Pivotal performances from forward Greg Barnych, defenseman Spencer Boris and goalie Matvei Kazakov helped lead the Stony Brook club hockey team to its second consecutive series sweep to open up the season.
The Seawolves (4-0 ESCHL) traveled to New York City for game one to take on the New York University Violets. The five-day wait in between games did not seem to affect Stony Brook, as they set the tone early on Friday, helping secure a 5-2 victory. In game two, the Seawolves returned to The Rinx for their home opener and earned a hard-fought, come-from-behind 3-2 win.
It took only five minutes for the offense to get going in game one, when forward William Kormanik scored his first goal as a Seawolf off an assist from forward Kristian Malec. Stony Brook’s penalty kill continued its strong start to the season as the team killed three Violet power plays in the first period.
Kormanik added another goal at the 13-minute mark of the second period. Just four minutes later, defenseman Spencer Boris notched his first goal with Stony Brook off an assist from defenseman Matthew McDermitt and forward Matt Minerva to give the Seawolves a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the final period.
The 3-0 cushion would not last long for Stony Brook, as NYU forward Adam Peck tallied a powerplay goal after Minerva received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the second period. Minerva would make up for it ten minutes later when he assisted on forward Shawn Rainville’s fourth goal of the season. Peck would not let Violets go down without a fight, as he notched his second goal of the period with seven minutes remaining. The Stony Brook defense tightened up in the final minutes and held on to secure the win. Forward Devin Pepe officially tacked on the finishing touches with an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining.
For the third straight game, the Seawolves outshot their opponents as Stony Brook registered 35 shots compared to the Violets’ 28. The depth of the Seawolves was once again put on display as contributions continued to be made all throughout the roster.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of layers on our team,” head coach Chris Garofalo said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “That’s what really helped us win these games.”
With game two serving as their home opener, the Seawolves were honored before opening puck drop with their 2022 Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) Championship trophy. The graduated alumni from last season’s squad were in attendance and honored as well, including former captains Brendan Pepe, Chuckie Peck and Joey Slevin.
Barnych gave the Seawolves the early lead in game two when he scored off a rebound following a miss by Minerva. Stony Brook had some chances to increase the lead in the first, but was continually stopped by NYU goalie Chris Cataldo. The Violets evened things up with just under two minutes remaining when NYU forward Brandon Wilky scored on a powerplay.
The Stony Brook penalty kill got back on track in the second period, halting four NYU power plays. The offense struggled to create scoring opportunities in the second and could not capitalize when the opportunity presented itself. As the offense looked to regain its footing, Kazakov stepped up, making several clutch saves to keep the game tied at one.
“Without him, we are losing this game easily,” Boris said. “He is a brick wall out there and he saved our behinds, that’s for sure.”
Despite Kazakov’s valiant efforts, the Violets were finally able to break through less than 5 minutes into the third when defenseman Joshua Stich scored to give NYU a 2-1 lead.
The Violet goal seemed to rejuvenate the Stony Brook offense, which had been stagnant since the first period. Immediately following the faceoff after the NYU goal, Minerva generated a scoring opportunity but was shut down with a big save by Cataldo. Just moments later, Stony Brook capitalized on a Violet turnover which led to a two-on-one breakaway where Boris buried a wrist shot off of the post to tie the game.
The game remained tied for the next six-and-a-half minutes before the Seawolves took advantage of another NYU turnover. Coming off of a quick change of possession, Barnych scored his second goal of the night and third of the season to give the Seawolves a 3-2 lead.
Stony Brook controlled the closing minutes of the game, only allowing NYU to attempt one shot following the Barnych goal. The Seawolves held on to win by that score, sweeping the series with their second comeback win in as many weekends.
For the second straight week, the Seawolves faced adversity late in the game but responded quickly and found a way to win, something Garofalo is particularly proud of.
“The game did not go the way we expected it,” Garofalo said. “But the fact that they responded to such an adverse situation made me really proud.”
Several standout performances help lead the Seawolves to the sweep. Barnych notched two goals and continues to be a catalyst for the Stony Brook offense he credits his teammates for his success to start the season.
“Playing with good linemates and moving the puck well,” Barnych said. “We are just moving the puck well and supporting each other.”
Minerva played a pivotal role in the sweep setting up the offense with five assists in the series.
Boris’s goals were the first two goals of his Stony Brook career, as he too was integral in both of the team’s wins.
“It felt good to get that chip off my shoulder,” Boris said. “If we didn’t pick it up, we were losing that game for sure.
Looking ahead, the Seawolves will get a reprieve from league play and take on an NCAA opponent. They are scheduled to play an exhibition game on Saturday, Oct. 15 at home against the Division III Manhattanville College Valiants.