ECAC conference play next weekend. Cornell and Colgate visit Hamden, CT on Friday and Saturday nights respectively. Puck drop for both games at the People’s United Center is scheduled for 7 pm ET.

Sacred Heart improves to 16-8-2 with the first trophy of any kind in the history of the Pioneer hockey program.

“I was proud of them,” commented CJ Marottolo. “This is what you work for, to win championships. We had a unique opportunity to win a championship in late January. It was an unbelievable thing to sit back and just watch how they reacted. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Josh Benson stopped 22 of 23 shots.

SHU returns to Atlantic Hockey play next weekend with a trip to the Air Force Academy. Puck drops at the Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs on Friday night and Saturday night at 9:05 pm MT and 7:05 pm ET respectively.

Yale Defeats UConn in Consolation Game

Before the championship game, the Yale Bulldogs and Connecticut Huskies met to complete their respective weekends in the CT Ice Festival consolation game. A day after getting shelled by Sacred Heart, Corbin Kaczperski recorded 42 saves on 44 shots for one of his best games of the season. UConn opened the scoring in the second period with a Marc Gatcomb tally. Yale proceeded to score three straight goals across the second and third periods. Curtis Hall and Luke Stevens scored in the second while Justin Pearson netted the winner in the third. Carter Turnbull made it a one-goal game in the third period, but the Huskies couldn’t muster a late push to tie the game late. Tomas Vomacka stopped 21 of 24 in the Husky net.

UConn drops to 9-12-4. They in 8th place in the Hockey East standings but only trail first place by six points as they return to conference play next weekend with a home-and-home series with New Hampshire. Puck drops on Friday night in Durham at 7 pm ET and on Saturday afternoon in Hartford at 4 pm ET.

Yale improves to 9-10-0. The Elis travel to North Country next weekend, facing Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Puck drops at 7 pm ET on both Friday night and Saturday night in Potsdam and Canton respectively.