Stony Brook Hockey was in desperate need of a win coming into Saturday afternoon’s game. With a 4-4-3 record in the second half of the season and a season-long four-game losing streak, it was crucial for the Seawolves to record a win before heading to the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League tournament next weekend. Head coach Chris Garofalo decided to shake up his roster, and the team saw results.
“I mixed all the lines up,” Garofalo said. “I think it sparked something. It was nice to see that we had all the offense score and not rely on the defense as much. That was a good sign.”
Forwards scored all three Stony Brook goals en route to a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Boss Ice Arena in South Kingston, Rhode Island. Freshman forward Keith O’Brien notched the game-winner under two minutes into the second period. He now has three goals in four career games against Rhode Island.
All three goals were scored by underclassmen, with sophomore forward Devon Palmieri and freshman forward Ian Bernes picking up the first and third goals, respectively. Bernes’ marker late in the second period came 17 seconds after the Rams’ lone goal. The Seawolves’ quick-attack and resiliency were big factors in the win.
“We played really well and we kept it simple,” Garofalo said. “We went to our game plan, it worked, and we won because of it.”
Sophomore goaltender Brandon Rathwell was in goal for the third straight game. Rathwell stopped 28 of 29 shots in the win, which bolstered his regular season record to 3-2-1. His lone goal against came while Stony Brook was shorthanded.
“He played great,” Garofalo said regarding Rathwell’s performance. “He got the hard hat after the game, we give out a hard hat [to the game’s MVP]. He was very solid, very good with his angles, and he kept us in the game.”
There is a good chance Rathwell will be in net next Saturday for the first game of the ESCHL tournament. Sophomore starting goaltender Payne Yoder is still sidelined with a lower-body injury and is not expected to return for next weekend’s game. No matter who is in net, they will have to be ready to win in the one-and-done playoff format.
“We’re going to stay the course,” Garofalo said. “The guys know how to play, they know our style. They have to stick to the game-plan and not play the way they want to play but play the way we need to play as a team. When we’re individualistic we don’t do well, but when we play as a team we’re much better.”
The weekend started on a far less positive note when the Seawolves dropped their first game in four years to the Rams. Despite its almost constant pressure and persistence, Stony Brook was unable to preserve its 15-game winning streak against Rhode Island, falling 3-2 in regulation.
After taking a 2-1 lead in the first period and putting 19 shots on goal compared to Rhode Island’s five, Stony Brook experienced a second-period collapse which they never came back from.
“It was the team playing the system that we implemented,” Garofalo said of the reason his team had success in the first 20 minutes. “In the second period, we decided to go back to our individualistic play and it cost us.”
Stony Brook fell behind Rhode Island 3-2 in the second period and, despite many opportunities to tie the game, never climbed back. The team had its best chance to even the score late in the third period when they found the back of the net, but had the goal disallowed after the referee lost sight of the puck.
“What are you supposed to do,” Garofalo said. “You’ve got to move past it. Sometimes the ref loses sight of the puck. We scored but it is what it is.”
Rathwell’s first performance of the weekend was more aggressive than Saturday’s effort. The sophomore came out of his crease on multiple occasions to challenge for pucks and while he was never burnt by the style in the loss, his coach still expressed a want for Rathwell to tone it down.
“He was very aggressive,” Garofalo said. “I think he’s got to slow it a little bit. I think sometimes he’s too aggressive but overall, he played very well.”
This weekend’s split makes Stony Brook’s 2017-18 regular season record 21-7-4. The team’s .656 winning percentage is its lowest since the 2012-13 season (.516), a season which brought the Seawolves’ first ESCHL championship. Their pursuit of a fifth championship begins next Saturday at 4 p.m. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, when they play an opponent to be determined in the semifinal.