Forwards Matt Minerva (left) and Greg Barnych (right) celebrating a goal scored against NYU on Saturday, Oct. 8. The two forwards came up big for the Stony Brook hockey team in its 4-3 victory against Manhattanville on Saturday, Oct. 15. PHOTO COURTESY OF AZTEKPHOTOS

Despite going into a late tailspin, the Stony Brook club hockey team was able to rally for a win in an exhibition match with an NCAA foe.

The Seawolves (5-0, 4-0 ESCHL) hosted the Manhattanville Valiants at The Rinx for an NCAA versus ACHA exhibition on Saturday. Stony Brook won 4-3 in a shootout, securing its first-ever win against an NCAA team. Though the game’s result and statistics do not count officially for Manhattanville, the win and the numbers will remain on Stony Brook’s ledger.

Stony Brook took a 2-0 lead in the second period after goals from forwards Matt Minerva and Kyle Nestepny. However, lack of discipline and poor defense by the Seawolves led to them squandering their lead. The Valiants scored three straight goals in the third period, taking their first lead of the day with just under six minutes left after a goal from forward Josh Fletcher. However, the Seawolves bounced back once again when forward Greg Barnych tied the game with 3:41 remaining. 

After a scoreless five-minute overtime, the game went into a shootout where the Seawolves swept Manhattanville to win it. Goalie Matvei Kazakov saved both of Manhattanville’s penalty shots, while Minerva and forward Brandon Avezov each hit on theirs to walk it off.

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“It feels great,” Minerva said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “There was a lot of pressure on us coming into tonight. Playing against an NCAA team, we know what we had to do and I felt we did well, penalties aside.”

The Seawolves were their own worst enemy on Saturday night, spending 18 minutes in the penalty. Their penalty kill worked for most of the night until Manhattanville caught fire. All three of Manhattanville’s goals came on a power play. 

“It is all about penalties. We weren’t disciplined,” head coach Chris Garofalo said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “When you are not disciplined these things happen. Sure enough, that’s what happened.”

Luckily for the Seawolves, Barnych continued his clutch play. After last week’s game-winner against NYU, Barnych bailed his team out with the game-tying goal on a power play to ultimately send the game to overtime. 

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“He’s a very poised hockey player,” Garofalo said of Barnych. “Very smart and has a great IQ for the game. He sees everything on the ice really well. I mean he’s a complete player in my opinion.”

Kazakov continues to play a pivotal role in the net for the Seawolves, as he tallied 38 saves in their victory. Even after allowing three third-period goals, the Stony Brook netminder made several big-time saves that allowed Stony Brook to keep the game close.

“Kazakov is an elite goaltender,” Garofalo said. “He’s really quick and sharp.” 

For the first time this season, the Seawolves were outshot. Manhattanville had more shots on goal, edging them by a margin of 41-31. 

Minerva has been the Seawolves’ best offensive player thus far. He leads the team in points with 10 after his performance on Saturday. He also co-leads the team in goals with four, alongside Barnych and forward Shawn Rainville. As for Nestepny, he scored his first two points of the season in the exhibition with both a goal and an assist. Defenseman Rob Distefano and Avezov both tallied a point as well when they assisted Minerva’s goal in the second period.

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Stony Brook will look to remain perfect next week as they return to ACHA-level play. The Seawolves will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich. to play a two-game series against the Davenport Panthers. The Panthers are 1-5 on the season and are coming off a 4-1 loss to Calvin University. Opening puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Mike Anderson contributed reporting.

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Matt Howlin is an assistant sports editor of The Statesman. He is a junior journalism major at Stony Brook University. He previously served as the campus news editor for The Compass Newspaper at Suffolk County Community College. Following graduation, Matt plans to follow his dream of becoming a sports journalist. He hails from Coram, N.Y. and is an avid Yankees, Giants, Islanders and Lakers fan.

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