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Sacred Heart faces Mercyhurst in Atlantic Hockey game at AOF on Dec. 10

Sacred Heart captain Justin Danforth and the Pioneers will face Atlantic Hockey rival Mercyhurst on the AOF campus on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy Sacred Heart University)

Sacred Heart captain Justin Danforth and the Pioneers will face Atlantic Hockey rival Mercyhurst on the AOF campus on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy Sacred Heart University)

AVON – The late Jason Pagni played hockey at Avon Old Farms, graduating in 1990. He played on the first AOF team to win a New England championship in 1989.

The late Jason Pagini

The late Jason Pagni

Pagni played two years of collegiate hockey at Quinnipiac University but over the next two decades, he made his mark in the hockey world. He was a youth hockey coach, the owner of the Connecticut Yankees hockey organization and the Hamden Hockey House.

One of his friends, C.J. Marottolo, the coach at Sacred Heart University, told the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs a year ago that Pagni helped turn kids’ (hockey) dreams into reality.

His friend Chris Masters wrote, “Hockey was his passion, and, more to the point, helping kids was what he loved. Whether it was taking teams to the prestigious Quebec Pee-Wee tournament or to the Brick tournament in Edmonton or anywhere in between he loved being around the kids, having fun and making sure they have an unforgettable experience.”

Pagni lost his life in a sudden and tragic one-car accident in January 2014 at the age of 43.

Pagni is gone but the memory of his contributions to hockey are strong and continue today. In his honor, Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst will play an Atlantic Hockey Association contest at Avon Old Farms on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m.

It’s the third consecutive year that Sacred Heart has played a NCAA Division I game in small, intimate setting here in Connecticut. 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 will be 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.

This year’s game features an extensive raffle and silent auction, featuring numerous items from current professional hockey players who lives Jason has touched.

“We are thrilled that we will continue to honor the legacy of Jason Pagni and his family,” Marottolo said. “Jason did so much to help grow our great game, and most importantly, successfully impacted so many young players reach their goals. We could not have a better venue to play this game than the Avon Old Farms School, which Jason loved dearly.”

Pagni, who was married with two young daughters, devoted his life to hockey. He was dedicated to advocating, developing and touching the lives of numerous parents and players on all levels of the sport from youth hockey, high school, prep school, college and the National Hockey League.  His favorite expression was, “Everybody Rides.”

General admission tickets are $10 each. To purchase tickets, please contact Eric H. Opin, Executive Director, Connecticut Hockey Foundation, Inc. 266 Broad Street, Post Office Box 412, Milford, CT 06460, (203) 878-5881 or at

Sacred Heart (5-7-2, 3-5 Atlantic Hockey) has won three of their last four games coming into this weekend’s action, including a 4-2 win over Connecticut. The Pioneers, who have 10 seniors, return 18 skaters from last season including their top two scorers – senior captains Justin Danforth (20 goals, 21 assists last year) and Evan Jasper (12-21) along with junior Alec Butcher (22 assists).

Jasper has six goals and seven assists in the first 14 games of the season while Danforth has three goals and nine assists.

Coming into this weekend, Mercyhurst is 5-8 and 5-5 in the Atlantic Hockey Association. The Lakers, who are from Erie, Pa., are led by Jon Carbonneau with eight goals and four points, Derek Branch (2-14) and Les Lancaster (3-10). Freshman goalie Colin DeAugustine (2-2) was named the Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week last week after his 39 save effort in a 5-1 win over Canisius.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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