After a strong opening quarter, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team looked fired up in its Senior Day matchup against the Vermont Catamounts.
But Vermont’s second-half heroics ended Stony Brook’s regular season on a sour note. The Seawolves fell to the Catamounts (9-6, 6-0 AE) by a final score of 19-10 on Saturday, April 30. They finished with a 9-5 (4-2 AE) record, second place in the America East.
“The second half of this game completely got away from us,” head coach Anthony Gilardi said in an interview with The Statesman. “I think it comes down to mental mistakes.”
Despite a sloppy finish, the Seawolves opened the first quarter with dominance. Midfielder Mike McCannell wasted no time when he rifled a shot into the net less than one minute into the game. The graduate student, who was one of 12 students honored in the pregame Senior Day ceremony, recorded his 24th goal of the season with the shot.
McCannell’s goal was followed up by five other Seawolves in the first quarter, including attackmen Noah Armitage and Kevin Mack. Each of them finished with two goals to lead the Seawolves’ scoring output.
“The guys played with great emotion, and we had the ball,” Gilardi said when asked about his team’s approach in the first quarter.
The reason Stony Brook was able to pile onto their lead in the first quarter was because of its efforts in the X. The Seawolves won four straight faceoffs to open play. The first quarter ended with Stony Brook winning six out of nine faceoffs, all of which were against Vermont faceoff specialist Tommy Burke.
“We knew that Burke is one of the best faceoff guys in the country, and we knew [faceoffs were] going to be key,” Gilardi continued.
After the opening 15 minutes, Burke was 3-for-9 in the X. This quickly changed in the second quarter when the Catamounts began pressuring the Seawolves on defense. Vermont started winning faceoffs and taking a lot more shots on goal. This allowed them to crawl their way back to make it 7-5 by halftime.
In the face of increased shots on goal, goalie Jamison MacLachlan handled the pressure at first. He recorded five saves (.500 save percentage) by halftime. However, things quickly fell apart for MacLachlan and the Seawolves in the second half when Vermont went on a 5-0 run to take the lead in the third quarter.
Catamounts midfielder Thomas McConvey and attackman Liam Limoges stole the show. McConvey opened the third quarter with his 41st goal of the season to get Vermont within one goal of Stony Brook. Limoges tied the game soon after with an unassisted goal. From there, they each combined for seven of Vermont’s 14 goals in the second half.
While Vermont started finding offensive success, Stony Brook handcuffed itself with untimely penalties.
“We did some silly things,” Gilardi said. “We fouled them, we cross-checked guys in the head, and we slashed a kid with one second left when he was falling down. That was completely on us.”
One of these pivotal fouls came with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Faceoff specialist Renz Conlon was called for a cross-check foul during a play where the Catamounts marched down the field and scored despite the call. Not only did Vermont’s lead extend to 15-9 on the play, but it also gave the Catamounts a man-up opportunity in a tight spot.
By the final horn, the Seawolves had recorded 12 penalties and spent 9:00 in the box. As a result, Vermont saw plenty of man-up situations and took full advantage. The Catamounts went 5-for-11 on man-up opportunities– three of the five goals occuring in the second half.
McConvey and the Catamounts ran away with the game in the fourth quarter. By the end of Vermont’s 19-goal outburst, McConvey recorded a season-high seven goals and eight points. Burke improved his faceoff record to 19-for-28 by the end of the game. The Seawolves, on the other hand, could only secure 10 of 32 faceoffs as a team.
Despite a disappointing finish to 2022, the Seawolves entered this game with four straight wins. Under normal circumstances, they would be the number two seed in America East. This year, they will have to hope for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
“Right now, we would be the number two seed,” Gilardi said. “Then we would have another crack at this Vermont team. So, I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to deal with all of these issues. We talk about the mental health of these kids. They fought, came to work every day, and got stronger as a group, which is something you want to see.”