MILFORD, Conn. – Playing its first postseason home game in five years, the Sacred Heart men's hockey team shut out the Army Black Knights 2-0 in the first game of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament First Round series.
The win was Sacred Heart's first win in the Atlantic Hockey tournament since March 3, 2012 at Bentley. It was also the Pioneers' first home win in the tournament since March 13, 2010 when Sacred Heart beat Holy Cross 4-3 in overtime to advance to the semifinals. Senior goaltender Alex Vazzano (Trumbull, Conn.) made 20 saves for his second shutout in three games. Freshman Alec Butcher (Anchorage, Alaska) had two points on a goal and an assist.
Sacred Heart (12-17-6) outshot Army (8-21-4) 11-8 in a physical opening period. Vazzano was tested with 9:30 to play in the first, making back-to-back saves on shots by Mac Lalor and Joe Kozlak with the Black Knights on the power play. The Pioneers returned the favor with 7:39 left in the period when shots by Zach Sabatini (Johns Creek, Ga.) and Evan Jasper (Whitby, Ont.) were stopped by Army goaltender Parker Gahagen.
Butcher put the Pioneers on the scoreboard at 6:16 of the second period. Zach Luczyk (Charlton, Mass.) hit the freshman forward with a pass across the Army crease, leading Butcher to lift the puck over Gahagen's pads into the net to give Sacred Heart a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Erlich Doerksen (Toronto, Ont.) also had an assist on the goal. Army came close to tying the game with 9:16 to play in the second, but Vazzano stopped shots from Conor Andrle and C.J. Reuschlein. The Black Knights went on the power play twice in the second period, but were held to three shots on goal with the man advantage.
Sacred Heart put the clamps on defensively in the third period, holding Army to just three shots on goal. One of those, however, came from Christian Pomarico early in the final period. The defenseman ripped a shot that popped up off of Vazzano with 18:31 remaining and went over the goal. Jasper gave the Pioneers the brace they needed to assure victory Friday night, scoring with 3:55 left in the game. The sophomore crashed the net to put in the rebound of a Sabatini shot, scoring his 10th goal of the season and his fourth goal in three games.
The Pioneers outshot the Black Knights 28-20, and 11-3 in the third period. Army was 0-for-3 on the power play as Sacred Heart was 0-for-2. Gahagen made 26 saves for the Black Knights.
Game two is Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. at Milford Ice Pavilion.