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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Stony Brook hockey looking to get right against Syracuse

Center Nick Gallo prepares to take a faceoff versus Rhode Island on Saturday, Oct. 27. Gallo will look to score his first career goal with Stony Brook this weekend against Syracuse. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

For the first time in a very long while, the Stony Brook hockey team is unranked in the American Collegiate Hockey Association and is already in must-win mode.

The Seawolves (2-6-1, 1-1-0 ESCHL) will face off against the Syracuse Orange (6-5-1, 0-2-0 ESCHL) in a two-game series at The Rinx. The action will start on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and will continue on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Both games will count towards the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) standings.

As is the norm, Stony Brook’s goaltending tandem of Matvei Kazakov and Scott Barnikow has been tested early and often. In their past four contests, the Seawolves have allowed 40.25 shots on goal per game. The tandem struggled against No. 10 Liberty last weekend, as Kazakov started and was pulled in both games, playing a total of three full periods. Kazakov allowed nine goals on 44 shots, while Barnikow allowed six goals on 50 shots.

The Seawolves’ need to tighten up in their defensive zone to take the load off Kazakov and Barnikow. They do an excellent job filling up shooting lanes when killing penalties, but that has not translated to even strength. Stony Brook’s penalty kill has stifled 34 of its 40 (85%) penalties they faced.

The Seawolves also need to overcome the absence of left defensemen Andrew Mancini and Joey Trazzera, who are key pieces of the defensive corps. Mancini has five points this year with two goals and three assists, while Trazzera has already missed three games and has one point. Right defenseman Owen Larson — who has been in and out of the lineup — should get a bigger role in their absence. Larson has contributed a goal and an assist this year.

The rest of the defensive corps will be held down by left defensemen Spencer Boris and Dylan Kowalsky and right defensemen Nolan Towne, Teddy Valenti and Brendan Fess. Towne leads the group with four points (one goal and three assists).

Stony Brook should have a lighter workload against Syracuse’s struggling offense. The Orange started the season off with a bang, scoring 24 goals through their first four games, but they have scored only 15 over their previous eight contests.

Headlining the Orange’s offense this season are wingers Jack Alecia and Sam Hutchinson. Alecia has scored seven goals and leads the team with ten assists and 17 total points. Hutchinson is the team’s leading goalscorer with eight on the season and has also dished out eight assists. Winger Brett Edgren has contributed another four goals, while fellow winger Brock Alvers has tallied eight assists.

Much like its even-strength offense, Syracuse’s power play has struggled over the past eight games, converting on just two of 30 opportunities (6.67%).

The Orange have not been great on defense, allowing just 3.58 goals per game, including seven in their most recent contest against No. 12 Ohio. Their penalty kill has been solid throughout the season, going 45-for-55 (81.82%).

Defensemen Carter Rugg, Connor Chesner and Sean Caddo are the core of the Orange’s defense, having played in all 12 of games. Defenseman Jake Brown, Jacob Vontersch, Lucas Skolnick and Kavveh Bahery round out the rest of the defense. However, Skolnick is disqualified from the series opener for fighting in his previous game against Ohio.

Syracuse’s goaltender tandem of A.J. Finta and Christopher Spano are struggling. Finta — the starter — has played in eight games and posted just an .850 save percentage and 3.71 goals against average. Spano has similar statistics with an .894 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average in three games.

The Seawolves’ offense will look to keep trending upward after last Sunday’s five-goal performance at Liberty. Left winger Matt Minerva is still the tip of the spear for Stony Brook, leading the team with six goals and eight points. However, the team has lacked a consistent secondary goalscorer. Left winger Grant Ermellini, whose four goals are second on the team, could claim that title if he builds on his three-goal series from last weekend.

Right wingers Justin Nakagawa and Devin Pepe alongside center James Kozicki all have two goals apiece this season, but they have flourished more as play drivers than as scorers. Nakagawa is second on the team with seven points and leads it with five assists. Pepe has tallied five points with two goals and three assists. Center Jesse Edwards is looking to add to his one goal and three assists, while fellow center Nick Zarrilli is still in search of his first point of the year.

Stony Brook’s lackluster power play has hurt it in critical moments, but it got some swagger back last weekend and will hope to continue this time around. Larson showcased his offensive prowess during two power-play goals, scoring one and assisting another. The power play clicked three times in 11 chances (27.3%) in the series, but has converted on just 18.18% of its opportunities this year.

The Seawolves started last season sweeping Syracuse on the road. If history can repeat itself, they will ascend to third place in the ESCHL standings.

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