The Stony Brook hockey team was unable to secure a win at The Rinx in Hauppauge for the first time in over a year on Sunday, falling to Syracuse by a score of 4-2. It was the team’s first home loss since Oct. 30, 2016, also to Syracuse.
The Seawolves had difficulty producing quality offensive chances in the losing effort, a game in which the team’s power play went cold with no goals in seven opportunities.
“This is all about focus,” head coach Chris Garofalo said. “That’s all this is. We also went 0-for-7 on our power play. When you’re 0-for-7, you’re not going to win. Not when you have a 40 percent power play going into the game.”
Stony Brook outshot the visitors 37-30, but the team was unable to match Syracuse’s goal production. Though the Seawolves drew first blood with a goal by freshman defender Brendan Pepe 2:40 into the second period, the Orange found the back of the net three times in under four minutes to take a 3-1 lead which they never surrendered.
“Syracuse saw our weaknesses and they pounced on them,” Pepe said. “I guess we didn’t really expect much from them so we came out soft. We couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities. [Sophomore goalie Brandon Rathwell] kept us in the game for the first period and then the floodgates just opened and they jumped on their opportunities.”
Rathwell, who started his second game of the season on Sunday, made 26 saves in the loss. Despite the three quick goals, Rathwell was never in jeopardy of being pulled.
“I wanted to go with Rathwell,” Garofalo said. “I just thought he had worked hard in practice and it was his turn. I felt that he earned it and I don’t think that it was his fault why we lost. I don’t think it was the goaltender. If [sophomore goalie Payne Yoder] was in net, they would have scored three of those four goals anyway and we’d still lose.”
With 1:35 remaining in regulation, freshman forward Joseph Slevin scored for the Seawolves to draw within two goals, but the clock was the enemy of the home team’s comeback attempt. The officials did not help the lack of time by allowing 15 seconds to bleed off the clock while the puck was frozen along the boards. Upon protesting the decision to not blow the whistle, Garofalo was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I just said the puck was frozen for like 15 seconds,” Garofalo said. “If the puck is frozen, you’ve got to blow the whistle at that point. It was frozen to the point where my guy comes in and tries to hit somebody, and it’s still frozen. I don’t know what more of a definition of a frozen puck there is than that.”
While the lack of a whistle did not help the Seawolves’ cause, the game was lost by an overall lack of competitiveness. After the game concluded, a players only meeting was held for about 20 minutes in the Stony Brook locker room.
“A lot of guys were talking in the locker room,” Pepe said. “It was mostly the captains talking about attention to detail. It’s small things like having your stall clean that lead to consistency and winning games.”
Stony Brook will need to pay closer attention to detail next weekend when they host Adrian College. Adrian is ranked No. 2 in the nation and will be a tough outing for No. 9 Stony Brook.
“They’ll probably be ranked number one after this week,” Garofalo said. “We do a lot of video review and we try to put a game plan in place. They’re going to be the best team we play the whole season by far. If we can take one or two from them it’s going to be huge for us.”
Stony Brook won the first game of the weekend of the two-game series against Syracuse on Saturday night at The Rinx.
The game was the first time the two teams have faced off since Syracuse was added to the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey Association this offseason. The intensity of the divisional match-up led to ample penalties on both sides.
“We didn’t stay out of the penalty box, which is a huge problem,” Garofalo said. “We haven’t played a 60-minute game yet. I give credit to Syracuse, they poured it on and [Yoder] played great. He kept us in the game and I do question some of those penalties that were called, but at the same time we just have to stay out of the box.”
Yoder, who had played in six of the team’s past eight games, turned away 35 of the 38 shots he faced. He earned his seventh win of the season, despite playing 16 minutes shorthanded and facing numerous high-quality chances.
Garofalo was impressed with his goaltender’s success despite receiving a lackluster effort from his defense.
“He was a very big part of the win,” Garofalo said. “It’s not fair to him. He needs to have support around him. I don’t know who is playing [the next game], but I’m expecting that, whoever’s in net, the guys play better in front of him.”
Sophomore forward Devon Palmieri tallied two goals in the game. His first of the night came on a controversial decision to waive off an icing call just seconds prior to the goal, which Garofalo says should not have counted.
“When my [defenseman] passed it to me, the guy lifted my stick,” Palmieri said. “That’s not icing anymore because if you lift a guy’s stick, that means he couldn’t play the puck. It was a controversial call but it worked in our favor so we’ll take it.”
The Seawolves drew first blood and jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a goal by senior forward Ori Benyamini 1:33 into the first period. Later in the opening frame, sophomore forward Kevin Murphy found the back of the net on the power play for his sixth goal with the man-advantage this year. Junior defenseman Frank Coscia got in on the scoring with 1:58 to go in the second period, ending a 10-game goal-drought.
Pepe picked up an assist on Murphy’s power play goal for his team-leading 14th point of the season. Thirteen of those points have come from assists.
“He’s got offensive hands as a defenseman,” Garofalo said. “He sees the ice very well. He brings an offensive element that we really can use on our defense so I think that’s his biggest thing. He’s got a long reach which helps his game a lot and he has a very good IQ for the game.”