Left defenseman Rob Distefano skating in a game against NYU on Saturday, Oct. 8. The assistant captain returned to the ice over the weekend after breaking his hand five weeks prior. PHOTO COURTESY OF AZTEKPHOTOS

After winning a league game to rise in the national rankings, the No. 19 Stony Brook club hockey team continued its ascent with a two-game sweep.

The Seawolves (12-5-0, 9-2-0 ESCHL) took a trip to Newark, Del. this past weekend and swept a pair from the Delaware Blue Hens. They cruised to a 6-0 victory in game one on Saturday and secured the sweep with a 4-3 win in overtime on Sunday.

Defense was at a premium at the start of game one, with neither offense getting anything going. Stony Brook broke through in the final seconds of the first period when right winger Nick Zarrilli poked in a power-play goal just before time expired.

Following the first period buzzer beater, the Seawolves pulled away from the Blue Hens and asserted themselves at every opportunity. Just shy of six minutes into the second period, right winger Brandon Avezov scored a power-play goal while being knocked to the ice by a defender. About seven minutes later, Zarrilli scored his second goal of the game off assists from Avezov left winger Matt Minerva.

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Already leading 3-0, Stony Brook continually applied the pressure throughout the third period. Just over three minutes into the period, left winger Will Kormanik joined the scoring spree by sniping a wrist shot from the faceoff circle.

Soon after that, Avezov struck again by scoring on a three-on-one breakaway after a perfectly-timed pass by Minerva. Center Jesse Edwards tacked on another goal for good measure off assists from Avezov and Kormanik.

Despite only generating 28 shots, the Seawolves created enough quality looks to pull off the blowout.

“We definitely got more good quality shots,” head coach Chris Garofalo said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “We got them in the right areas of the ice. You want to get shots in the middle of the ice and we were doing that.”

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On defense, Stony Brook was stout in all areas. The Seawolves’ defenders suffocated the Blue Hens by clogging passing lanes and controlling the neutral zone, leading the team to its first shutout win of the season. Goalkeeper Matvei Kazakov was perfect, saving all 33 shots that came his way.

The offensive efficiency carried into game two, even before left defenseman Spencer Boris’ game-winning goal in overtime.

Stony Brook scored on its first shot of the game with a power-play goal from left defenseman Dom Molfetto — his first of the season. The goal was assisted by left defenseman Rob Distefano and center Greg Barnych. The Seawolves found the back of the net again just moments later when Distefano scored in front of three Delaware defenders. The Stony Brook defense overwhelmed the Blue Hens all period long, allowing only three shots.

The Blue Hens came out of the locker room hot following the intermission. After some big-time saves from Kazakov, Delaware forward Chris Heitzhaus got Delaware on the board with 17:20 remaining in the second period. The momentum did not last long, as Kormanik scored an unassisted goal less than a minute later, giving Stony Brook a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.

For the second straight period, Delaware scored within the first three minutes. Forward Justin Smith went coast-to-coast, scoring with a wrist shot to make it a one-goal game. The goal flipped the momentum, giving Delaware an energy it had not played with all weekend.

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With just 12 minutes remaining, Delaware forward Brian Ostrander scored an unorthodox goal to tie the game. Kazakov initially saved the shot, but then lost control of the puck, allowing it to trickle into the net for the score. Both defenses held tough after that, forcing an overtime period.

Stony Brook’s power play unit had an opportunity to close things up in regulation, but went 0-for-3 in the third period.

“I think we just took our foot off the gas,” Garofalo said. “We had a lot of opportunities to close that game out on the power play, but we didn’t produce and that really affected us.”

The opening three minutes of overtime were all defense, as both sides struggled to control the puck or even muster a single shot. But on the first shot registered in overtime, Boris scored to walk it off for Stony Brook and secure the sweep.

Garofalo spoke highly of the freshman defenseman, as he has now scored several clutch goals in crunch time this season.

“He’s a freshman and he’s stepped up,” Garofalo said. “He got an opportunity to play and he made the most of it. He’s a big bright spot for the future of this program.”

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This past weekend saw the return of two key contributors in Distefano and Minerva. Both players have missed a substantial amount of time this season, but they played major roles in the team’s early-season success. The pairing did not show any signs of rust, immediately reinserting themselves into the lineup and making an instant impact on both offense and defense. Minerva recorded two assists, while Distefano added his first goal of the season and an assist.

“Those guys bring a presence that really helps us,” Garofalo said. “It gives the depth that we need.”

Stony Brook will get the rest of December off and will not return to action until Jan. 6 Then, they will travel to Ohio to take on the Ohio Bobcats in a two-game set. The Bobcats are ranked No. 6 in the nation and are 16-4-0 on the season. 

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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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