The Stony Brook Ice Hockey team was right on the doorstep of reaching its goal. Last March, the Seawolves played in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s Division I Final against Central Oklahoma. One win separated the team from its first national title.
But the Seawolves did not have enough to take down the Bronchos, falling just short of the “promised land” in a 4-0 loss.
Now, 11 months later, No. 1-ranked Stony Brook is carrying a Zamboni full of momentum into the end of the season as the team attempts to take the next step and become national champions.
“Obviously when you can earn the right to be the number one team in the entire country, it gives you a great deal of confidence, but being able to stay at the number one spot is the biggest challenge,” Stony Brook head coach Chris Garofalo said. “Everyone who you play wants to knock you out of the number one spot so each game is even that much more intense.”
Stony Brook has been a hunted team all season long, picking up the top spot in the rankings for the third time this year earlier in the week.
As the squad gets set for the stretch run, the players have not forgotten how close they were to raising the trophy a year ago.
“I think the experience we went through last year and making it all the way to the National Championship game has given our team the confidence we need when heading into this years National Tournament,” Garofalo said. “It also has made the players that much hungrier because we were so close last year to winning it all.”
The Seawolves have shown that hunger, jumping out to a 24-2 start. Stony Brook is on an 11-game winning streak, with the top team in the nation last losing back on Nov. 14 against Adrian.
The Seawolves will play the Dutchmen of Lebanon Valley twice this weekend, looking to avenge their first loss of the season from Oct. 11.
Then, the team has a chance to exact revenge on the team that took Garofalo’s squad out of nationals last season: Central Oklahoma. While both teams are ranked inside the top-11 in the country, Stony Brook’s head coach believes that his players will be up for the challenge.
“This team is a very close-knit group,” Garofalo said. “They never give up no matter what situation is in front of them.”
Once the regular season comes to a close, the Seawolves will look to gain momentum for nationals when they compete in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League Playoffs, which will take place at Lebanon Valley from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21.
A win at the tournament will earn Stony Brook its fourth straight championship at the event in only its fifth year competing in it.
This year’s ACHA Men’s Division 1 National Championships will be played from March 3 to March 8 at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Illinois, Robert Morris’ home ice.
“I feel all the guys are ready and focused and know what they need to do in order to bring home a National Championship,” Garofalo said. “This a special group and I’m really proud of all we have done so far this year but we are not finished yet.”