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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Injury-plagued Stony Brook hockey has must-win game at Drexel

Right defenseman Brendan Fess (left) and right winger Kyle DePalma (right) celebrate a goal against Syracuse on Saturday, Nov. 11. On a team riddled with injury, DePalma and Fess will play important roles this weekend. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

After having the first game of a home-and-home series canceled, the Stony Brook hockey team will have just one game this weekend, making it all the more integral to its hopes.

The Seawolves (5-10-2, 4-4-0 ESCHL) will square off with the Drexel Dragons (8-11-2, 1-5-0 ESCHL) in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday’s game was to be played at The Rinx and start at 7:30 p.m., but the game was postponed to an undetermined later date due to travel concerns regarding the snowy weather.

Collectively, Stony Brook has struggled to limit opposing offenses. Overall, the Seawolves have averaged 3.82 goals against and 39.4 shots allowed per game. They have been slightly better in league matchups, allowing 3.25 goals per game.

However, with the return of left defenseman Andrew Mancini — Stony Brook’s top blueliner — the team had a better showing last time out. The crew allowed just a pair of goals in both games and surrendered 63 total shots during the series, which was a vast step in the right direction. Mancini paired up with right defenseman Nolan Towne, who is one of the Seawolves’ strongest defenders.

Behind Mancini and Towne, left defenseman Joey Trazzera and right defenseman Owen Larson played well together on the defensive end. Left defenseman Dylan Kowalsky paired with right defenseman Brendan Fess — one of Stony Brook’s best defenders over the last couple of years.

Though Stony Brook’s season has been filled with many low points, its goaltending has been steady. Through 10 games, goaltender Matvei Kazakov is averaging 30 saves per game and owns a .904 save percentage. Backup goaltender Scott Barnikow has outplayed Kazakov and posted a .916 save percentage and 30.3 saves per game through nine appearances, earning him more playing time. The team’s defensive struggles have inflated each of their goals against averages, as Kazakov owns at 3.71 for the season while Barnikow sits at 3.28.

The Seawolves’ backend and netminders will match up against a Drexel team that has been up and down offensively. Through 21 contests, the Dragons are averaging 3.10 goals per game. Over their last eight contests, they have struggled to score, averaging just 2.38 goals.

Leading Drexel’s offensive front is winger Matt Harris. Through 21 games this season, Harris leads his team with 14 goals and 22 points. His eight assists are tied for fourth on the team. He is currently riding a three-game point streak, during which he has recorded one goal and four assists.

Winger Nick Castura and center Anton Kozitskiy have also been consistent offensive contributors for the Dragons. Castura co-leads the team with 13 assists and is second on the team with 20 points through 18 games. His seven goals are tied for third on the team. Kozitskiy is fourth on the team with 15 points and has split them up almost evenly, tallying seven goals and eight assists.

A couple of other prominent players in Drexel’s offensive scheme are wingers James Jacobs, Ryan Sambuco and Patrick McGinley. Jacobs and Sambuco are tied for fifth on the team with 14 points apiece. Jacobs has notched eight goals and added six assists, while Sambuco has picked up seven of each. McGinley has totaled 10 points and his nine assists are good for third on the team.

Along with its forward group, the Dragons’ defensive core has been important to the team’s offensive attack. Defenseman Ben Birkhahn co-leads them with 13 assists and has totaled 16 points, which is the third most on the team. Defenseman Ian Huver has also been noticeable with two goals and eight assists for 10 points.

Even on the power play, Drexel is rather average. According to the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) website, the unit has converted on 20.4% of its 54 opportunities. It will go face-to-face with a stout Stony Brook penalty kill that squashes 85.3% of opposing man advantages. The Seawolves have also added a pair of shorthanded goals. Against Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) teams, they have killed off 81.6% of their penalties.

However, Stony Brook’s offense has yet to hit its stride. It has been consistently inconsistent, as it averages just 3.06 goals per game and 3.08 in league action. Over the Seawolves’ last six games, they have scored just 11 goals.

As expected, missing center Will Kormanik and left winger Grant Ermellini — who are out for the rest of the season — hindered Stony Brook’s offense. Ermellini is tied for second on the team with five goals, while Kormanik scored four goals and averaged a point per game. The team will also be without right winger Devin Pepe, who suffered a sprained medial cruciate ligament against Delaware. The co-captain has scored two goals and dished out four assists through 16 games this season.

Center Jesse Edwards will be a game-time decision this weekend after sustaining a possible concussion. Edwards has been one of the team’s key offensive contributors this season with three goals and five assists through 16 games.

Despite the plethora of injuries, the Seawolves will have their two best offensive producers ready to go in right winger Justin Nakagawa and left winger Matt Minerva. Through 17 games this season, Nakagawa leads the team with nine assists and 14 points, while his five goals are tied for second on the club. Minerva has been their best goalscorer with nine through 14 games. His 13 points are second on the team.

Centers James Kozicki, Matteo Daita and Frankie Anastasio have all been important pieces down the middle for Stony Brook. Both Kozicki and Daita have notched four goals and five helpers through 16 games, which puts them in a tie for third on the team. Through 12 games this season, Anastasio has picked up two goals — both shorthanded — and six assists.

As the injuries continue to pile up, the Seawolves will look for center Nick Zarrilli to step up. The co-captain has had a down season thus far, scoring just one goal and two assists in 16 outings. Another player who will have an increased role is left winger Victor Nikiforov. After notching just a goal and an assist through his first 12 games, Nikiforov doubled his point total for the season while playing in a top-six role last Saturday.

Other forwards that will likely see the ice are left wingers Kristian Malec, Eddie Molfetto, Tom Liebold and Mike Rocco alongside right wingers Kyle DePalma and Lucas Puccia. Molfetto impressed head coach Chris Garofalo with his defensive play last week while playing on the right wing, earning him more time this week. DePalma and Malec played well in both Delaware series, guaranteeing them more shifts on this injury-riddled forward unit. Rocco and Puccia are new players — the former of which debuted last week.

From the blue line, Stony Brook has a number of producers. Towne has led the way for defenseman with eight points and seven assists, which ranks second on the team. Larson has contributed five assists and seven points. Through 11 games played, Mancini has tallied three goals and recorded three helpers.

The Seawolves’ power play is operating at a 20.8% clip overall and in league play. They will try to break through against the Dragon’s impressive penalty kill unit that has survived 88% of its shorthanded disadvantages.

Stony Brook could be poised for a breakout offensive performance, as Drexel’s defense has been suspect. Through their 21 games this season, the Dragons have conceded 4.52 goals per game.

In net, goaltender Ryan Nocerino has been good as Drexel’s top option. Though he owns a 3.35 goals against average and 6-6-1 record, he has posted a .911 save percentage. The rest of the Dragons’ goaltending unit — Shane O’Brien and Luca Bruns — have not performed. The duo has a combined 2-5-1 record, .870 save percentage and 5.70 goals against average.

If the Seawolves can grab the win with their remaining parts, they can move as high as third place in the ESCHL pending the results of No. 9 Niagara’s series with No. 14 Pittsburgh.

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