Kicking off a new tradition in a winning fashion, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team earned a 17-10 victory in the semifinals of the inaugural Long Island Cup over the St. John’s Red Storm on Friday, Feb. 25.
The Seawolves are off to a 3-0 start, their best since 2017. They will face the Long Island University (LIU) Sharks in the title game on Sunday at 12 p.m. Earlier on Friday afternoon, LIU stunned Hofstra 14-11 on the Pride’s home turf to advance to the championship game. LIU had not beaten Hofstra since 1987, when the LIU athletic program was still known as C.W. Post.
“We told the guys in the locker room right now, ‘This is the only championship that we’re guaranteed to have a shot at,’” head coach Anthony Gilardi said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “Having this in here with what’s going on with the America East has made it a great event. To be able to earn and win a championship is something special.”
St. John’s (0-3) had known nothing but blowouts to start its season, allowing 23 goals in both losses to No. 9 Rutgers at home and Bucknell on the road. The Red Storm’s immense struggles date back to last season, having now lost 13 straight games since February 2021. The last time the Seawolves took on the Red Storm, midfielder Caleb Pearson gave Stony Brook the 13-12 overtime win in the 2020 season opener.
However, the Red Storm jumped out to an unexpected 2-0 lead. It was their first of the entire season. Stony Brook poured on four in a row to go back on top, but St. John’s punched right back with two more to tie it at 4-4, prompting Gilardi to call a timeout.
“We tried to tell [our players] that [St. John’s] has got a good coaching staff,” Gilardi said. “Obviously, we didn’t do a good job as a head coach at preparing them ready to play. Credit to St. John’s — they came out swinging.”
Stony Brook faceoff man Renz Conlon won eight out of 10 faceoffs in the first quarter, but six turnovers prevented the Seawolves from capitalizing on their wins in the circle.
After that, it was all smooth sailing for the Seawolves. Attacker Kevin Mack earned a hat trick by the second quarter with two more goals while assisting on Stony Brook’s third score of the frame. By halftime, the Seawolves led 8-4.
“We acclimated to the game. It was a cold night, but coming in [to halftime] we reset,” midfielder Matt Anderson said. “We knew we didn’t play our best half. We tried to come out and play a little better, and I think we did.”
In the win, Mack led the team with six points off four goals and two assists. A graduate transfer from the University of Michigan, he leads the team with nine assists but earned a majority of his points from finding the net himself on Friday.
“We were man-up quite a bit, so I got a bunch of shots on man-up and then St. John’s kind of played me as a feeder and allowed me to turn the corner, get in front of the net and shoot more,” Mack said. “Coach [Mike] Chanenchuk and coach Gilardi have really helped me find my foot in the offense, and the guys on the field helped me as well, communicating whether it’s practice or on the field in the game.”
Anderson tied Mack for a team-high four goals and also matched his career high.
“I’m just trying to capitalize on being one-sixth of the offense and just doing my part,” Anderson said.
In a high-octane third quarter, St. John’s tried cutting back into its deficit, but Stony Brook closed out by piling on the final five of the period. A 7-of-9 success rate on face-offs and 2-of-3 on man-up goals guided the Seawolves’ offensive success in the third quarter. Stony Brook scored five man-up goals in the game, the most since the last time the Seawolves played St. John’s in 2020.
On Sunday, the Seawolves will play an upstart Sharks team equally hungry to hold the title for Long Island men’s lacrosse supremacy.
“This is my home. I live 15 minutes away from here,” Mack, a Manhasset native, said. “It’d be great to just bring home the Long Island Cup and have that hardware that no one can take away from us.”