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The Statesman

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No. 20 Stony Brook hockey returns home to host No. 25 Rhode Island

Right winger Devin Pepe (left) secures the draw off a faceoff against Manhattanville on Saturday, Oct. 21. Pepe is looking for his first goal of the year as the Stony Brook hockey team hosts Rhode Island this weekend. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Following a blowout loss in an exhibition game with an NCAA Division III team, the No. 20 Stony Brook hockey team will return to meaningful action.

The Seawolves (2-3-0, 1-0-0 ESCHL) will return to The Rinx this weekend to take on the No. 25 Rhode Island Rams (3-4-0) for a two-game series. Game one is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. and the series will wrap up on Saturday at 5 p.m. Game two will count towards the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) standings.

In the early goings of the season, goaltender Matvei Kazakov has led the way for Stony Brook. Through his first three starts, Kazakov has sparkled to a .931 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average. His 108 saves are the fourth-most in the ESCHL. Backup goaltender Scott Barnikow has also manned the crease this season. After stopping 38 out of 39 shots in his season debut, Barnikow struggled on Saturday, as he surrendered five goals and was pulled.

For the most part, the Seawolves have defended well in front of their goalies. Through their first five games, they have allowed 3.20 goals per game. Though that number is a bit high, they are allowing just 2.50 goals per game against ESCHL opponents and 2.25 goals per game in American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) action.

Stony Brook’s goaltending and defense will have to be on its game this weekend, as Rhode Island’s offense has scored at will this season. Through their first seven games, the Rams are averaging 3.57 goals scored per game.

Leading the way for Rhode Island’s forward group are center Ethan Cordeiro and winger Shane Mulhern. Both players have four assists and seven points this season, putting them in a tie for second on the team in each category. Cordeiro and Mulhern have scored three goals apiece, which is tied for the team lead. Center Jake MacKinnon’s three goals are also tied with the duo for the team lead, while winger Ryan Godfrey is tied for second on the Rams’ roster with four assists.

Rhode Island wingers Kevin Kanaczet and Thomas Fagan as well as center Zac Riccitelli have all scored two goals this season. Wingers Dennis Engelson, Anthony Peschell and Max Lockwood each have one tally.

The engine of the Rams’ offense has been Zac Bell, who does a lot of things well. He is listed as a defenseman on the ACHA’s website, but he can also handle faceoffs and play center. He leads the team with 10 points and seven assists, while his three goals are also tied for the team lead.

Their backend has also been productive on offense. Defenseman Jonathan Shaw ranks fourth on Rhode Island with six points. He has scored two goals and his four assists to put him in a four-way tie with Cordeiro, Mulhern and Godfrey for the team lead. Rhode Island defenseman Jack Drohen has also scored a goal.

Though their offense has flourished, the Rams’ defense has not found the same level of success. They have allowed 3.43 goals per game this season and 3.50 goals per game in ESCHL play. The team has also allowed 33.86 shots per game.

With Rhode Island’s defensive struggles, its goaltending tandem has been mediocre this season. Goaltenders Curtis Briggs and Callum Burgess have been rotating to start the campaign, with Briggs starting four games and Burgess starting three. Briggs has been good, as he has posted a .913 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average. Burgess, on the other hand, possesses just an .898 save percentage and 3.62 goals against average.

Luckily for the Rams, Stony Brook’s offense is still working out some kinks. Through five games, the team has scored just 2.80 goals per game and exactly three goals per game against league opponents.

The Seawolves’ most prolific goal scorer this season has been left winger Matt Minerva. Through five games, he has scored a team-leading four goals and five points. Sitting just behind Minerva for the team lead in points are his linemates — center James Kozicki and right winger Justin Nakagawa. Each player has totaled four points and split them up evenly, as they have two goals and two assists apiece.

Center Jesse Edwards has accumulated three points this season, including a goal. His two assists are tied with Nakagawa and Kozicki for the team lead amongst its forwards. Left wingers Grant Ermellini and Victor Nikiforov have each scored a goal as well.

Stony Brook is still waiting for right winger Devin Pepe and center Nick Zarrilli to get going. The co-captains have combined for just one point so far, as Pepe has picked up one assist while Zarrilli has been held pointless. Center Will Kormanik will remain sidelined with his separated shoulder.

As their forwards have struggled to put up big offensive numbers, the Seawolves’ defensive core has picked up the slack. Left defenseman Andrew Mancini’s four points are tied with Nakagawa and Kozicki for second on the team in points, while his three assists lead the team. He has also scored a goal. RIght defenseman Nolan Towne has tallied a goal and three points and is tied for second on the team with two assists.

Right defenseman Teddy Valenti has also scored a goal this season. Right defenseman Brendan Fess and left defenseman Dylan Kowalsky have each contributed an assist.

A major catalyst for Stony Brook’s offensive woes has been its struggles on the power play. Through five games, the Seawolves have scored just four power-play goals on 25 opportunities, converting at a 16% clip. The unit will have to deal with a Rams penalty kill unit that has been very good. They are 22-for-26 (84.6%) on the penalty kill this season and have added a shorthanded goal.

Like Rhode Island’s penalty kill, Stony Brook has also found success when playing a man down. The Seawolves have killed off 20 of their 23 (87.0%) of their penalties this season, including 16-of-17 against ACHA opponents. They will deal with a decent Rams’ power play that has converted on 20.5% (8-for-39) of their opportunities.

If Stony Brook wins on Saturday, it will move into an early-season tie with Pittsburgh and Niagara atop the ESCHL standings. The Seawolves did not fare well against Rhode Island last season, as they finished 1-2-1 against it.

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco
Anthony DiCocco, Assistant Sports Editor
Anthony DiCocco is an Assistant Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports derives from years of playing dek hockey and watching his favorite teams, the New York Islanders, New York Mets and New York Jets. He is the beat reporter for Stony Brook’s hockey and softball teams. He has also covered football, baseball, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper the Devil’s Tale at Plainedge High School. He is a local product from North Massapequa, N.Y.
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