FAIRFIELD, Conn.- The Sacred Heart University Men's Ice Hockey team returns home after it's two game sweep of Niagara to host Atlantic Hockey rival Air Force for a two-game set beginning Friday night at Webster Bank Arena. Puck-drop is set for 6:05 p.m.
Last Time Out... The Pioneers picked up two wins this past week as SHU defeated Niagara on the road on Oct. 25-26 by final scored of 4-0, and 3-1. Junior Austin McIlmurray tallied three power-play goals in the two-game set recording two in the Pioneers 4-0 victory on Friday. Senior Jason Cotton fired off two short-handed goals in game two to push SHU to the 3-1 victory on Saturday while senior Mike Lee recorded five assists in the two games including three in the 3-1 victory which was a single-game career high. Goalie Josh Benson recorded 57 saves in the two games and improved his overall record to 2-3-1 on the year.
Last Meeting... The Pioneers took one of two games against Air Force that took place on Jan. 19-20 as SHU took the first game against the Falcons winning by a score of 3-1 current junior Jordan Kaplan tallied two goals in the win while current sophomore Austin Magera fired off the opening goal to push SHU to the 3-1 victory. In game two, the Pioneers tied the Falcons by a final score of 2-2. Magera and current sophomore Ryan Steele found the back of the net for the Pioneers in the game to put SHU ahead 2-0 but goals by Trevor Stone in the second and third period sent the game into overtime where neither team would be able to nail the game winner resulting in a 2-2 tie.
Scouting The Falcons... Air Force is coming off a pair of losses to Atlantic Hockey rival RIT to drop the teams record to 0-6-0 this season and 0-2-0 in league play. The Falcons dropped the first game on Oct. 24 2-1 and the second game on the 25th 1-0. Leading the Falcons is senior Matt Pulver who currently has three goals on the season while senior forward Brady Tomlack leads the team in points with four consisting of three assists and one goal. Guarding the net for the Falcons is junior Zach LaRocque who has played in all six games in net and currently has a GAA of 3.50 with a save percentage of .864 and an overall record of 0-6-0.
Cotton Picking Up Short-Handed Goals... In Saturday's 3-1 victory over Niagara, senior Jason Cotton nailed two-shorthanded goals against the Purple Eagles to propel the Pioneers to the series sweep. The first came in the opening period off a pair of assists by Mike Lee and junior Matt Tugnutt at 1:32 into the period to give SHU a 1-0 lead. His second came in the final seconds of the second period as he nailed the goal from Alex Bates and Lee to give SHU the 2-0 lead and the eventual 3-1 victory.
Mike the Machine... Senior defensmen Mike Lee tallied five assists this past weekend at Niagara which included a career game high three assists in Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Purple Eagles. He also tallied two assists in SHU's 3-1 win over the Purple Eagles the night before. Because of his strong assist play and four blocked shots over the two games he was named Atlantic Hockey Defensive Player of the Week for the first time this season. Lee is currently second in Atlantic Hockey in assists.
McIlmurray Magic.....Senior forward Austin McIlmurray had an impressive past two-games at Niagara as he recorded three goals all while SHU was on the power-play. He scored two in the Pioneers 4-0 victory over the Purple Eagles in Friday's game while nailing the game winner in game two the following day to rack up three for the series. He was named Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week for his performance at Niagara.
Seniors Leading the Way.... This years senior class that consists of Jason Cotton, Austin McIlmurray, Mike Lee, and Vito Bavaro are leading the Pioneers in points this season with 20 out of the teams 49 this season. The group also leads the team in goals with 10 on the year. Jason Cotton currently leads the group with eight points on the year with four goals and four assists. Right behind him is Lee with five points off five assists then Bavaro with four points with three goals and one assist with McIlmurray rounding out the group with three goals for three points.