During the offseason, Atlantic Hockey has taken steps to improve their conference’s competitiveness nationally. In early September, they increased their conferences scholarship limit from 14 to an NCAA maximum of 18. In early July, Bentley University announced that they were building a new state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena that will seat 2,000 fans for hockey. In August, American International College announced that they are moving into the Springfield MassMutal Center.
Now, Sacred Heart University has a new arena to call home. Monday, the Pioneers and Webster Bank Arena signed a five-year agreement. The agreement is effective immediately for the 2016-17 season.
— Webster Bank Arena (@Webster_Arena) September 19, 2016
The Pioneers will move from their 1,000-seat Milford Ice Arena to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which seats 8,500 for hockey. It’s an exciting time for the Sacred Heart athletic department.
“Being able to call a venue such as Webster Bank Arena our home is an important step for our hockey program and to provide the best opportunity for our student-athletes,” SHU Executive Director of Athletics Bobby Valentine in a release. “The game day experience for our student-athletes, alumni and fans will be tremendous and we are excited about what the season and future will bring.”
Webster Bank Arena is also very excited about their new partnership with the Pioneers.
“We are extremely pleased to add Sacred Heart Hockey to our impressive list of year-round entertainment,” said Michael Picker, President of Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment. “We know our first-class facility will be a great asset to the university as it looks to upgrade its hockey program.”
The Pioneers are the third Atlantic Hockey team to make the move to a bigger, more modern facility during the offseason. The move to a Webster Bank Arena will give the Pioneers a much-needed upgrade, and a much better venue for their home games. An arena upgrade should also increase the Pioneers recruiting opportunities. Pioneer head coach C.J. Marottolo is more than pleased with the move.
“I am grateful for the commitment of the university to the SHU hockey program,” Marottolo stated. “The new locker room will have custom lockers and provide a home for our current players, and being in a venue such as Webster Bank Arena will be an asset to our recruiting.”
The Webster Bank Arena has hosted NCAA East Regional games and is the home to the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Pioneers play their first game in their new arena on October 15, 2016, against the Union Dutchmen.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.