Before the season began for the Stony Brook hockey club, head coach Chris Garofalo set three lofty goals for his team to accomplish.
He told his players that he wanted them to finish first in the in the regular season, to win a conference championship, and to finish first at the American Collegiate Hockey Associtation National Championships in March.
The first of those goals was completed last weekend, when a 14-1 victory over Westchester University secured Stony Brook the best record in the conference.
Then on Sunday the Seawolves took home the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey league championship for the second consectuive year.
They defeated Delaware 5-2 in the final game, and leading scorer Ryan Cotcamp took home playoff MVP honors for the weekend.
The Seawolves got to the conference championship game by defeating Lebanon Valley 8-1 on Saturday .
On Saturday March 8th Stony Brook will have the chance to complete their final goal, when they take on No. 12 ranked Davenport University in the first round of the ACHA National Tournament.
The Seawolves have never won the tournament, something the team is confident they will be able to change next month
“I think this is the first year that I can honestly say that we’re good enough to win the whole thing,” senior forward Dan Cassano said. “This year we’re fully healthy going into Nationals, and we’ve shown that we can beat the best teams.”
Stony Brook has been recognized as one of the top club teams in the country this season. They have won 24 of their 31 games this season, and were ranked fifth in the latest ACHA national rankings. They also finished the regular season on a nine-game win streak.
Garofalo says this is the best team the program has had in the 17 years he’s been a part of the organization.
“We’re a complete team,” Garofalo said. “Our defense, our offense, and our goaltending are all solid. We’re strong in every area.”
The Seawolves improved ten spots from there No. 15 ACHA ranking last season, and also finished with eight more wins than in the 2012-2013 season.
SBU has been far more consistent with their level of play this season, suffering back-to-back losses just once.
The team has been able to limit losses to bad teams, and has found ways to win close games.
“Our compete level is so much higher than it’s been in the past,” senior forward Wes Hawkins said. “When we haven’t been playing as well as we should be, we’ve still found ways to win.”
The Seawolves have gotten plenty of offensive production out of their top players this season, most notably from the team’s leading scorer Ryan Cotcamp. The junior forward has led the team with 27 goals and 52 points this season.
“This year he’s just been on fire”, Hawkins said, “He gets put in a situation and buries the puck. There’s not much more you can ask for.”
Cassano has also stood out this season with his offensive play. He leads the team with 34 assists, and has also added 15 goals.
Other top scorers this year have been Vincent Lopes (36 points), Nick Barbera (33 points), Hawkins (21 goals), and Sam Brewster (32 points). Junior Chris Joseph led the team’s defenseman in scoring, with eight goals and 18 assists.
Perhaps the biggest change for the club from past years has been the improvement of the team’s defense. The offseason additions of defensemen Kevin Kavanagh, Mike Cartwright and Alex Miller have helped solidify a Seawolves defensive unit that has been problematic in past seasons.
“Now we have a nice group back there where you’re not really worried about anyone,” Cassano said. “You know whose ever back there is gonna be able to get the job done.”
Goaltender Brendan Jones has also been a large factor in the team’s improved defense.
He’s won 13 games this season, and has posted a goals-against average of 2.98.
Garofalo has done a lot of work to grow the school’s hockey program, and says that winning a ACHA National title would be extremely gratifying.
“We’ve done a really good job of being able to build something that is not only recognized at Stony Brook, but country wide”, Garofalo said. “If we win it honestly like all your hard work pays off, and we can say we’re the best in the country.”