Left defenseman Andrew Mancini in action in a game against Rhode Island on Friday, Oct. 28. The Stony Brook club hockey team was swept by its arch-rival the Liberty Flames last Friday and Saturday. PHOTO COURTESY OF AZTEKPHOTOS

The Stony Brook club hockey team now finds itself in the midst of a three-game losing streak after being swept by rival Liberty this weekend in a two-game set.

The Seawolves (8-3-0, 5-1-0 ESCHL) traveled to Virginia for a top-10 matchup against the No. 7 Liberty Flames. Stony Brook dropped game one in an offensive slugfest by a score of 6-5, but was blown out 7-1 in game two on Saturday night. 

From the jump, Liberty was all over the Seawolves in game one. The Flames scored twice in the first 10 minutes with goals from forwards Jacob Kalandyk and Daniel Schwenke. The Seawolves responded two minutes later when right winger Brandon Avezov scored off an assist from center Greg Barnych.

With under seven minutes remaining, Liberty added another goal when forward Joe Clark scored off a rebound right in front of the net. The Flames outplayed Stony Brook for much of the opening period, outshooting them 22-11.

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After starting the night 0-3 on the power play, Stony Brook finally broke through in the second period when Avezov scored a five-on-three power-play goal. Avezov poked a one-handed shot right between Liberty goaltender Hunter Virostek’s legs to cut the deficit to one. Liberty responded with a five-on-three goal of its own less than four minutes later from Kalandyk.

The bad blood between the rivals was apparent in the second period, as the two teams combined for 14 penalties. It got ugly after Liberty defenseman Colten Kovich picked up a five-minute major and was ejected from the contest after headbutting a Seawolf.

Set up by the ejection, Stony Brook capitalized on another five-on-three situation 27 seconds into the third period when right winger Devin Pepe scored his third goal of the year. Avezov evened things up 10 minutes later with a power-play goal assisted by Pepe and Barnych, giving Avezov a hat trick.

Liberty broke the tie in the final three minutes, gaining a two-goal lead after forwards Kristopher Bladen and Jackson Vercellono scored back-to-back goals in under 21 seconds. The Seawolves responded 22 seconds later when right winger Nick Zarrilli scored, cutting their deficit back to one goal. Pepe just missed out on a game-tying goal in the closing seconds, but Liberty was able to poke the puck away as they held on to win 6-5 and take game one. 

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The strong performance from Avezov on Friday almost single-handedly won the game for Stony Brook. He scored four points overall, with an assist and his aforementioned three goals. The sophomore forward is tied with Barnych for the most points on the team with 18. He also leads the team with nine goals. 

Despite going 3-for-8 on the night, Stony Brook’s power play unit still left much to be desired, as they squandered some opportunities. The Flames racked up 50 minutes in the penalty box on the night. Several coincidental penalties also took away some extra power play chances. 

The Seawolves drew first blood in game two when right winger Michael Galinski notched his first goal of the season. It came on a power play off an assist from center Jesse Edwards and right defenseman Spencer Boris. Liberty showed its ability to score in bunches just as they did in game one, notching two goals in the next four minutes following the goal by Galinski. 

Things spiraled out of control for Stony Brook in the second period. The Flames opened things up with a goal by Kalandyk that saw him skate past several Seawolf defenders to score on a backhander. Schwenke scored his second goal of the series nine minutes later, giving Liberty a three-goal lead. Forward Kam Ottenbriet joined in on the action less than two minutes later, effectively putting the game out of the Seawolves’ reach.

Liberty tacked on two more goals in the third for good measure, securing game two and completing the sweep by a score of 7-1.

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Stony Brook was dealt a tough hand to start game two, as a power outage delayed the start of the game. During the outage, the ice softened.

Stony Brook created several scoring opportunities throughout all three periods but could not seem to convert against Virostek. When the Seawolves did manage to get one past the netminder, things did not go their way as several shots banged off the post. Virostek was perfect following the first-period goal, making 41 saves on 42 shots on goal. The Flames defense did not make things easy for Stony Brook all weekend by creating turnovers and consistently blocking shots in both games. 

Goaltender Matvei Kazakov made his return in net after getting some time off last weekend. Kazakov struggled and surrendered 13 goals in the series. However, he still made several key saves, including multiple lateral saves that saw him dive across the crease. He recorded 90 saves between the two games.

Liberty scored many of its goals throughout the weekend by creating traffic in front of the net, setting up screens in front of Kazakov to make things difficult for him by impairing his ability to see the puck. 

This three-game losing streak has dropped Stony Brook all the way to 18th in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men’s Division I national rankings.

The Seawolves will look to regain their footing this upcoming weekend against an Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) foe — the NYU Violets. The two teams will square up for game one on Friday in New York City, with opening puck drop scheduled for 9 p.m. The following day, Stony Brook will return home to The Rinx with puck drop scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

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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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