After being on the road for almost two whole months, the No. 17 Stony Brook club hockey team returned to its home ice and treated its fans to a dominant sweep.
The Seawolves (15-6-0, 6-2-0 ESCHL) returned to The Rinx for a weekend series against the No. 25 Delaware Blue Hens. They steamrolled the Blue Hens 5-0 on Saturday and secured the sweep with a 4-2 win on Sunday.
Delaware came out hot in game one, generating scoring opportunities with several odd-man rushes down the ice. However, several big-time saves by goaltender Matvei Kazakov shut the Blue Hens offense down.
Stony Brook’s offense picked up steam late in the period, led by its special teams. With 3:49 remaining in the opening period, left winger Matt Minerva unleashed a thunderous slap shot from behind the face-off circle for a power-play goal. Stony Brook went into intermission leading 1-0.
The Seawolves rode that momentum into the second period and ran away with the game. Just over four minutes into the period, left winger Will Kormanik doubled Stony Brook’s lead by crashing the net for a tip-in goal following a shot from Minerva. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the period, right winger Kristian Malec created a breakaway opportunity with a nifty pass through three defenders. He connected with left winger Filip Pomianek, who promptly raced down the ice and buried his first goal of the season. With just 7:42 left in the period, Minerva sniped in his second goal of the night off another assist from Malec.
Stony Brook’s dominant second period gave it a 4-0 lead heading into the third period. Head coach Chris Garofalo attributed the second-period breakout to an increase in aggressiveness and physicality.
“The first period was just a lull,” Garofalo said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “Once we started moving our feet and started playing with tenacity, that’s when we became dominant in the second.”
Unfortunately, Minerva could not pull off the hat trick, as he suffered an ankle injury after colliding with the wall in the closing seconds of the period. He did not return to the game and was wearing a walking boot afterwards. Along with Minerva, Stony Brook lost right defenseman Davin Van de Zilver to a shoulder injury in the first period. Both players missed the rest of the series with their respective injuries.
Even without Minerva, the Seawolves’ offense found more production. With just over 11 minutes left in the game, center Conor Dempsey blocked a pass from Delaware defenseman Jay Luce, setting up a two-on-one breakaway. Dempsey found Pomianek in transition, leading to his second goal of the night.
Pomianek returned to the roster this past week after not being with the team during the fall semester. In his first game back, the graduate student scored his first two goals of the season.
“I loved coming back,” Pomianek said. “It was great. I’m happy that I could score two goals to help the team win.”
The Seawolves’ defense pitched its second shutout of the season. Following a shaky first period that saw them allow 17 shots on goal, the unit smothered Delaware to just 16 shots over the final two periods.
“The first period, we were a little rough and shaky,” Garofalo said. “In the second and third they locked it in. The first period we were giving up too many odd-man rushes. I went in [the locker room] and told them ‘You’ve got to play defense first,’ and they really turned up and played well.”
For the second time this season, Kazakov was perfect against Delaware, stopping all 31 shots that came his way. He credits his teammates for allowing him to succeed in net.
“I’m feeling great, but it’s always a team effort,” Kazakov said. “I’ve got to emphasize for the team helping me and I help them back. Without the team, there would be no shutout.”
Despite the absence of Minerva and Van de Zilver, the Seawolves did not miss a beat. Stony Brook opened the scoring just four-and-a-half minutes into the game, when right winger Devin Pepe came streaking down the ice to bury his sixth goal of the season. After Delaware goaltender Jacob Snellenburg saved Pepe’s initial shot, Pepe banked the rebound past him and into the back of the net.
Just like in game one Stony Brook unleashed an offensive onslaught in the second period, tallying three goals to go up 4-0. Just over two minutes into the period, left defenseman Andrew Mancini got things going with a power-play goal off a wrist shot from the blue line. With 10:30 left in the frame, right defenseman Matt McDermitt scored on a rocket of a slap shot off an assist from left defenseman Dom Molfetto. Just 24 seconds later, left winger Matteo Daita connected on a beautiful backhanded shot for his first goal as a Seawolf.
As the second period clock ticked inside of eight minutes, Snellenburg lost one of his skate blades. While he struggled to gain his balance, center James Kozicki scored what would have been the Seawolves’ fourth goal of the period. However, the referees disallowed the goal, keeping the score at 4-0.
After being stonewalled all weekend by Kazakov, the Blue Hens finally found the scoreboard. Eight minutes into the third period, Delaware forward Dom Guido capitalized on the power play with a goal on a breakaway. The Blue Hens scored another goal with less than two minutes to play, but it was too little, too late.
Since the calendar flipped to 2023, the Seawolves have won three of their four contests.
“We’ve come into this semester with a new focus,” Pepe said. “We had some lapses in the first semester and I think right now we are really locked in. All 20 guys in each game are playing together. We’re rolling all four lines and all seven defensemen and it leads to success.”
Kazakov shined in net again for the Seawolves despite allowing those two third-period goals. He made crucial stops when needed, including several lateral saves. He stopped 57 of 59 shots in the series, good for a 96.6% save percentage. Garofalo spoke highly of Kazakov’s performance and his value to the team.
“He’s our best player,” Garofalo said. “That’s the guy you need as your best player. He’s so quick and sharp. He is always positionally in the right spot, never out of place. He gives us a chance to win every game and that’s what you need out of a goalie.”
The Seawolves will face their toughest challenge of the season this upcoming weekend when they travel to Michigan to take on the No. 2 Adrian Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are 20-2-1 on the season and are riding a six-game winning streak. They are coming off a two-game sweep of Western Michigan in which they outscored their opponents 23-2 in the series. Opening puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.