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Sacred Heart rallies to beat Mercyhurst in benefit game at AOF

The late Jason Pagini

The late Jason Pagini

AVON, Dec. 10 – Sacred Heart University scored two goals in a span of 1:56 in the third period to pull away from Mercyhurst and earn a 3-2 Atlantic Hockey Conference victory at Avon Old Farms on Saturday night before 550 fans at Fairchilds-Jennings Rink for the third annual Jason Pagni Memorial contest.

Pagni, an Avon Old Farms graduate, was a youth hockey coach, the owner of the Connecticut Yankees hockey organization and the Hamden Hockey House before passing away at the age of 43 in January 2014 in a one-car accident.

It was the third consecutive year that Sacred Heart played a NCAA Division I game in a small, intimate setting to bring more awareness to the game of hockey. In 2014, the Pioneers played UConn at the Taft School in Watertown and last year, Sacred Heart faced Arizona State at Danbury Arena.

All proceeds from the game were donated to Connecticut Hockey Foundation, a non-profit organization that support organizations that bring the sport of hockey to participants of all backgrounds, regardless of one’s ability, or limited resources. All awards from the Connecticut Hockey Foundation will be named in the memory of Jason Pagni.

Ticket sales, donations and raffle events raised nearly $8,000 although game organizers are still working on the final total raised.

“It was a wonderful evening with great enthusiasm,” said Eric Opin, executive director of the Connecticut Hockey Foundation.

Mercyhurst (6-9, 6-6 Atlantic Hockey) took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a tip-in goal by Kyle Dutra on a slap shot from Lester Lanchester.

Sacred Heart (6-10-2, 4-8 Atlantic Hockey) tied the game at 1-1 in the second period on a power play goal when freshman Zach Tsekos fired a shot past Mercyhurst goalie Colin DeAustine to the top right corner of the net.

The Pioneers broke the tie with 13:26 left in the game when Jordan Minello scored for a 2-1 lead. Teammate Justin Danforth (two assists) found Minello wide open in the slot for the easy score. Less than two minutes later, Sacred Heart extended its lead on a shorthanded goal.

Trying to stave off a Mercyhurst power play, Liam Clare intercepted a pass and fed it to Danforth, who found Mitch Nylen wide open on a two-on-one breakway.

Nathan Perry made 27 saves in net for Sacred Heart to earn the win. The visiting Lakers outshot Sacred Heart, 29-22.


Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.


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