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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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Stony Brook hockey swept at home by No. 7 Liberty as nationals hopes slip away

Left winger Mike Rocco passes the puck back out to center Frankie Anastasio against Liberty on Saturday, Jan. 27. Anastasio scored on this play. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

With its chances of making nationals already slim, the Stony Brook hockey team suffered a sweep it could not afford.

The Seawolves (5-12-3, 4-4-1 ESCHL) were back home at The Rinx this weekend where they faced the No. 7 Liberty Flames (16-6-1). Stony Brook was blown out 6-2 on Saturday before dropping Sunday’s game 4-2.

In game one, Liberty drew first blood within the first two minutes. From the corner, Liberty left winger D.J. Schwenke worked the puck out to right defenseman Grant Morton at right point, whose shot was denied by goaltender Matvei Kazakov. Schwenke followed his miss and scored on the rebound from the slot to find the scoreboard.

Three minutes later, the Flames doubled up on the power play when left winger Sam Feamster centered the puck in front of the goalie’s crease for Schwenke to bang home.

The Seawolves responded just 56 seconds later when Liberty center Matt Bartel’s pass was intercepted by left winger Matt Minerva in the right faceoff circle. Minerva found center Frankie Anastasio in the slot, where he fired the puck past goaltender Hunter Virostek’s glove to cut the deficit in half.

Now riding momentum, Stony Brook found the equalizer just over a minute into the second period when left winger Kristian Malec rushed out of the defensive zone to lead a two-on-one rush. Malec slid the puck over to Minerva, who ripped it home to make it 2-2.

Minerva’s score was the last time the Seawolves found themselves in it. They wound up being outshot 48-27 in game one and went 0-for-9 on the power play.

Head coach Chris Garofalo attributed the offensive struggles to a lack of urgency.

“I think our effort was there, just our execution wasn’t,” Garofalo said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “To get more shots to the net, we have to move the puck quicker. When you move the puck fast you get lanes to shoot it.”

Just two minutes later, an elbowing penalty by Minerva brought out the Flames’ power play and they took control back for the rest of the night. Liberty left defenseman Nick Pomerleau sent the puck to Bartel at the top of the zone, where he took a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Kazakov.

Just over a minute later, Schwenke took control of the puck at Stony Brook’s blue line with plenty of time and space. He skated into the right faceoff circle and ripped it over Kazakov’s glove to complete the hat trick and extend the Flames’ lead to 4-2.

With just over three minutes left in the middle frame, Liberty made it 5-2 during four-on-four play when center Truett Olson centered the puck to a wide-open Bartel, who rifled it into the back of the net. 

The Flames tacked on the finishing touches in the first minute of the third period. They played catch across the Seawolves’ defensive zone until Schwenke dished it to Liberty right winger Jacob Kalandyk, who deposited it into a yawning cage.

On Sunday, Stony Brook came out strong, as it got the scoring started just over two minutes into the game. On the power play, right defenseman Nolan Towne one-timed the puck towards the net from the right point. Virostek made the stop, but right winger Mike Rocco dug the puck free over towards center Matteo Daita, who swept it home to take the early lead.

About halfway through the first period, Bartel stole the puck from left defenseman Andrew Mancini and sniped it over goaltender Scott Barnikow’s glove from the high slot to knot it up.

Much like the first period, the Seawolves scored rather quickly in the second. Just 49 seconds in, left defenseman Joey Trazzera picked up the puck in the defensive zone and passed it to left winger Victor Nikiforov in the neutral zone. Nikiforov took a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the left faceoff circle, but it eluded Virostek and found its way into the net.

Despite being down a goal, the Flames kept the pressure on Stony Brook’s back end throughout the second period and finally broke through in the period’s final minute. With 40 seconds left, Kalandyk fed Pomerleau on the backdoor, allowing him to tap the puck in to complete a give-and-go goal.

Just two minutes into the third period, the tie was broken when Liberty left winger Jackson Vercellono picked off a pass from left defenseman Dylan Kowalsky and passed it to Kalandyk in the slot. Kalandyk slid the puck to Olson in front of the net, where he backhanded it past Barnikow to make it 3-2.

Over the next 18 and a half minutes, the Seawolves failed to find the equalizer and Pomerleau deposited an empty-net goal with one second remaining to put the game away.

It was a similar tale in game two for Stony Brook, who was outshot 40-28 on the day. In the series, the Flames outshot the Seawolves 87-55.

Stony Brook was better on the special teams department on Sunday, going 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Over the weekend, its power play went just 1-for-13, but its penalty kill was 9-for-11.

Kazakov’s struggles continued, as he posted just an .875 save percentage on 48 shots faced. Barnikow continued to outperform him, stopping 36 out of the 39 (92.9%) shots that came his way.

Daita and Minerva led the offense with a goal and an assist each while Anastasio and Nikiforov rounded out the goalscoring. Malec, Towne, Trazzera and Rocco all recorded an assist apiece.

With any realistic hopes of the Seawolves going to nationals now gone, Garofalo defines the rest of the season as an audition for next season.

“These guys are all showing the coaches what they can do for next year,” Garofalo said. “They are showing us whether or not they can play a certain role. I’m looking for guys who are not going to give up.”

Stony Brook will look to bounce back next weekend up in Kingston, R.I. against the Rhode Island Rams. The Rams are 15-11-2 this year and 6-2-2 in official Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) games. Only game two will count towards the ESCHL’s standings.

Both teams faced off in the last weekend of October and Rhode Island swept the two-game set. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. on Friday and at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Anthony DiCocco also contributed reporting.

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