MILFORD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart men's hockey team won its first postseason series since 2010 Saturday night, completing a two-game sweep of the Army Black Knights with a 5-2 win at Milford Ice Pavilion.
The Pioneers last won an Atlantic Hockey tournament series in 2010, sweeping Holy Cross in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals in Rochester, N.Y. Five different Pioneers accounted for Sacred Heart's five goals Saturday, as Kory Kennedy (Midhurst, Ont.) and Mitch Nylen (Lawrenceville, Ga.) each had two assists. Alex Vazzano (Trumbull, Conn.) made 23 saves for his fourth win in five games.
Army (8-22-4) nearly scored first in the hockey game. With 13:23 left in the opening period, Christian Pomarico fired a shot of Vazzano's shoulder. The puck nearly crossed the goalline, but Vazzano sprawled to dive on the loose puck and cover it. Five minutes later, Justin Danforth (Oshawa, Ont.) took the puck from Army defenseman Mac Lalor in the Black Knight's zone and walked in to rip a shot that went right into Parker Gahagen's glove. With 7:46 left in the first, Jordan Minello (Sweaburg, Ont.) fired a shot off of a faceoff that hit the crossbar. Danforth had another opportunity to put the Pioneers on the board with 3:38 left in the period, but video replay overturned his supposed goal. The Pioneers outshot Army 14-7 in the first period, but went into the locker room scoreless.
Sacred Heart (13-17-6) finally got on the scoresheet 4:27 into the second period. Ben Lake (Calgary, Alb.) ripped a shot from the slot past Gahagen to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead. Minello and Jacob Brightbill (Anneville, Pa.) assisted on the initial tally. At 5:54, Brian Sheehan (St. Louis, Mo.) snuck in a pass from Nylen right at the goal post to make the score 2-0. Alec Butcher (Anchorage, Alaska) put the Pioneers ahead 3-0 at the 9:40 mark, as his third goal in as many games forced Army to use its timeout.
The Black Knights got within two 2:34 into the third period. Lalor scored from the point on the power play, with assists from Maurice Alvarez and Tyler Pham, to make the score 3-1. It was the first power play goal allowed by Sacred Heart in its last 20 penalty kills. Twenty-nine seconds later, Danforth converted on a two-on-one breakaway with Drew George (Regina, Sask.) to put the Pioneers ahead 4-1. Army got back within two with 4:53 remaining on a Brendan McGuire tally, but that was as close as the Black Knights would get. Minello added an empty net goal with 1:43 left to make the final score 5-2.
Sacred Heart outshot Army 36-25 for the game. Army was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Pioneers were 0-for-4. Gahagen made 31 saves for the Black Knights.
The Pioneers now go on the road for the quarterfinals, facing either top-seeded Robert Morris or second-seed Canisius March 13, 14, 1and 15. Log on to Sacred HeartPioneers.com for more information on the next round of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.