Goalkeeper Scott Barnikow saving a shot against Rhode Island on Friday, Oct. 28 while defensemen Davin Van de Zilver and Aidan Gallagher look on. The Stony Brook club hockey team split a two-game series with No. 24 Rhode Island, suffering its first loss of the season. PHOTO COURTESY OF AZTEKPHOTOS

The Stony Brook club hockey team finally lost a game this weekend, seeing its eight-game winning streak come to an end.  

The Seawolves (8-1-0, 5-1-0 ESCHL) hosted the Rhode Island Rams this past weekend. Stony Brook earned a hard-fought victory on Friday by a score of 4-2, but dropped game two 2-1 on Saturday.

The Seawolves’ offense came out hot in game one, creating several scoring opportunities in the opening minutes. Stony Brook was finally able to break the ice with five minutes remaining in the first period, when right defenseman Spencer Boris sniped a shot from the blue line to give the Seawolves a 1-0 lead. 

They would carry that momentum into the second period, as right winger Shawn Rainville scored off a rebound assisted by left winger Will Kormanik and left defenseman Brendan Fess. Rhode Island responded seven minutes later when forward James Belleavoine scored off a deflection following a Seawolf turnover. 

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Following the goal, momentum shifted in favor of Rhode Island, as they continually tested goalkeeper Scott Barnikow. In his collegiate debut, Barnikow shut down the Rams every time to keep the 2-1 lead intact.

“Every goalie dreams of having saves like that,” Barnikow said in a postgame interview with The Statesman

The Seawolves came into the third period a completely different team, controlling the pace of play and tallying two goals in the first eight minutes. Center Jesse Edwards would get things going less than two minutes into the period. He scored with a beautiful wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle that blew right past Rhode Island goalie Curtis Briggs. A little over six minutes later, left defenseman Aidan Gallagher notched his first-career goal in a four-on-four situation.

“I have to thank Will Kormanik for getting that screen through,” Gallagher said. “It felt really nice to score and to be able to contribute to the team in that way.”

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Just 19 seconds later, the Rams answered with a goal by forward Ryan Godfrey following a faceoff to make it 4-2 Stony Brook. Rhode Island refused to go away, putting up a fight into the final seconds, as they rattled off several scoring opportunities but were denied every time by Barnikow. 

Barnikow shined in his American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) debut, racking up 37 saves and protecting the lead all night.  

“Being able to help the team to a win felt real good,” Barnikow said.

The Seawolves had some more chances to score on power plays, but were unable to convert on any of their five opportunities. This has been a struggle all season long for Stony Brook.

“We moved the puck really well, but were not taking enough shots on the power play,” head coach Chris Garofalo said. “We need to get more shots to the net. Moving the puck is great, but you have to get them to the net.”

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Game two was all about defense. Things were physical, as hard hits were dished out back and forth throughout the opening period. The Stony Brook offense finally broke through with under two minutes remaining when center Greg Barnych scored off of a rebound following a shot from right defenseman Matt McDermitt. A scuffle ensued following the goal, which was indicative of the whole game. 

For the second consecutive night, the Seawolves were outmatched for much of the second period. Rhode Island controlled the pace of play, as a large portion was played in the Stony Brook zone. The Rams’ power play would be the deciding factor, notching two goals within seven minutes to give Rhode Island a 2-1 lead. 

The end of the second presented Stony Brook with its best chance to even things up with multiple power plays, including a brief five-on-three period of play. However, they were unable to capitalize on the Rhode Island penalties.

“The second period, we did not play our game,” Garofalo said. “We lost our identity. We just didn’t play simple hockey. We were trying to do much as individuals and it burnt us.”

Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the final period. Stony Brook generated a plethora of shots in the third, but none that posed much of a threat. Rhode Island’s defense stayed stingy, allowing the team to hold on by a score of 2-1. 

The Seawolves outshot the Rams 38-31, but Rhode Island created more quality looks throughout all three periods.

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“We’re not getting quality shots,” Garofalo said. “A lot of the shots were in the breadbasket of the goalie. We really need to get more quality shots than just shots.” 

The trap defense of the Rams gave Stony Brook trouble all night. They clogged passing lanes while controlling the puck and tempo following the first period. Garofalo is confident that this kind of offensive performance will not happen again. 

“They were playing a trap and we just couldn’t get our feet moving,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think we’re going to make this mistake again. We’re going to have a hard week at practice. then we are going to go to Liberty and play better.”

Despite allowing two goals, Garofalo remains confident in the ability of the penalty kill unit, as it has been a major strength for much of the season.

“Our penalty kill has been a rock for us all season,” Garofalo said. “I can’t blame the penalty kill. It was just bad luck, but we have to stay out of the box obviously.”

Garofalo elected to give goalkeeper Matvei Kazakov both games off, so Thomas Sullivan got the start in game two instead. Sullivan saved 29 shots in his second appearance of the year. Sullivan kept things close, giving Stony Brook a chance to win game two.

Thus far in the 2022-23 season, Stony Brook’s .889 win percentage is tied for fourth-best in the ACHA, while its 16 points are tied for sixth-best.

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The Seawolves will look to bounce back this upcoming weekend. They will travel down to Virginia to take on the Liberty Flames, a non-league rival. This series is one of the most heavily anticipated of the season, as Garofalo and several players have highlighted it earlier in the year. The Flames are 6-4-0 on the season and are coming off a split against the Robert Morris Colonials. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

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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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