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Friday, April 20 Sports

Sacred Heart honors Pagni, raises money for CT Hockey Foundation

BRIDGEPORT — Though his friend’s life was cut short too soon, Sacred Heart men’s hockey coach C.J. Marottolo is happy to see Jason Pagni’s spirit live on.

Friday night at Webster Bank Arena, the Pioneers will play a game in Pagni’s memory for the fourth year in a row, now supporting the Connecticut Hockey Foundation.

“We want to do the most we can to have an impact on boys and girls in Connecticut,” Marottolo said Wednesday.

More Information

Holy Cross at Sacred Heart

WHAT: An NCAA men’s hockey game benefiting the Connecticut Hockey Foundation

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport

ADVANCE TICKETS: $10; contact foundation executive director Eric Opin at 203-878-5881 or attorneyopin@gmail.com

TWITTER: @CTHOCKEYFDN

The first two years, the game benefited Pagni’s daughters’ education fund.

The foundation was formed in August 2016 and plans to begin accepting applications sometime in the next few months for grants to support hockey around the state in memory of Pagni, a fixture on the local hockey scene, who died in January 2014 at age 43.

“Pags was always fun to be around,” Bridgeport Sound Tigers assistant coach Eric Boguniecki said. “He was a happy-go-lucky guy. He always made everybody laugh.”

Pagni, who grew up in Wallingford, was a little older than Boguniecki, from West Haven. But Pagni was around his brother’s age, so they’d known each other a long time.

“It’s sad,” Boguniecki said, “but at the same time, it’s a great cause.”

Eric Opin, the foundation’s executive director, said they’ve sold a few hundred tickets for the game against Holy Cross and are still preselling; contact him at 203-878-5881 or attorneyopin@gmail.com.

A volunteer board includes members of Pagni’s family, including his wife, Kate, and some local hockey figures who knew him. Opin said it’s a tight-knit group.

“We just want to do it the right way,” Opin said. “It’s a slow process. Hopefully people will come out.

“We don’t want to be fly-by-night,” he added. “It takes a lot of time and TLC.”

Among the items slated for the silent auction is a package from New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, including game tickets and a postgame meeting with him.

Shattenkirk, who knew Pagni growing up in area hockey, is an honorary board member of the foundation.

There are signed photos from the likes of Greenwich’s Cam Atkinson, signed equipment from the New Jersey Devils and signed sweaters from Henrik Zetterberg and Mikko Koivu.

“So many of (the items) are personal,” Opin said.

This is the fourth site in four years for the Pioneers’ game. Marottolo said they want to make it a fixture at Webster Bank Arena from now on.

The Pioneers are 5-12-4 but are coming off a 4-1 win Tuesday at Bentley. The Pioneers tied Army and Holy Cross following a loss to Holy Cross coming out of their winter break.

“Except for the first game back against Holy Cross here, we’ve played pretty well,” Marottolo said. “We’ve really tightened up some things defensively. The power play’s been more dangerous consistently.”

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mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

Michael Fornabaio|Sports Reporter

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