NCAA Tournament Or Not, Sacred Heart's Breakout Season Not All For Naught

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

The Sacred Heart Pioneers posted their best record since the 2009-10 season thanks to a dynamic offense, but as the regular season comes to an end their hope for their first-ever NCAA tournament berth has come down to the Atlantic Hockey tournament.

Several weeks ago, the Pioneers held the top spot in the conference and were looking promising to claim the top seed for the league postseason. But a red-hot AIC team jumped them for the conference title, despite the Pioneers going 6-3-1 in their past 10.

The Pioneers will still hold a bye in the first round as seeding for the bottom six teams falls in place, but come playoffs, they will be facing a tougher opponent on paper than they would have prior to AIC’s surge to its second consecutive league title.

Overall, it’s not a significant change, but in the dangerous, season-defining Pairwise Rankings — where only the top 16 teams make the national tournament cut — the Pioneers sit at No. 26 in the latest poll.

With the Pioneers top three scorers all playing in their senior year, in addition to two other seniors, the dynamic offense that built up the momentum and expectation all season long is on the verge of disappointment.

Short of becoming the last team standing in Atlantic Hockey, where AIC has built an 11-game win streak and an equally dangerous Army team stands, the Pioneers’ breakout could be all for naught.

Jason Cotton, Mike Lee, and Austin McIlmurray each hit the 30-point mark this season and combined for 43 goals, led by Cotton’s 20 tallies. Add in seniors Vito Bavaro and Max Luukko, who scored 16 and two, respectively, and a total of 61 goals and on their way out this season.

That accounts for nearly 50 percent of the team’s total offense this season. It is a significant part of how drastic this season can be for Sacred Heart, which has posted its first winning record since 2009-10.

But even if that first-ever NCAA tournament bid is not in the cards this season, the seniors helped establish confidence and a winning atmosphere, which is certain to spill over into the 2020-21 season, even if the Pioneers struggle to completely match their 2019-20 numbers.

Forwards Matt Tugnutt and Jordan Kaplan have each posted the best point totals of their collegiate careers and will be entering their senior seasons next year.

Tugnutt has recorded 13 goals and 27 points in 30 games and will be the team’s top returning scorer in both goals and points. Kaplan has improved offensively in each of his three seasons and has nine goals and 24 points in 33 games.

Fellow junior Mark Johnstone bounced back this year after a dip in production as a junior in 2018-19 and has 25 points (7 G, 18 A) in 33 games.

As a freshman this season, Braeden Tuck is fifth in team scoring with 27 points (4 G, 23 A) in 33 games and sits 10th nationally in points per game for freshmen — accompanied by 2019 first-round drafts picks Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, and Alex Newhook.



The inevitable increase in ice time, confidence, and maturation will help the players carry on the momentum built this season into next year and help feed their teammates as they continue to fight for the national stage. 

Don’t miss the Atlantic Hockey tournament right here on FloHockey.


Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.

WCHA Breakout Candidates For 2020-21 Season

While some aspects of the college hockey season might be up in the air due to COVID-19, one thing is certain: the WCHA is loaded with possible breakout stars.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

2020 NHL Draft Lottery: How The Placeholder Shapes Round 1

The NHL Draft Lottery is an annual mix of emotions for fans as percentages turn to realities and franchise futures are altered — this year, one of those franchises is yet to be determined.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

FloHockey, CCHA Announce Exclusive Streaming Partnership

FloSports, the innovator in live sports streaming and original content, announced today an exclusive multi-year agreement with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) that will see every regular season and postseason event hosted by a CCHA member school streamed live and on-demand on FloHockey. The partnership brings elite NCAA Division I hockey to FloSports’ fast-growing FloHockey platform starting with the 2021-2022 season. CCHA also recently announced that highly-respected hockey coach and college athletics executive, Don Lucia, has been named commissioner.

2020 NHL Draft: Lafrenière Leads Best Of The Best Position Breakdown

The date of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft remains in flux during the league’s continued navigation around COVID-19 concerns and new extended playoff format laid out.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

Don Lucia To Become CCHA Commissioner

When the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) begins play after a hiatus of several years, the new commissioner will be former Minnesota Golden Gopher legend Don Lucia. 

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

Goalies Galore In 2020 NHL Free Agency

As the NHL continues to map out its expanded playoff format and new offseason schedule, including the draft and free agency, the substantial goalie market will add to a highly anticipated summer. 

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

5 NCAA Free Agents Worthy Of An NHL Contract

As Stanley Cup championship anniversaries pass by, the typical NHL timeline has been cast aside from COVID-19 as the league enters Phase II of the return-to-play protocol.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

FloHockey Archives: Sacred Heart Day

College hockey is over for the season, and fans across the country were devastated when the fallout from COVID-19 dashed conference tournaments and the Frozen Four. But just because we lost the end of the hockey season doesn’t mean we can’t look back at all the awesome moments we witnessed over the 2019-20 campaign.

FloHockey Archives: Robert Morris Day

College hockey is over for the season, and fans across the country were devastated when the fallout from COVID-19 dashed conference tournaments and the Frozen Four. But just because we lost the end of the hockey season doesn’t mean we can’t look back at all the awesome moments we witnessed over the 2019-20 campaign.

In Dramatic Shift, Alabama Huntsville Announces Return For 2020-21

A successful fundraising campaign has saved Chargers hockey at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, ensuring a return to the ice this fall.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In