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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Men’s Hockey Caps Off Best Season in Program History

Photo courtesy of YSM Media

With 24 wins, a third straight UCHC title, and an all-star group of 18 rookies who helped guide the team to its first NCAA Division III Frozen Four since 2012–13, men’s hockey capped off its best season in program history. 

This season, the addition of 18 new players, which all connected seamlessly to help the team make its second run to the Frozen Four. They defeated Stevenson University, Nazareth College and Alvernia University on their way to winning their third consecutive UCHC Tournament this season. 

They received a first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament because of their exceptional regular season, which also won them a 4-1 victory over Plymouth State in the quarterfinals. Utica finished fourth in the Pairwise Rankings while holding the second-best spot in the USCHO National Poll.

This season introduced a number of new faces as a large number of players from the previous season parted ways. As one of the youngest teams in the country, minus first-year teams, many didn’t expect these players to win the UCHC or make it to the NCAA Frozen Four. 

Forward Eric Vitale and goalkeeper Ethan Roberts made an immediate impact on the team.

Roberts earned a spot on the Second Team All-UCHC.  He recorded 28 saves in the play-offs, making 17 in just one period, earning him the title of 2024 UCHC Tournament MVP. He has made 525 saves this season and accumulated an impressive save percentage of 0.941.

 Vitale, a first-year student, won Rookie of the Year honors for the conference. Just one of the three UCHC Rookie of the Year honorees from Utica. He had 25 points on 11 goals and 14 assists in 26 games played, while recording a plus-19 rating. He was also named the UCHC Rookie of the Week after his performance in the previous ten games, tallying eight goals and seven assists, including his first college hat-trick on Feb. 2. 

“Rookie of the year could’ve gone to half our team,” Vitale said. “I’m honored and very grateful for the award.”

Apart from the new arrivals, guys like Brian Scoville have proved to be fire on ice. 

Scoville, a senior defenseman, made history by capturing the 2023–24 UCHC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year titles. In the league’s history, he became the first student-athlete to win both of the awards in the same season. At 30 points and 1.15 points per game, he ranked second among all Division III defenseman. In 28 games, he has nine goals, 23 assists, and 32 points, which puts him among the best in the nation with a plus-41 rating. In addition to his five power-play goals, Scoville has added two game-winning goals. In 20 UCHC games, he recorded 20 assists and seven goals, demonstrating his outstanding performance in league play. 

Forward Matt Wood was named to the First Team All-UCHC following a standout junior campaign and earned his first All-UCHC title of his career. With 29 points this season, 12 goals and 17 assists, Wood is ranked second on Utica and fifth in the UCHC. 

Junior Forward Shane Murphy was named to the Second Team All-UCHC following an outstanding second half of the season, his first All-UCHC honor. Murphy led the team in points with thirteen goals and fifteen assists, which is third on the team and eighth in the UCHC. 

Veteran Kimball Johnson was named to the Second Team All-UCHC on defense after yet another stellar season in his second year with the team. This year, Johnson has contributed 11 assists and five goals. 

Now in his 23rd season as head coach and program founder, Gary Heenan guided the Pioneers through this historical season. 

Heenan has reached significant milestones this season as he has not only recorded his 350th career win but has also been named the UCHC Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year and the fourth overall by his peers. Under Heenan’s leadership, the Pioneers ranked No. 2 in the Division III national poll. They advanced to the conference championship game six times in the last seven seasons and won the UCHC regular season title seven times in a row.

“This group was committed and resilient,” Heenan said. “What was meant to be a rebuilding here became our best season in program history. There is a lot to be proud of.”

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